Application for Conversion

Abbeydale Christian Fellowship

by Ivy Plett

CALGARY, Alta.—“Conversion” must be one of the most versatile words in the English language. One can “convert” almost anything. A pile of old shirts can be beautifully converted into an heirloom quilt, or a seemingly useless piece of wood can be converted into a beautiful gift for a loved one.

Recently, I received a form in the mail to fill out and return: Application for Conversion. The return address was not heaven; the sender was not God. Those who are over the age of 65 may remember applying for their own “conversion.” The form’s title sparked a few thoughts.

My immediate reaction was “Thank you, Lord, that your people just simply need to ask you to change them from the inside out. Nobody needs to first prove who they are by filling out an application for conversion and then hope that you approve it. This is certainly cause for rejoicing and praise!”

My next thought was spurred on by the memory of the recent Cultural Awareness afternoon held at ACF. Immigrants and others who are not firstly Canadian struggle in “converting” to a different culture.! Of course, not nearly everything in their lives requires converting to a new and different way of speaking, thinking and behaving, but the emotional and physical effort required to convert to just the necessary aspects of Canadian culture is an exhausting and lengthy process.

Even those of us who have mostly assimilated into Canadian culture over generations try to hang on to some aspects of their mother culture, whatever culture that may be.

At the Cultural Awareness event, speakers representing several cultures shared their experiences in negotiating the difficulties of immigration. There were discussions relating to socializing norms, time management, discipline differences, meaning of and responsibility of freedom, language barrier issues and more. Some thought provoking questions were also raised.

How can long-time Canadians help immigrants (especially their children) assimilate into important aspects of Canadian cultural in a healthy way? At the same time, there may be non-negotiables of their mother culture that are in polar opposition to Canadian ideals.

As an example, how do different cultures handle an offer or invitation if the offer recipient’s answer is negative? Canadians usually politely decline after thanking the person who posed the question. In some cultures, a negative answer is always impolite. What is the alternative? Answer affirmatively but not follow through? Clearly, there is potential here for a huge misunderstanding. Is the “Canadian” way the only right way?

A comment made at the event was God’s Word is the filter through which all cultural ideals and actions should pass. Is the attitude or action Christ-like? Does it line up with Christ’s standards of honesty, love and respect for others?

Jesus met people from many cultures during his time on earth. In that time, he focused on the one truth that held strong for every culture: his love. Since we have received the spiritual conversion he offers to us, we are obliged to follow his example. May we be faithful.

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