Confessions of an Ugly American

The Ugly American, a 1958 novel, was about Americans abroad with more than their share of cultural blind spots. I’ve fallen into the Ugly American mode a bit myself. We Americans seem unable or unwilling to learn foreign languages and stumble over the fact that people of other lands view and experience the world differently from us.

I’m team leader of Project Lazarus and have been reading and studying KOINE Greek for many years. If you go to our menu and categories and click  It’s Greek to Me, you will travel some of the Koine Road with us. Along the way you will see mysteries hidden in the original language, not visible in the best translations. You will also discover the Horizontal Church and the critical role it plays in fulfilling Christ’s mission for His church.

You will also find frequent references to “culture.” Our definition is, “the beliefs, customs, and worldviews of particular groups, places, or times.”

I’ve benefited from cross-cultural studies at Wheaton College, but most of my learning about culture has been in the school of hard knocks. One of my gaffes was a bright red sweater I favored while mingling with the locals in Taiwan. It turns out Chinese men feel it’s shameful for a man to wear that color. Oops! I ditched the sweater.

Another time, I was teaching in a Gypsy home here in the USA and placed my Bible on the carpet by my chair. An elder solemnly walked over, picked it up and put it on a table, saying in Romany, “mari may.” To the Gypsy the floor is unclean and certain things should never touch it.  God’s Book is apparently one of them, which makes sense.

In spite of that, God used me to help plant several churches: one while in the Air Force in Taiwan, the other, among American Gypsies in Los Angeles, which has spread to dozens of  U.S. cities where Gypsies live.

The cross cultural thing may be in the genes. My older son married a Gypsy woman, and labors to keep the Spirit of Christ alive among these old-world people. His dream is to start a school for Gypsy children.  My other son coordinates the planting of churches in Muslim lands and ministers to persecuted Christians there. Am I proud of my boys? Of course, but also a bit perplexed. How did they turn out so well?