An intern explains the importance of culture and shows a glimpse of Niger
Amanda Patterson is a Samaritan’s Purse communications intern in Niger.
Culture, for most of my life, has been a source of inspiration and enchantment. As defined by Webster’s, culture is “the skills, arts, etc., of a given people in a given period.” As an undergraduate student, I studied it incessantly. As a graduate student, I lived it and spoke it every day. It’s a gracious gesture, a synchronized dance. It’s a connection between two or more people who seek the same basic human fundamentals of life: instinctively God given, we all crave love and express that in different ways.
What I love about culture is that through the differences, the universality of who we are as children of God speaks even louder than those differences. Did you know that God, the author of life, the universe, and creation, loves culture too?
We in the western world are often quick to acknowledge differences, most often in the form of race. But God describes culture as something different. First and foremost, culture is eternal. It’s here now, it’s in heaven and it will be here still on the New Earth.
“For You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth,” (Revelation 5:9b-10, NKJV).
“And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it. But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life,” (Revelation 21:26-27).
In the beginning, in Genesis, we see that God did make one culture. “Now the whole earth had one language and one speech,” (11:1). But sin prevailed, and “the LORD confused the language of all the earth” (Genesis 11:9).
Even though He originally created us with one language and with one culture, He purposefully divided us up. He “scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth,” (Genesis 11:9) purposefully, and although a result of sin, He chose to build up culture. We see this nowhere more clearly than in the building of the Israeli nation and Jewish people all throughout the Old Testament.
The New Testament brings in a wave of global missions work, and Paul teaches new Christians to heed culture and embrace the good parts of it: “To the weak I became as weak that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some,” (1 Corinthians 9:22).
Not everything in every culture is good. In my culture, we can generally say that there is an abundant dependency on material goods to fill up our happy valves, when really God should fill them. In Niger, many people search for a source of redemption that is expressed through sacrifice and witchcraft.
Until each culture can break free from those chains of sin and realize that the ultimate sacrifice and redemption has already been paid, no respite will be found. None of this is God’s culture. It’s man’s, ours and our sin.
But because culture was derived from God, culture is good. After all, He chose Shem, Ham, and Japheth to define today’s general geographic and racial divide, to which we can all trace our ancestry roots (Genesis 10). He chose our varying languages, skin colors, customs, and ways of life. And that is what I want to share, the goodness of God’s culture here in Niger.
As a communications intern, my goal is to document life as I see it. I want to document the smiles, tears, triumphs, hopes, and dreams of the people and staff around me. I want to highlight the work that is being done through Samaritan’s Purse, its staff, and your contributions and prayers. But overall, I want to show you, in a small way, the beauty of the culture that exists here.
The colors, languages, and customs are all God’s creation. Of course creation exists in the frothy green palm-like trees that float over my compound home and the colors of reds and yellows in the hills and valleys beside your homes. But even more importantly, creation exists in all of us.
So here (in these photos) is a glimpse of the Nigeriens, whom God came onto this earth and ultimately died for, just like you and me. They may express it differently, but just like us, they crave love, compassion, family, friends, food, water, and home. Bienvenue au Niger. (Welcome to Niger.)
You can find out more about the Samaritan’s Purse internship program here.