My Journey to the Berbers of North Africa
A Lesson in Contextualization
Picture a fence. On one side is me and the good news. On the other side is local women and Isl@m.
That fence represents a cultural divide in every way. Language, logical processing, values, societal expectations, standards of living, dress, food, socio-economic status, etc. etc.
In work, the goal is to move from my side of the fence to the other side, good news in hand. At that point, the women on the other side hopefully only see the good news and that it is possible to be a family member and have their nationality.
In the analogy, all I have to do is hop over the fence to make that happen; however in real life that process looks more like climbing a mountain. It involves years of language learning and cultural acquisition, geographical relocation, leaving behind family and friends, countless hours spent lost in new cities, and a million incidences of miscommunication.
Sure I could just stay on my side of the fence and every once in a while hop over wearing the right clothes and speaking the right language. Unfortunately that’s not enough. Locals are also intelligent, beautiful beings that Gd gave common sense to and they can tell the difference between a fence-hopper and a mountain-climber. When JC came down from heaven, He didn’t just look and sound human, He was human!
So why is this significant to my life right now? Because I’m in the process of climbing that mountain! I don’t even hear my name anymore except when other expats say it. To the locals, I’m Hakima and everything I do makes me more Hakima and less Dallas! For example, I now live with six local girls in a small one bedroom flat in the middle of the city.
Sure I could live somewhere else nicer and just visit houses such as mine, but to me that sounds like fence hopping. Sure I could still live with these girls and just use my American money to “fix up the place,” but what would I learn from that? Who’s good would that be serving?
No, I live with these girls to love and learn from them. What do 24-year-olds like me look like in this culture? What do they worry about, laugh about? What do they spend money on? What are they passionate about? What are their dreams, their needs?
Learning these things looks like hours spent hand-washing my laundry once a week, cold bucket showers with one kettle of hot water, washing dishes with dry laundry detergent, sleeping on the floor in a room with five other girls, eating stale bread every morning for breakfast, going to bed late so I can talk to the girls when they are most prone to socialize while also waking up when it’s still dark to beg Gd to send His good news before marching off to hours of language class, wearing layers of long clothing when it’s positively sweltering outside, and walking or taking public transportation with the masses instead of having a car.
The list goes on and on my friend, but the key is to do all these things from the standpoint of a humble learner. There is no complaining involved. If I contextualize only to end up criticizing and mocking the local way of life, I’ve done myself, my Gd, and my local friends a great disservice.
This is something I have to remind myself daily and Gd has blessed me in that I physically sleep at the feet of one of my roommates! Thus every night when I crawl into my mass of blankets, I’m humbled. I’m reminded that I’m no better and no worse than the women I live with, so I say a pry for all our souls and drift off to sleep.
I’m so blssd to have each and every one of you on this journey with me. We’re a team, you and I! Without your financial support, unrelenting intercession, and notes of encouragement, I’m positive this contextualization process would not be possible! Of course that’s why Gd in His wisdom designed us for relationships and blsss us with fellowship.
It takes the global Ch to reach the global lost - you’re a part of that and I can’t say thank you enough!
- Prz Him that I have somewhere to live!
- Please ask for blzzins in language learning.
- Prz Him I got to have my first sprtl conversation with a local! (In English.)
- Please lift up my relationship with my roommates. That I would continue to grow and learn. That opportunities to share would occur naturally.