Trust is arguably the most important foundation stone of any relationship anywhere among any people group in the entire world. Yet, my observation has led me to believe that differing cultures approach the matter of trust from different angles. Let’s examine the general approach to trust in the American culture and compare that to the issue of trust in Ukrainian culture.
Generally, it would seem that in the United States, trust is most often given freely until that trust is broken. If someone says they are going to do something, we believe them until they prove otherwise. We trust our spouse will be faithful until they aren’t. We trust our friends until we feel the pointy edge of a knife in our back. In short, we trust first, and as long as the object of our trust doesn’t betray us, our trust grows.
This cultural tendency to trust first doesn’t always pan out. Physical or emotional pain can stifle trust. Someone who is dishonest, cunning, or motivated by greed and avarice will be unable to imagine that someone else could be honest and altruistic. The incongruities of words and body language can cause our inner voice to tell us to put up our guard. Hopefully these are exceptions to the rule in American society.
The American approach to trust works in the United States because of it’s cultural values of honesty, accountability and respect for the rule of law… values we strive toward and respect, not values in which we are perfect. But what if these were not our values? What if our chief cultural values were hospitality and helping others. What if our culture respected honesty, accountability and the rule of law, but not enough to make them our main priorities. Perhaps society in general would be a lot less trusting.
Trust in Ukraine…
Trust in Ukraine is not automatically given. I have found there are three ways to gain trust in Ukraine:
- Trust can be earned slowly over a long period of time by proving one’s character and trustworthiness in a long-term relationship as friend, neighbor, spouse, etc.
- Trust can be transferred based on the trust of someone else. For example, let’s say you need someone to watch your house and cat while you are gone for a couple months. You posed your problem to me, because you know and trust me. I can’t watch your cat for you, but I have a friend or relative that can. I tell you, “Hey, I’ve known this guy for a long time and I really trust him.” If my friend let’s you down, it will be the same as if he let me down as well. Trust was just transferred.
- Trust can be earned more quickly when you touch someone’s life and they feel they have been blessed. So, if you want to earn a place in the hearts of Ukrainians, it is important to figure out what is important to them and minister to them where they are at.
One doesn’t have to look far to see that Ukrainians love music. Since 2003, Ukraine has been crushing it at the 60 year old annual international music festival EuroVision. A friend once told me Ukraine is second in the world only to Italy in its music appreciation. Whether that statement is true or not is not as important as what it says about how Ukraine sees itself and its culture. As such, music has become a major tool in our ministry toolbox creating good will, appreciation and most importantly trust.
Without trust we would have packed our bags a long time ago and headed back to the states. Trust is what gives us a platform to talk to worship leaders to let them know that music is their gifting, but not their mission. It is what gets us through the doors of churches and gives us a platform to challenge pastors and congregations to the need for evangelism and church planting. Of course, music is only an introduction and a springboard for ministry as we help Ukraine formulate a vision and execute a strategy for church planting.
Beth is sometimes asked the question, “Do you sing with Eric?” She most often replies, “Not in public.” Instead, she has her own springboard – hospitality. Ukraine is a hospitality culture that thrives on drinking tea, coffee and having fellowship. Yes, my music can bring about a certain level of trust and relationship, but Beth’s hospitality takes it to a deeper level not possible in a public setting. In eastern Ukraine, Beth’s hospitality was famous. Here in Kiev, she is slowly figuring out how to set up her own ministry springboard while living in a small apartment in a high-rise building.
Have you studied and observed the culture in which you live well enough that you can identify how trust is gained? Have you been working on building a ministry springboard of your own in which to jump into ministry? What steps will you be taking to earn trust and build relationship that will lead to fruitful ministry? Feel free to leave your ideas and opinions in the comments below.