In August of 2011, I had the privilege of traveling to LaPaz, Bolivia, to teach “How People Change” (Como Cambia La Gente) to 250 church leaders and workers. This past August, I was able to return to LaPaz and teach the follow-up course, “Helping Others Change” (Instrumentos En Las Manos Del Redentor) to a similar group of people looking to receive more training in how to care for people. After LaPaz, I traveled to Santa Cruz, the country’s largest city, to teach the first course, How People Change.
Like most ministry trips overseas, I believe I learned more than I taught. I was blessed more than I, Lord willing, was able to bless others. Flying back home, many thoughts flooded my heart and mind two of which I’ll share below.
The Kindness of Others
I was blown away by the kindness and hospitality of the people during my stay. Everywhere I went people were eager to serve, love, and meet any needs I might have. Far from me coming to serve them, they were eager to open up the doors of their homes and churches. Despite language barriers, they sought to communicate when possible, ask questions, and offer encouragement.
It reminded me of Paul’s words in Romans 12:11 and 13, “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord…Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.”
Their kindness and hospitality reminded me as a counselor of how I come across to those I counsel. Am I seeking to fervently show them honor as a fellow image bearer of Christ, or am I treating them as just another “case” or “client”? The warmth and hospitality of the people I encountered was engaging and inviting, much like I would imagine Christ would be to those seeking help and hope. What a wonderful way to communicate our Savior’s priorities and person.
The Similarity of Our Problems
Before I flew down, I asked the local missionary’s wife to write out some case studies for us to use in our breakout sessions. As she emailed them to me, I was reminded of how common the struggles of the human heart manifest themselves. Abuse, depression, pornography, anxiety, disappointment and anger…these issues know no cultural boundaries. Sure, the way they play out in a foreign context will look differently than our experience, but at the end of the day we are much more alike than we are different.
This is good news for counselors, because while we might need to contextualize our methodology of counseling for various cultures, our theology of change remains the same: personal change centered on the person of Jesus Christ through the personal ministry of the Word.
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How do you contextualize your methodology of counseling for various cultures?