• Nnaemeka Ali, O.M.I

Factors to Consider in every New Environment


These few lines might help a young missionary struggling to find his steps in a new mission. It could also help any person who is new to a job or a place.

One must pay close attention to these three significant factors to succeed as a missionary or a teacher.

  1. The culture of the people

  2. Their language

  3. And their history

1. Culture

Culture is the bedrock of every society. Therefore, the only way to dialogue with a people is by, first, understanding their culture. It is in their culture that their values, norms, taboo, etc., are enshrined.

Why do people construct their houses in this form, smile often, eat, or cook this or that? Why do their elders enjoy more respect? Why do they value their children or neglect their youth or girls?

The answers are cultural and often historical. Therefore, missteps and refusal to be accepted and integrated into a new society are due to the ignorance of a people’s culture, language, and history.

2. Languages

It’s in the language of a people that their cultural values are encoded. The language here is not simply the verbal aspect of linguistics but also the non-verbal parts, which contain the most significant part of a people’s culture. Often, we ignore one crucial fact about language: the unsaid part of communication is the real message that the speaker conveys. Our narratives are seldom the container of the true message, often passed nonverbally. So, listen to what narrators are trying to say, not in the words they choose, but very often in what they leave behind.

Learn to speak their language, or at least to understand it. And remember, every society has its language, schools do, churches do, age mates do, and each group in society has one. So do not neglect their language.

3. History

The most critical error of our modern society is the refusal to learn from history. Culture and languages evolve. They often get modified according to circumstances and different incidents. These modifiers are enshrined in a people’s history.

The only way to understand why this group behaves this way or this society values one reality or the other is by studying their history. When one misses a people’s history, one makes unnecessary mistakes or becomes destructive to one’s mission.

Brief, take time to listen first, then ask questions before you propose new things. Do not presume you know how it works; no group has these three realities in common. Whenever a person spends more than a year outside a community, on returning, the individual becomes an outsider. So, there’s no excuse to bypass these factors.

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