July 24, 2015

ICC (the Intercultural Communications Course) is a 4-week course designed to prepare its participants for ministry in a multi-cultural environment. It is held in North Carolina at JAARS, an organization that partners closely with Wycliffe in the areas of transportation, technology, and media. The astute reader will have surmised that I have some personal connection to the course, as I am not one who is wont to create frivolous entries on this humble site simply for exposition's sake. Indeed, on the 14th of July, 2015, I arrived at the JAARS campus and prepared to commence my studies.

(Upon reviewing that first paragraph, I have concluded that an unadvertised part of the ICC curriculum is to subliminally teach us to write using language far more flowery than is customary, necessary, or even prudent. Good thing I noticed it now, otherwise you'd have had to endure a whole post's worth of that rubbish.)

Most, but not all, of the 35 participants in this session are Wycliffe members. The rest were sent to join us us by other mission organizations who like the ICC curriculum, I guess. Since the course is designed for people going to all different parts of the world, I'm not learning about Papua New Guinea culture specifically. Instead, we've focused on such topics as:

  • How to observe and begin learning another culture
  • Dealing with transitions and stress
  • Impact awareness (how we are perceived by and impact the people whose culture we enter)
  • The sovereignty of God (or, how to deal with trials)
  • Servant attitude, the importance of relationships over getting things accomplished
  • Staying healthy and safe in remote locations
  • How to go about learning another language (just started this, much more to come)

There's also been a good deal of discussion about communication styles and personality types. (And I do really mean "discussion" - classes are typically a fairly even balance of presentations, small-group discussion, and full-class discussion). Before the course started, we all took a couple personality/communication profiles (aka, "answer a bunch of questions and we'll tell you all about yourself!") I've never been very interested in such things, but I do see now how it can be helpful to know your particular strengths and communication style interact with those of your coworkers, especially if you're working closely together on a project. Wycliffe members from dozens of different countries are represented in Ukarumpa (where I'm going), so chances are good that I will be working with people from other cultures.

Another component of ICC is attending ethnic churches in the Charlotte area. The church I went to on Sunday, and will go to for the rest of my time here, is called 以愛華人浸信會. (They try to match us up with a church related to the country we are going, but Charlotte has a severe lack of Papua New Guinean churches for some reason.) The service was entirely in Chinese (I don't know which kind), though most of the people there spoke English also, so we were able to talk without too much difficulty before and after the service. The words to the songs on the screen were in both English and Chinese, and it was neat being able to listen to the congregation and have an idea of what they were singing about. The service itself was similar in structure to a typical American church service. The only part that caught me off guard was when the pastor asked us visitors to stand up and introduce ourselves, except we didn't know he was asking us to do so until a lady next to us leaned over and whispered the translation. Sunday school was after the service, and there was an English class and a Chinese class so at least we were able to understand that part. And after Sunday School, everyone has lunch together. The food is quite Chinese and quite tasty.