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Airplane Story

Published on January 5, 2018


Hi and welcome! My name is Christine Paterson, and I am one of the team here at FieldPartner. I have a passion! My passion is help people prepare for and then succeed in crossing into another culture. This is just a brief introduction to a new course I am proposing to teach on the subject – I am calling it the Art of Crossing Cultures.

The Airplane Story

Before I get into it though, I want to share a story. Please imagine the inside of an aircraft and observe a young girl sitting about half way down in an aisle seat on the right. Next to her in the opposite aisle seat is a new acquaintance who is regaling her with all sorts of stories about where they are heading.

But her mind is not on what is being said. Instead, she is focussed on the roof of the airport’s observation tower, clearly visible through the window, where she can see her family all gathered to wave her flight off. Time passes while the maintenance crew deal with some engine trouble and the flight continues to be delayed. Eventually, after a long wait, she sees her family give up and start walking away. With a last wave at the aircraft, they are gone!  At that point, it is like a wave of desolation overtakes her and we see her dissolve in tears.

Do you want to hazard a guess as to who that girl was? Yep, got it in one - it was me! And the place was Gatwick Airport in August 1975. I had just recently got married and my husband Ross was a missionary in Taiwan. I had been in love with him for six years, but we had been separated most of that time and in truth,  we barely knew each other!

(That’s a long story for another time!) Circumstances had dictated that he needed to return to Asia about three weeks after the honeymoon, leaving me to complete my job contract and pack up my life.

It was now three months later, and I was on my way to join him at last. Sitting there in that moment, though, after weeks of exciting preparations and saying my goodbyes, I became acutely aware that I had really not planned that well for this adventure I was on.

As I say, Ross and I didn’t really know each other very well yet;

I knew even less about Taiwan and I didn’t speak a word of Chinese!

All my previous cross- cultural experience had been in either Africa or Europe. And now my family was departing without me… I remember being overwhelmed by the thought that exploded in my brain that that moment: What have I done?

Don’t get me wrong! I was then, and I am now, deeply in love with my husband, I had my own sense of calling to the Chinese people, and I did, in fact, have an underlying certainty that all would be well!

However, the realisation that hit me with such clarity just at that point was that I had completely burned my boats behind me but had no real idea of what to expect from the moment I landed, in what would be my new home. I was, in a word, UNPREPARED…

The question is, though, how do you prepare for the unknown? Surely everyone in that position does just have to step out and face whatever lies ahead?


That certainly is what Ross himself had done six years before, when he went out on his own to embark on his life’s work. It’s what we later did all over again in 1994 when, after a number of years back in the UK, we set out again for another country in Asia. This time we had our whole family in tow (by now we had five daughters, some of whom were teenagers).


And there are countless others who have done the same thing –

  • students from all over the world going abroad to study,
  • business people being relocated by their multi-national companies or entrepreneurs seeking a new market,
  • teachers, humanitarian workers, fiancés, migrants…

So many people move into other cultures all the time, for any number of reasons, and not many see the need to get specific training before they go.

I often think of a favourite saying of my father-in-law’s (quoting his superior officer from WW2): “Time spent in reconnaissance is seldom if ever wasted!” (That means that in military engagement, some soldiers need to go ahead to survey the lay of the land as well as enemy activity before troops are committed).

What’s the point?

That having a rough idea ahead of time what to expect can greatly reduce stress levels when difficulties are encountered later. Or, putting it the other way around, nothing adds to stress in a tough situation so much as when difficulties are, for whatever reason, not anticipated!

I think this slide illustrates that very well! [“Never give up” slide]

How this course can help you

So that, in a nutshell, is what this course is about. I have let that tsunami wave of panic that hit me on the aircraft that day fuel a desire to help others be more prepared than I was!

What this course won’t do

  • It won’t, in the first instance, give you any specifics about the actual culture you are going to.
  • But it will give you lots of general principles that apply widely to any cross-cultural experience.

Whoever you are, listening to me right now: if you are planning to cross into another culture for any reason – business, marriage, humanitarian work or whatever, this course is for you. Or if you are not thinking of going anywhere but know someone who is, it could be very helpful to that person if you also do this course and learn how to support him or her in their venture.

Lastly, you might just be interested in reaching out to someone from another culture right where you are, but are feeling inhibited by the differences between you. I would love to think this course could contribute in that scenario too.

Next Steps

So please, take a look at the syllabus and then please do sign up. Leave your email so we can stay in contact.

It won’t just be me speaking – It is just in the early stages of development right now, but in time there will be plenty of other content to read or watch and tests to complete.

There will also be an online community to join! That alone could be a lifeline to you after you go, as you share with others in the community what you are experiencing. In that way, you can both give and take support from one another.

I will also hugely welcome any feedback, as I am sure I also have much to learn from you – in this way it will become a mutual learning experience!

Thanks for listening!

SIGN UP here…


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Christine Paterson
Reflections from Our Journey - Our Missionary Blog

Email: [email protected]
Courses for Cross Cultural Missionaries: https://courses.fieldpartner.org


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