Recorded words are important. Narratives of people and their culture inform us of the present and recent past. They help record God’s historic redemptive plan. With them, we inspire disciples of Christ in the present and encourage those of the future.
You might be wondering what I am talking about. In my brief book, entitled The Way They See the World, I describe how one can write an ethnographic record.
Writing an ethnographic record requires entering someone’s world for a while, be it a couple of hours or a couple of days. It requires spending time with people in the natural context of their daily lives. It requires watching, listening, learning, speaking to and doing all of this in the context of where the action normally occurs: in homes, at work, in the streets, at markets, wherever people are.
When we write about people, we are recording their history. When I write about people and their culture, their experiences and insights of culture inform my experiences and insights, especially in terms of how God is working within their socio-cultural-linguistic context.
I am always amazed how God goes before us in every encounter. In that God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (I Timothy 2:4, ESV), God goes before us in every encounter. This implies that the people we encounter have much to teach us. They too are part of God’s historic plan of salvation. The apostle Paul says,
And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having dtermined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each of us. (Acts 17:26-27, ESV).
So, why write about cultures and the people we encounter? We write because it informs us how God is working out his historic plan of redemption for all mankind. In so doing, our own faith in Christ and the faith of other Christians is encouraged and strengthened knowing that our walk is not alone.