A Time-Oriented Person in an Event-Oriented Culture

Traveling requires a balance between having a plan and being flexible. This balance is typically hard to find and accept, especially depending on your personality. If you are a planner, despite knowing that you need to be willing to adapt, it still probably pains you at least a little when things don’t go according to plan- especially when events don’t fall into plans A, B, C, OR D! If you aren’t a planner, it may be really easy to assume, “Well, whatever happens, happens” and then you find yourself in a situation that would be really easy to handle had you thought about it even a little! Trying to find a balance is even more difficult in event-oriented cultures (like the Baka) versus time-oriented cultures (like the United States).

Based on the Baka people’s environment and lifestyle, it makes sense that they are an event-oriented society. For one, not that many people have watches and clocks just lying around and so with such a loose aspect of time, it is hard to be time-oriented. Also, the majority of their life is centered on simply surviving. The focus is on getting food in order to feed their family. The day starts when the sun comes up and they either go to work in the fields or go into the forest and then the day end when it gets dark. Otherwise, there is a very loose concept of time. Let me use an example to illustrate this.

Our church doesn’t have a start time or an end time. We typically leave our camp around 8:15 AM to head to Mayos and then when we arrive, the concept of time goes out the window. Our arrival in the town typically signifies that church will be relatively soon for the members of the community. We then go around and greet people in the village, this could take 10 minutes or it could take 30 depending on the week. Slowly, but surely people start trickling into the church. Church “officially” starts when the drums show up and the worship begins. Then, following our worship time, there is a time of sharing. This could again be really brief or go on for a very long time. In one church service since I’ve been here, two women addressed their personal conflict at church! Depending on the deacon who is preaching, the service could last a long time or no time at all. Then, when we are all done, everyone disperses. The whole aspect of it is very non-Western and very event-oriented.

I am definitely a planner, so there were adjustments to be made. Anyone who meets me probably knows that within the first hour or so of talking to me. My planner is color-coded depending on the type of event. Beyond just my planner I also have a variety of other methods of organizing my day—sticky notes, daily planners, to-do lists, all of it. That being said, I know that pursuing a life in the mission field requires the ability to be flexible and adapt. I have found ways to cope and figure out how to exist in an event-oriented culture.

My planner functions as my overview with the times for events as a marker for “in an ideal world, team meeting will start at 4:00 PM.” Therefore, at 4:00 PM, I am ready for team meeting. Even if team meeting doesn’t start because of a medical emergency or some other event, it’s still on my mind and I remember that is an event that is taking place probably today and probably soon. Beyond that, my to-do list is more of an “if-I-had-all-the-time-and-focus-in-the-world-this-is-everything-I-would-do” list. It helps me see all of the different tasks I am working on (which is actually quite a bit because of all the different roles I fill here) and prioritize the ones that are most important. Then, I try not to put too much pressure on myself and just get done as much as possible in a day.

All of that said, I think it is important to schedule time for your non-negotiables. Non-negotiables can differ based on the person, but for me, they’re my Bible reading and journaling. Setting aside a definitive time for doing these things each day helps me have a sense of control, especially on chaotic days when a million things are happening at once. Even a planner, time-oriented planner can exist well and thrive in an event-oriented culture with just a few adjustments.



One thought on “A Time-Oriented Person in an Event-Oriented Culture

  1. reading your story brings back so many memories of time in Kenya – exciting to hear how God is allowing you to recognize and overcome the challenges of cross culture life. Sounds like you are doing great – continuing to pray for this journey and excited to hear what God has for your life. enjoy the remainder of your time there. it is flying by.

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