Last week I was on my way to Lanús to invite people to the first church service (which will be this Sunday). It didn’t take long to see that something was wrong. I had less than 1/4 of a tank of gas but as I tried to stop at a few local service stations I them closed. As I entered the highway, I saw that I was 1 of only 3-4 cars on the highway! This is impossible! Cars are everywhere normally, but that day was strange. I arrived at the tollbooth and it was completely empty and the poles were up to allow everyone (all 4 of us) through. As I continued, I exited the highway and continued on, I noticed that there was not one bus. There are busses everywhere, going all over the place, stopping and going all along the way, but that day there was not even one bus. There were no taxis. Taxis are common here, so common that you don’t even notice them as you pass them, but no taxis on that day either. There was not one gas station open between my house and the church. I could not understand what in the world was going on. After talking to several people, I learned that the day was a “paro nacional”, or a “national stop”. The gas stations, busses, trains, subways, taxis, and government buildings all went on strike. Because of this many people could not get to work. My daughter had a dentist appointment, Leslie took her only to find out there were no doctors that were able to make it to the office. This was all to express disdain toward the Argentine President. To put it clearly, it was a very frustrating day. Almost 100% of my time has been focused on starting Faith Baptist Church. Although most everyone knew about the “national stop”, I haven’t been watching the news, nor have I been talking about much of anything other than inviting people to church. What I was going through is something called “culture shock”.
Culture shock is what a person experiences when he is in a culture different than his own, and is disoriented by the customs, way of life, or attitudes of others in that culture. I was certainly feeling it! I cannot imagine the whole country just “stopping”, but it is something people are somewhat “acclimated to” here in Argentina. I was going door to door inviting people to church later that day. After hearing my accent one family asked me how I liked it in Argentina. I told them I love it here (I do love it here), but I am still learning and somethings are confusing to me, like “today”. The family came back with “We don’t understand it either, we are just used to it.” The daughter could not go to work, but she just shrugged her shoulders as if to say “What can we do about it.” Culture shock is real and it is a part of life as a missionary. I am thankful for the time I have had with my mentor who has taught me about culture shock and how to deal with it. The “national stop” was still frustrating, but I knew what was going on. Other Argentines were frustrated too, but they knew it was just how things work. I am not here to fix “national stops”, I am here to start churches and train men.
Sometimes it is easy to get sidetracked. Distractions get in the way. Even so, we should have a laser-like focus on what God has called us to do. Other things will happen, frustrations will come and go, but our eyes should remain on progressing the Gospel. Culture shock is real, but I cannot allow it to take me off course. Is there something that is distracting you from God’s desire (advancing the Gospel)? We must keep our focus on God’s work!