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Rebe McReynolds

Do You Have Any Absolute Non-Negotiables?

How do you cope under circumstances where what you consider as non-negotiable in your life suddenly becomes negotiable? One way to find out is to take this framework into another culture—like the tribal culture on the island of Nosy Be, Madagascar, which will soon be our home.

Here are just a few examples of what I often mistakenly think are non-negotiables:

1. Familiarity in parent/child relationship.
I’ve considered the parent/child relationship where kids are comfortable and familiar speaking directly to their parents, asking questions, and openly communicating to be a non-negotiable. Place this framework in a culture where kids are lowest in the social system, are not to make eye contact with adults, not to address men, including their fathers, and it becomes negotiable.

2. Eating two to three meals per day.
Non-negotiable, right? Place this framework in a culture where income and food are scarce and the body’s minimum requirements become negotiable.

3. NOT contracting malaria.
Place this framework in a culture where malaria is present, and where it is not sustainable to take malaria medication 100 percent of the time, and even malaria becomes negotiable, a disease that can be lived with for life if you have the necessary resources.

4. Cleanliness.
It’s important to me to keep a clean house and a clean family. At home it’s non-negotiable. Place this framework in a culture where cleanliness is viewed differently from one’s home culture (and consider nature’s elements having an effect) and your model of hygiene becomes negotiable.

OK, just one more. What about  …

5. Running water.
You need running water for cooking, bathing, brushing your teeth, gardening, and other everyday things. Place this framework in a culture where you do not have running water and your behavior adapts. Running water becomes negotiable.

Jesus Christ—the True Non-Negotiable
My absolutes truly simmer down to the person of Jesus of Christ. This means that in large part I will relearn what I have learned from my home culture when I enter my new home among the Sakalava people in Madagascar. Of course there will be commonalities between the cultures represented, but as I am going into a place that I cannot call “my own,” I will go as one who knows differently than my neighbor.  How does one gain respect and trust from their neighbor? My answer is that by living, learning, walking alongside, and spending time together, the bonds of trust will be established. In that trust, the person of Jesus Christ, my absolute non-negotiable, cannot be shaken.

What is your absolute non-negotiable that you embrace no matter where life takes you? I have a friend whose answer to that question was “nothing” and with that answer I suggested that the thought of “nothing” IS the absolute, non-negotiable. That person later asked if they could have my copy of C.S. Lewis’s book, Mere Christianity.

In less than two months we will move to Nosy Be Island and live and learn alongside the Sakalava people. If you know me, then you know how difficult it will be for me to stop talking and just listen. The idea goes against my normal mode of operation. I need God to help me set aside my North American framework and models and be open to learning things in a new way. For a child this comes more easily, but for a grown woman it must be intentionally practiced.

Who knows? Maybe I will even learn to set aside my SPF 60 and try using traditional paints to protect my skin from the sun.

This article was originally published in MTW's InVision in 2013. Bryan and Rebe McReynolds are MTW missionaries serving in Madagascar.

Rebe McReynolds, Adoany Madagascar Missiology Reflection Aug 9, 2016
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Give thanks for the maturing of the Sakalava church in Madagascar. Pray for the Sakalava believers who are now leading a congregation of people once steeped in ancestor worship and spirit possession.

Pray for the Sakalava in Nosy Be, Madagascar. Islanders have been hard hit by the shutdown of the tourisim industry. Many are new to faith. 

Pray for a band of young Sakalava men in Madagascar who have come to faith and are writing and recording songs from Scripture.

Pray today for Alexi and Mbotizara, new Sakalava believers in Madagascar. Pray they will grow in their faith and lead others to faith in Christ. 

Pray for women of the Mama Vao Vao sewing business in Madagascar. It's helping keep Sakalava women out of prostitution and introducing them to Christ. 

Pray for the Sakalava people of Nosy Be, Madagascar as they deal with harsh realities of death and poverty, and give thanks that many are coming to faith. 

Pray for the Church in Africa to deepen and for African believers to live holy lives in accordance with God's Word.  

Pray for missionaries adjusting to new cultures and new norms, forcing them to surrender the comforts they once considered non-negotiable. 

Pray that we would become more proficient at ministering to oral learners—those in cultures that learn best through the spoken word and storytelling.

Pray for a sewing ministry in Madagascar as it transforms into a business providing resources to a community plagued with sexual oppression.

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