Finding the shadows in the mirror of experience: an ontological study of the global-co-worker
This study explores the phenomenon of a personal exploratory field visit to HIV programmes in Malawi and how that informs my future plans to work cross-culturally with HIV. I use hermeneutic phenomenology with the guidance of Heidegger and Gadamer, and draw on Ackermann, Hill, Maluleke, Moltmann, and Thielicke for theological direction. This study analyses how personal formation takes place and how the meaning of that experience can inform future cross-cultural interaction. The data of this study is drawn from a range of people interviewing ‘me’. This includes a pre and post interview in relation to my three week exploratory visit to Malawi, and recorded daily reflections during the visit. Upon return I was interviewed about my experience by ten people from the following areas: nursing, counselling, development, theology, business, medicine, clergy, an Expatriate Malawian, and a women working from a Maori paradigm. These interviews focused on my experience with questions framed from the interviewer’s specialty area. The transcripts become further data for my study. The findings of this thesis suggest that people wishing to work cross-culturally need to understand their motivation for their work, and understand who they are before entering a foreign land. This transformative journey also needs to continue as part of the process of working with people because we can only be effective with change if we are listening and hearing the other’s perspective. It is in being open to this difference between persons that we continue to find ourselves. While perhaps we have a tendency to want to make everybody like us, we can only grow into our full potential in relationship with truly different others. Tensions I experienced demonstrate that there is a complex need to understand how the context controls how HIV is perceived. This requires uncovering some of the deeper issues of HIV and culture, and knowing how to conceptualise these in both positive and informative ways. This thesis asks four key questions for the global-co-worker to work through before embarking on cross-cultural mission: 1. How do you know you should go?; 2. How are you going to make a difference?; 3. Who are you going to be?; and 4. What will sustain your involvement? My own experience has drawn me into a deeper awareness of the need for a vital connectedness of faith, hope and love underpinning the everydayness of such an experience.