This is an engaging, interesting, sometimes hilarious, and most definitely a perspective-changing activity to do with your mission team before you go on your mission trip. It is typically most helpful in your very first session because then you have some things to refer back to as you contemplate as a group what to expect on the upcoming trip.
I used to teach a Cultural Anthropology college class at a Christian college. On the first day of a unit about language communication in the world and how it fits into our various cultures (how it develops, etc.) we did the aforementioned activity as such ...
I asked the class to divide into two groups - outside and inside the classroom at first. The outside group was going to develop a message and a way to communicate it to the inside tribe. The tribe was the WOMAC tribe and the message was “the water is bad and you’re all going to die.”
A WOMAN must bring the message to chief of tribe
Pray immediately when anyone says “OKAY”
Can only speak to men through MARRIED women
APPLAUD when someone sneezes
Men COWER when women speak to them directly
I told them they spoke English, but had these profoundly different ways of communicating. The outsiders were going to bring a message but depending on the way they present it, there is a possibility that they will not be able to respond.
Needless to say, it became chaos after only a few minutes after the other group joined them. The outsiders were forcing the issue by screaming in their faces, drawing on the board, begging, pleading, becoming mad, some gave up, and one wanted to prove it so bad he sacrificed himself! He "drank the water" himself and "died" a dramatic death. ONLY ONE participant from the outside tribe sat back and simply watched. When it was all over he explained one by one exactly what the other tribes communication devices were.
We then discussed these SIX QUESTIONS:
What was the most frustrating part of this activity?
How did you learn to communicate?
Would you have been more effective given more time?
Were there any language barriers?
Was there anything easy about it?
Did your message become invalid? (IF YES, WHY?)
Next then discussed in detail their feelings and frustrations with communication. As you will see, these questions are not so dissimilar to those we ask ourselves when trying to bring the message of the gospel to another culture.
No matter how important you believe your message to be, there isthe possibility that it loose it’s validity to that person or group of persons who do not understand the world in the same way you do. We are going to go into detail about #6 in the next post and chat about the things that can make a message invalid: presentation, understanding how change occurs, and patience.
Wait. Make the gospel invalid? Impossible! But yes, I promise that is actually possible. I'll see you in the next post at the end of this week!
"He must become greater; I must become less." John 3:30