“I’m Never Right”

I got this in email the other day. It is from New Tribes Mission and was written by Dena McMaster.

She stood at the edge of the crowd, appearing remote and cold. The others chatted merrily while they worked. Some were pounding grain; others were rubbing peanuts between two stones to make a delicious thick chunky peanut butter called tigamungo for the sauce.

The women glanced at the pale stranger from time to time but did not speak. They were waiting for the proper greeting from her. In their culture, the newcomer must speak first.

As she stood there seemingly aloof from all the activity, no one could see the frightened little girl that hid inside. The girl cried out, “I can’t talk to them! They always laugh! I never say anything right! I never know what to do! I’m never right!”

Finally, overcoming the fears and self degradation she called out hesitantly “Damba, Damba, Saakilibaa,” the proper tribal greeting, calling out the last names of the women present.

The women laughed and the little girl inside the cool, detached woman cringed. Outwardly she tried to smile. But she was crushed and the little girl inside began the litany of depreciation once again.

But much to her surprise one of the women approached her. “I am a Saakilibaa,” she said, “you are in my family.” The women were delighted because she tried to greet them.

They began talking animatedly. But they wanted her to do it right. So they began shouting their names back and forth in the proper Malinke way. They urged her to shout out their names. In Malinke culture the louder you greet someone the more honored they are.

But she thought, “I was brought up to never raise my voice. I can’t do this.”

Determined however to learn culture and language and to be accepted, she raised her voice and shouted with all her might, “Damba, Damba, Saakilibaa.”

Once again the women laughed. But this time she knew that they were laughing in delight at how hard she tried to be a good Malinke.

Pray for missionaries as they struggle to learn the often very difficult tribal language and culture, which is so very different from our comfortable “home culture.” Missionaries aren’t different from you. They have the same fears you do and need your prayers to bring the Gospel message to a lost and dying world.

And my cultural frustrations include people never arriving on time and businesses not making copies when they say they will.

Leave a Reply