One of the questions that is coming up regularly as we visit churches is 'What are some of the cultural differences between Mexico and Australia?'
Of course there are many, but one big one is the importance of relationships - especially face-to-face relationships. Whereas in Australia we might be happy to send emails or speak on the phone to a work colleague or a friend, in Latin America it seems that face-to-face counts for much more than it does here. Of course this can be pretty inefficient, but it also means relationships that are formed are much deeper and perhaps can tolerate more??
A good example of this importance of personal relationships is seen in what I'm doing in a couple of weeks.
One of the groups MOCLAM (the organisation I am working for/with in Mexico) will provide training materials to is the CIEE - the Latin American coalition of IFES (International Fellowship of Evangelical Students). The CIEE has staffworkers and student groups scattered all over Latin America on hundreds of tertiary campuses. They want to use the MOCLAM courses to train their staffworkers - which is really exciting and a great opportunity.
In November, the national secretaries of each of the CIEE groups are getting together for a week-long meeting in Panama City - to discuss, among other things, training.
Grahame Scarratt and I are going to the meeting to get to know the people and talk to them about the courses and how we can help. Now Panama City is a long way away (8hrs flight from LA), it costs a lot to get there (especially with the $ the way it is) and the entire meeting is going to be in Spanish (which I don't speak). And yet it is really worthwhile me going - because face to face relationships are so valuable.
The fact that I'll only be able to participate in broken conversation and certainly won't understand the finer details that are being discussed doesn't matter. I'm told just the fact that people will get to know me and put a name to my face and all that sort of stuff counts for heaps.
If you're a praying type - perhaps you could pray that this would be a productive meeting, and that I'd have the energy I need to meet lots of new people. Also, please pray that many of the Central American folks will be able to get there, because their currency situation is very bad.