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photo: CC0 Public Domain / FAQ graphic: Martha G. Brady

photo: CC0 Public Domain / FAQ graphic: Martha G. Brady

This truth is one thing I learned well during my time in Jamaica. It is an important and basic truth. They did many things differently from what I was used to in the US. Not everything was done in the most efficient way for sure. But efficienciency was not always the best policy there.

For example, there was a man who used to fill potholes manually. He came with a wheelbarrow filled with whatever it was, his pick and and shovel. He dug around the pothole and filled them with his shovel and pick. As Americans, we look at that man and laugh, knowing our machines can do a much better job.

Throughout the culture, my American mind was tempted to think, This doesn't make any sense! Click To Tweet

In some ways, that is true, but the way he does his job gives him work and the respect that comes from having it. It feeds his family.

They used the big machinery to make big highways, but the potholes were filled by men like this on the little roads that filled most of the countryside.

Throughout the culture, there were many instances of thinking, that my American mind was tempted to think, “This doesn’t make any sense!” Until my friend and neighbor Walford Thompson would talk to me and help me see the other perspective.

I had a great mentor to answer my questions

As you know from reading this post, I ask lots of questions. It was no different then! Most of the time, I learned I could safely ask them of my friend and neighbor Walford. He and his family, wife Jen and four children lived next door to us in our first apartment on campus at Jamaica Bible College (JBC). The entrance to their house and their porch was outside the window to our bedroom/study for our first 1 1/2 years.

We knew what was happening with them most of the time and if they had the time, they knew much of what we were doing. I think Jen was way too busy to be concerned however!

Walford traveled a lot. Jamaica was much easier to get in and out of than their native St. Vincent. He worked for an organization called Men in Action back then. (now Ministries in Action). He often preached on the weekends in churches around Jamaica when he was home.

Eventually, they did move to Miami where we lived for a few years. Our kids went to the same school. It was fun to cross paths with them in a new place.

But Walford taught me much about the culture of the Caribbean and what it means to be black in particular. After knowing him and living in Jamaica, I never talked to blacks differently than anyone else. For some, it was offensive. But most, particularly younger, educated ones I worked with, found it to be fine. We could talk about books we read, movies we saw and any topic and it was fine!

But Walford taught me much about the culture of the Caribbean and what it means to be black in particular. Click To Tweet

This was Walford’s favorite quote to me. The way he said it was, “Different is neither inferior nor superior.” To quote it best, you need to use the more British sounding way of saying neither! He and Jen are now retired in their beloved St. Vincent. Their children all live in the U.S. On the outside chance he is reading this, I say, “Thanks Walford for all you taught me!”

This was Walford's favorite quote to me. The way he said it was, Different is neither inferior nor superior. Click To Tweet

Ron and I still quote it to each other laughingly and with love. It is the one quote that has held us in good stead over years of ministry. It may not be a Biblical quote, but it is a Biblical concept.

Challenge: Where do you chafe when a person’s style is different from yours? Is their different style a problem because you are making it larger than it needs to be?

Do the differences meet other people  where they are? Does this difference in style truly clash with the truth of the gospel or are you reading more into it than is there?

Often stylistic differences can cause church splits or relationship breaks that are unnecessary and painful to all concerned. Are you sure you are not reacting to a simple stylistic difference?

It is important to think this through so you don’t react too quickly but think through and use discernment.