Book Review – “Culture to Culture” by Nan Leaptrott

Culture to Culture: Mission Trip Do’s and Don’ts

by Nan Leaptrott

340 pages, $14.99

ISBN: 0-89957-156-5

Nonfiction – Practical Theology/Anthropology

Review by Steven King, MBA, MEd

Nan Leaptrott, an internationally renowned speaker and founder of Global Business Consultants, has written an indispensible aid for those entertaining activities in global mission work. Her Culture to Culture should be required reading for anyone contemplating service on the mission field-it should be in all church libraries; a required part of the curriculum in Bible college and/or seminary; and given to all who are ordained as a missionary.

Why is this book indispensable? It cuts to the heart of what is the largest violation of intercultural etiquette-cultural insensitivity. Or, more to the point, the hubris and largesse which informs much of what Americans construe as mission work: the subtle belief that the American way is the only way things are done in this world. As Leaptrott is quick to point out, the fact of global westernization does not imply eradication of other cultures. Missionaries, therefore, should be very sensitive to the culture of any country to which they travel. When Jesus encounters the Samaritan woman at the well (John 9), her question “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink? (NLT)” underlines the idea that cultural sensitivity matters.

Culture to Culture gives the missionary an encyclopedic reference to culture; whether it is surface culture (what you see on onset) or reference culture (the nuances of culture which are not seen right away). Since culture influences beliefs/values, etiquette/behavior, human relations, communication, and time, any cultural gaffe could be devastating to the missionary enterprise. Ethnocentric obstinacy not only proves a superiority mindset – it could ultimately undermine the building of God’s kingdom.

The book is divided into the following regions: Western Europe, Latin America, Arab Region, Asia/Pacific, Central/Eastern Europe, and Africa. Each region is subdivided into its respective country profiles. In each section, Leaptrott analyzes the country’s religious history and influential governing principles. The missionary-in-training will understand hierarchy, level of preparation needed, punctuality expected, level of formality, and dress/dining styles of the host country. Specific alerts, such as “transaction alerts,” or “interaction alerts,” are offset and in boldface for emphasis. After a thorough guide to international dining, the author provides an extensive alphabetical country-by-country summary for quick reference.

Culture to Culture is an excellent resource to communicate proper protocol for

missionaries. In essence, missionaries should:

· Be informed

· Have a plan

· Build bridges

· Reflect Christ

· And, if doubtful – ask questions.

If the objective of mission work is to demonstrate Jesus, then missionaries should walk in gracious objectivity – otherwise, wanton subjectivity may keep others from ever seeing Jesus.