1. Things, many times, are not how they first appear. Most often, the culture is entirely different than anything that is familiar to you. When encountered with something new, don’t think to yourself, “That’s wrong!” or, “That’s weird!”. Instead, think, “Why is this done differently?”. Ask a local (or seven) their opinion on the matter, and then, finally, when you’ve gathered as much as you possibly can on the subject, make a decision on your stance.
2. Be social When first arriving to a new environment, even in the U.S., you may feel uncomfortable and try to distance yourself. DO. NOT. DO. THIS. A great way to get the culture, make friends, and learn the language better and faster is to flagrantly throw yourself into the mix. Even if you have no idea what is going on in the conversation, you can still observe and try to learn something new.
3. Don’t be a couch potato. When being in a place that is a bit overwhelming, you may need some time to relax. Though this is good, you can’t just relax. Get out and do something active such as walk, run, bike, swim, explore the city, or even take a short drive. Anything to get out of the house for a change of scenery. We have included some acronyms to remember these rules
4. Have faith and hope that eventually it will be GREAT! This transition will be extremely hard and will test your mental and spiritual stamina. Though God called you to this specific place, you may struggle to want to have anything to do with the reason you have had to endure so much. Be advised: building a strong relationship with God during this time is the absolute best thing you can do. When you have this relationship, you feel more confident and loved, allowing yourself to more easily accomplish the other rules.
5. Learn the language as quickly as possible If you are moving to a country with a different language, do everything you can to be around it. You may feel overwhelmed at first, but the more you are surrounded by it, the faster you’ll pick it up. Make sure to constantly ask questions about what is being said and surround yourself with people who will be patient with you.
6. Try to understand when things are different. Drama is not your friend. When faced with something new, your first instinct might be to freak out. Sure it would be pretty entertaining to watch you run around like a chicken with its head cut off, but there’s definitely a better way to handle differences. Stay calm and assess the situation. Remember the question: “Why is this done differently?” Then focus on unlayering the new question.
7. Hold close to your family. We definitely struggled with this one. Since our brains were so fried by the end of the day, all we wanted to do was bathe and go to sleep. Though your body will need extra sleep at the beginning, it’s not healthy to distance yourself from your family. It can actually be extremely healthy to regroup at the end of the day or week and talk about what happened. Being able to express your opinion without a language barrier can be majorly valuable and somewhat therapeutic.
8. Embrace the word of God. Just like not losing your faith, the Bible is a powerful resource. The encouragement, confidence, and love you can find within the pages is astonishing. Daily reading God’s word will help you stay strong, mentally, spiritually, and sometimes even physically.
This retreat was amazing! We started by loading 67 people onto a bus and one of NOE’s vans. I sat by Sam (Harmony’s Angel program student) and we got to talk for a while. This was her first time swimming and seeing the ocean, so she was really excited. An Oregon youth group (Shout out to Hollyview!) had also come down, so they joined us on the bus. The ride was 6-7 hours long and we left at 4:30 in the morning, so I also got to know some of the Americans.
We arrived at some apartments and unpacked. Then we all gathered to worship and hear a message. Let me tell y’all, our worship those few days was focused and it ROCKED me. I felt like the students really connected to God through it. The messages were amazing, too. Everything that was said, eventually pointed back to the theme for the weekend: NOT ALONE. The camp Bible verse was Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. For the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
We got to hear from NOE staff like Juan Peralta, Ale Moreno, Brittany Di Vincenzo, my dad, and Said Tehran, along with some Oregon leaders. After that, we separated into four large-group teams for games and cleaning responsibilities. I was on team 3, also known as “The Rockstars”. We started each day with breakfast then worship and a message, though how I started my day was absolutely gorgeous.
Okay guys, picture this: You wake up 45 minutes before anyone else. You walk into the yard of the apartments and pick up and peel a freshly fallen mango from one of the dozens of mango trees growing nearby. You sit down by the pool, and then in total peace sitting in God’s creation, you open your Bible and start the day off by reminding yourself of the complete and utter love of Jesus. Ahhh….bliss.
Throughout the weekend we played games with our teams for points and generally hung out and had a bunch of fun. Our last worship session and message, we did on the beach. I felt incredibly joyful praising Jesus through those last few songs and felt the presence of the Lord. After the message, a student from Vida West came up to the front and said he had accepted Jesus as his Savior. He wanted to be baptized. I can’t express to y’all the elation I felt that he had just accepted Jesus and was already getting baptized! And then, after he was coming out of the ocean, one of my friends ran to them and said she also wanted to be baptized! I found out later that a few more people asked Jesus into their hearts, too. It was pretty much awesome.
When we got back to the apartments, we all gathered to hear the announcement of the winning group from the weekend. This should already be obvious, but we won. After that, we packed up and went home. Overall, it was an amazing and spiritually filled weekend with a ton of relationship-building between students and teachers. The Lord was absolutely moving through this amazing experience.
Jumping into a new sport isn’t always easy. Jumping into a new sport in a foreign country, can be even less so. School sports do not exist in Mexico. All extracurricular activities are through private clubs or athletic organizations. We decided that if we wanted to be involved in a sport and be more active, NOE basquet (basketball) is a great first step.
Harmony began in February when sports were re-opened at NOE. Selah joined at the end of April. Harmony practices twice a week for an hour each practice and has 10-13 people on her team. Selah practices three times a week for an hour each practice and has 10-15 players. Both teams are co-ed.
Because basketball is a growing sport in Mexico and games are still restricted due to the pandemic, games this year have been very limited.
Some of the challenges we face are understanding the details of each exercise during the practice due to language barriers, limited practice time, inconsistent attendance due to family schedules and resources, limited previous knowledge of the sport beforehand, hot weather with an outdoor court, and the sun shining on half the court during practice.
Some of the benefits are improving basic basketball skills, being active, making new friends, expanding vocabulary, and getting more involved at NOE.
We’ve really enjoyed this new challenge of learning a new sport and being involved at NOE. We really like our coaches and teammates and like the opportunity to get buff.
“It takes a strong fish to swim against the current. Even a dead fish can float with it.” – John Crowe
There once was a girl who was an outsider. She wanted to be an insider, but things such as not understanding the language, not totally understanding the culture, and not grasping the way things were done within her new school were all new concepts she knew she had to grasp before being able to fit into her new world. She was 14, confident, and with a deep desire to be Jesus in her new place.
Over her first few months, her language improved. She was able to build some friendships and communicate with her teachers. However, things such as misunderstanding assignments and spending hours on projects that she thought were due, only to find out later that no one else did those assignments because they were never assigned, was something she occasionally experienced.
She was invited to a party by some of her new friends and was excited to experience her first teen party event in her new place. When she arrived, she enjoyed talking with some of her friends but then watched as some of them began to make bad decisions and excused herself from the party. She felt a heavy heart as she watched one of her friends make a bad choice just before leaving the party.
The next Monday, she saw her friends in a different light. Appearance at school and actual ¨who they were¨ outside of school did not match; her heart was heavy. She realized that she was surrounded by teens who professed to be Christians but had hearts that were not consumed with intimacy toward Him.
A couple weeks later, an activity occurred at school and another female student was asked what she thought this confident 14-year-old girl’s weakness was. The student stated, “her confidence”. The 14-year-old girl began to realize that who she was encouraged to be by her parents was not celebrated nor encouraged within her new culture. However, this 14-year-old girl continued to be herself.
She remained encouraged, confident, and positive in who she knew God made her to be. She found herself continuing to attempt to build relationships and doing things outside the norm like playing soccer with the guys during P.E. She worked harder within her classes to prove herself to her teachers. She tried to listen to the Holy Spirit throughout the day. She tried to love harder.
She noticed that a guy in her class heavily influenced her daily environments. Most of the girls in her class were shy and did not speak out much. However, this particular boy in her class was not hesitant to speak out with inappropriate statements, incessant cursing, and, at times, making degrading statements about females. Although he acted this way, the confident 14-year-old girl was still his friend.
Swimming upstream is hard, but we are never alone. (see Hebrews 12)
One day, the young boy drew an inappropriate picture depicting women as an object instead of the priceless creation with the power to change the world that she understood God created them to be. She very politely asked to see the drawing, and he politely gave her his drawing, proud of what he had done. She slowly stood up, walked to the trashcan, ripped up the drawing, and threw it in the trash.
Shocked by her actions, the boy became upset, and the male teacher became involved. The girl was quietly thanked by the other girls in her class and nothing else was said regarding the incident for that class.
In a following class, the boy told the female teacher what had happened. He was trying to get the teacher to side with him. The girl sat there listening to what they were saying, and the teacher questioned the confident 14-year-old about the incident. After the teacher received the explanation from the confident 14-year-old girl, she said, “Congratulations!” and began to applaud. The other students, without prompting, while standing, also began to applaud. It was a standing ovation.
Change is established in a culture when the norms made of stone are chipped away through counter-cultural actions. These actions slowly begin to break down the foundation of those norms. To make Christ the center of an environment, a non-Christ foundation can be lovingly broken. This is done through actions of love with a passion to see lost hearts find what they are unknowingly and desperately searching for.
She is living in a culture with a collective worldview where fitting in and not rocking the boat are the implicit cultural behavioral expectations. Please pray for this confident 14-year-old female who only wants to make an impact for Jesus but is likely to rock the boat along the way.
Please pray for Selah.
When you tell a Mexican that your daughter turns 15 this year, be prepared for a bombardment of excitement and questions about how she is going to celebrate the transition from childhood into womanhood!
In Mexico, when a girl turns 15 years old, it is similar to celebrating a Sweet Sixteen – but bigger. Much. Bigger.
With my committee of local friends, we are in the process of planning Selah’s quinceañera, which will take place on February 12th, two days after her 15th birthday.
If any of you know Selah, it wouldn’t surprise you one bit that even having this celebration took a bit of convincing. She’s simplistic, low-maintenance, laid-back, and not girlie…pretty much the opposite of all aspects of a stereotypical quinceañera, which often includes a HUGE fancy dress, photo shoots, a fancy cake, pink décor everywhere, fancy high heels, and a waltz dance with her Daddy.
But after living here for three months and experiencing the culture more intimately, Selah, on her own volition, turned a 180, and we found ourselves neck-deep in preparations.
One of the important aspects of a quinceañera (and wedding!) is the role of the “padrinos” and “madrinas”. Translated, they mean “godparents”, but in the context of a celebration, they are important people in the life of the family or birthday girl and support them financially by providing an aspect of the celebration: her dress, shoes, crown, cake, food, pictures, etc. People are honored to be asked to represent their support for the maturing young woman in various ways during her celebration of her becoming a woman.
As humbling as it is for this American to ask others to be a padrino or madrina, it is heart-warming to see how honored people are to know they play an active role in her maturing and intend to support her as she develops into a young woman.
If you would like to contribute to Selah’s quinceañera as a padrino or madrina, please let us know! We’d be honored to have you represented on this special day!
Being a third culture kid is an awesome and (as you might have guessed) sometimes confusing life. I absolutely love being here and experiencing the contrasting aspects of culture I never would have thought would be different. I can’t express to you how grateful I am for cultural training. SO many things that I would have said were “weird” or “wrong” I have just accepted as simply being different.
Some of these different things are: music being played very loudly in restaurants, different driving strategies, the (very loud but very effective) garbage truck bell that walks our streets starting at 6am, and the (also very loud but very effective) street venders. Though these things seem like they would drive a person crazy sometimes, they are some things Morelia is known and loved for.
One of my favorite things I have found here is the loud music. Not so much in restaurants, but in people’s houses. In the US, people are worried they’ll make their neighbors mad by playing loud music. Here, all they think about is having a good time and don’t think about offending anyone. That's another thing, people get offended A LOT less here. Mexicans tease about how easily offended people in the US get.
I am really surprised when it comes to Mexican police because of the stereotypes I had heard about before arriving. I thought we would be getting pulled over and made to pay a bunch of money simply for being American. But, although we have been pulled over a handful of times, it has simply been because we don´t have front license plates on our vehicles (NC only requires one) and they have been very understanding and kind when we explain our situation to them.
One of the bigger differences of Mexico has been the community aspect. When you hang out with people, you just hang out and talk. People gather around food, so you invite them to lunch or supper and hang around. Also, Mexicans know how to PARTY. We went to our first Mexican wedding and were dancing until two in the morning. When you are with other people for supper or something similar, it’s rare that you will get back to your house before midnight. It’s AWESOME!
Before we moved to Mexico, my family and I were recommended by NOE to go to an intensive missionary training camp. Though I knew it was recommended for a reason, I made many subconscious assumptions about what it was going to be like. When I got to CIT, I realized my assumptions were very wrong and that I was going to learn a lot in this month of training.
My classes consist of myself, Levi, Weslee, a boy named Sunday, and my teacher, Mr. Josh. Sunday was adopted from Uganda, Africa and is going to Argentina after a year of language training in Costa Rica. Mr. Josh was a missionary kid in Uruguay for 10 years of his life and then moved to Costa Rica.
As missionary kids, we are called TCKs, meaning Third Culture Kids. We are taking our American culture and mixing it with Mexican culture, making an entirely new culture. All of my siblings and I will be TCKs when we move to Mexico.
At CIT, we are learning about the Bible more than we ever had before. Did you know there were TCKs in the Bible? Like Joseph: he had lived the first 13(ish) years of his life in Canaan, then was sold as a slave and had to adapt to Egyptian culture.
We are also learning about how to better adapt to a new culture and to change. Though there are many ways people adapt to change, it has been narrowed down to three main ways: The first way is to refuse to get to know the culture and try and hold on to your past culture forever, never being able to fit in with the culture you are currently in. The second way is to experience culture shock by assuming things before arrival, but then eventually adapting to the culture. The third way is to always be ready for change and have a “go with the flow” mentality.
Since these views on adapting to culture have been brought to my attention, I am actively striving to be as close as I can to the third way of adapting. Though this may be difficult and will have challenges every day, I know that through all of this, God is with me and has a plan for everything that will happen.
As you all probabaly know, our family has decided to be missionaries and move down to southwest Mexico. If you didn't already know that, then you were most likely really confused when you found out we had sold our house, narrowed down our possesions to fit in a 6'x12'x6' trailer, and moved into our church for 8 weeks.
Anyway, yes, that is what happened and no, it's not as bad as it sounds. I kinda liked living in the church because we would all just go to bed when Harmony would, and it was nice living on healthy sleep schedule of 9:30 bedtime and 6:30-7:00 wake-up. The only downside to living in the church was the fridge being located down two flights of stairs down. So, whenever I would make tea in our room, I would have to go get the creamer from the fridge (yes, we drink tea with creamer, deal with it), go back up, pour the creamer, go back down and put the creamer away, and then go back up to enjoy my tea. At least you can't say we didn't get our steps in for the day.
Right now we are at missionary training, and it's awesome! We are learning how to adapt to culture, and I am really enjoying it. I have a really fun teacher and my class consists of myself, Levi, Weslee, and another kid named Sunday. He is 12, and his family is going to Buenos Aires, Argentina, but first they are spending a year in Costa Rica doing language training (basically learning Spanish). I don't know about you, but I would love to spend a year in Costa Rica learning Spanish!
Missonary's kids are called TCKs, meaning Third Culture Kids. This a super cool concept because we are used to the USA's culture, but when we get to Mexico we will have to adapt to the Mexican culture, but since we won't be completely USAn or completly Mexican we'll be mixing the two cultures together and making an entirely new culture, which is what we call the third culture.
Did you know there were TCKs in the Bible? Like Joseph and Moses. Joseph spent the first 13ish years of his life living in Caanan, got sold into slavery and then had to figure out how to adapt to the Egyptian culture. Moses was born Hebrew and found by the Egyptian princess. The princess let Moses be taken care of by his birth mother for the first few years of his life, so he got used to the Hebrew culture and then was put into the culture of Egyptian royalty. Cool, right?
Well, I always find it hard to end blogs or reports without it sounding abrupt and awkward, so I've deciced to end all of these entries with a cultural difference so you know its about done: In Mexico, people in general (unless you are working out) don't wear shorts and normally wear jeans.
Selah R. Nichols
Acts 20:24 "However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace."