Crossing cultures

Annual weekend highlights diversity among Army ranks.

by Eric Lo, Major – 

The Salvation Army’s annual cultural awareness week and Reconciliation Sunday will take place January 15-21, 2007. This focus particularly resonates with me. I am a Chinese raised as a Buddhist in Hong Kong, who came to America as a foreign college student, married a Caucasian and adopted two Korean children. Later, in Alaska, Tlingit Indians adopted our family into their clan.

A few years ago, when one of our country’s political parties wanted to broaden its appeal to the public by having a Jewish politician among its leaders, I wanted to yell: “Crossing cultures is not a flavor-of-the-month thing. It has to be founded in the heart. You can’t build a structure on a foundation that isn’t there.”

Our movement has much to be proud of in its multi-ethnic make-up and leadership. But we must beware of allowing our heads to swell. The true measure of our cross-cultural success lies in the possession of power. Within The Salvation Army, cultural diversity is more than just having leaders from different countries. A figurehead at the top without real power would be meaningless. So would an ethnic corps that operates in isolation from others. We need corps where people of all racial and social backgrounds worship together as in the model of Acts 2.

It’s not just a race thing. There are cultural differences between people of different ages. My son and I are 38 years apart and almost live in different cultures as a result. But dialogue is possible, and what happens in a family should also happen in church.

There are different cultures, too, among the rich and the poor. Again, the distribution of power is at the heart of success and failure. There must be respect and love, not feelings of superiority.

Every cultural awareness week, every Reconciliation Sunday, I am proud of our Army. But every year I vow that I will play my part in helping it do even better.

For further information and ideas on how to observe this very important week in January, please contact your divisional representative.

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