Moving from your home country to a new land in obedience to God is wonderful. There’s excitement and anticipation at all the Lord will teach you and how he’ll use you. There might be some bumpy roads at the beginning, as you adjust to learning a new language and eating new foods. You expect that and do your best to adapt without complaining.
Then there’s the weather.
One thing that the change of seasons teaches us in cross-cultural service is that we didn’t realize how good we had it in our home country.
- Hot outside? No worries—just stay in and enjoy the A/C.
- Allergies flaring up? No worries—take your meds and stay inside.
- Cold and snowy? No worries—turn up the thermostat.
- Raining? No worries—the umbrella will cover you and you can walk on the sidewalks.
- Hail? No worries—you can park in your garage.
- Tornado or hurricane coming? No worries—you’ve got an app to tell you when to take shelter.
Did they tell us about the weather at orientation?
If you’re like me, you probably studied the basics about your country-to-be and saw that instead of four seasons there were basically two: dry and wet, or hot and cold. The thing you didn’t realize is just how up-close and personal you’d be with real weather. Oh, we’ve got weather at home, sure, but we’ve got this layer of protection in the form of all those things I mentioned above that insulate us from really facing weather head on.
So, what do you do when it’s 120 degrees outside and you have one A/C unit in one room of your five-room house?
You have two choices: Stay in that one room for the next six months or learn how the locals live with it. Since the first choice is not practical or healthy physically or spiritually, then the second must be attempted. I’m writing this post in the summer, so I’m going to stick with the heat example for our purposes today.
When the weather gets hot, you’ll find your new community changes rhythm. Some people will get up earlier and try to accomplish some work in the early part of the day. By mid-day, you see things starting to slow down and shops close their doors and windows. Apartment windows become shuttered too. There’s a purpose in that—to let air in through the shutters while the sun is kept at bay.
You’re allowed to take a nap when it’s hot.
If you’re trying to visit people in the afternoon and getting frustrated because no one answers the door, there’s a reason for that—they’re asleep. Follow their lead and rest during the hottest time of the day. You’ll be grateful when you know why they do that.
People sleep and then once up, they stay up later in the evening. Having lived in Cairo, I would never have survived without a short nap in the afternoon, because once things got going again, visits would be happening until late in the night. Many a night, my dinners in the Middle East and North Africa were as late as 10 p.m. You eat and visit when it’s cooler and people have the energy to get out again.
Be willing to sweat.
Unless Americans are playing sports, they don’t like to be hot. We’re spoiled by our use of air conditioning in our homes and cars, and our bodies have become too accustomed to a steady temperature. We are not the majority in this, so don’t expect people you visit to have an air conditioner or heater, for that matter. When I lived in Syria, we had a small natural gas heater that was on wheels. I would literally push it from room to room on the cold winter nights to try to keep warm.
Living in Ivory Coast, West Africa, I learned to love cotton fabric, because it was breathable and let the air flow, unlike the synthetics I brought with me. Adjusting our wardrobe is also another natural reaction to learning to live with weather.
To everything there is a season…thank God!
It won’t stay boiling hot or freezing cold forever, though, in the midst of summer or winter, it might feel like it. This too shall pass and relief will come. In the meantime, you learn to accept the weather for what it is—the part of life it’s always been. As you accept it and adjust, you may be surprised by what God teaches you about yourself, about his creative power, and the people you’re called to serve by his…
Grace and Peace