Perseverance CQ: Try, Try Again

(Material taken from Serving with Eyes Wide Open: Doing Short-Term Missions with Cultural Intelligence by David A. Livermore)

What Is Perseverance CQ?

            Perseverance CQ refers to our level of interest, drive, and motivation to adapt cross-culturally.  It’s a traveler’s robustness, courage, hardiness and capability to persevere through cultural differences. A person high in perseverance CQ draws great satisfaction from being in new places and interacting with people from different cultures.  Short-termers with high perseverance CQ want to adapt to the new culture not only to do short-term missions well but also because they’re genuinely interested in learning about life in a different place.

            People high in perseverance CQ are internally motivated to learn about a new place. They want to ask the deeper questions which can only come through interpretive CQ. As they begin to observe some of the differences and some of the ways their own assumptions are challenged, if they’re high in perseverance CQ, they don’t run from facing those differences.  Instead, they persist in trying to adapt in light of their observations.  The person with high perseverance CQ is always on the lookout for opportunities to understand different cultures and different ways of seeing the world.

            Motivation shapes cross-cultural engagement more than anything else. It’s not enough to simply be motivated. More than anything else, we’re motivated to do short-term missions because of the potential impact upon ourselves and others.  Motivation is also shaped buy our cultural backgrounds, e.g. Americans typically have lower success rates adjusting to other cultures compared to many other ethnic groups.  (This is because we are programmed to “do our own thing” and that we think we are the leaders of the world.)

            Our level of interest in connecting with the culture as a whole will directly shape how well we do our work in subtle but profound ways.

            Perseverance CQ goes beyond simply the excitement of traveling to a new place.  It’s the perseverance required when the novelty wears off and the differences start to chafe at us.

Nurturing Perseverance CQ

            There’s often little interest in adapting to the culture by those who engage in short-term mission efforts.  There are a number of ways to address this.  Here are a few considerations.

Connect to Knowledge and Interpretive CQ

            The challenge is how we align our motivation for going with what we are growing to understand about a culture – both through knowledge and interpretive CQ.  High perseverance CQ helps us to use our cross-cultural understanding to shape our behavior.

Be Honest

            One of the things we heard again and again as we saw conflicting perspectives of American short-termers vis-a-vis national church members who received short-termers was our exaggerated descriptions of what happens as result of these trips.

            I have little trouble believing some kind of transformation occurs when we leave the comforts of home to spend life in an entirely different world for a couple weeks.

            As we begin to be more honest about the fact that short-term mission trips are simply another piece of thousands of experiences in our lives that change us, we’ll be motivated in appropriate ways, which in turn will help us engage more effectively. Let’s stop thinking about short-term missions as a service to perform and see them as another expression of a seamless life of missional living that includes giving and receiving.  Let’s think about them as a time when we’re responsible to learn.  When we’re with brothers and sisters from another part of the world, let’s spend less time thinking about how we can tell everyone back home what we did for them and more time finding out what they’re truly facing and getting their perspective on how we can help them.

            The honesty we’re after has to come from a broad perspective from what God’s doing among His people all over the world, and continually learning what our role is in serving what God is doing. Sometimes we need to sacrifice our egos and say, “I’m not going to come train.  I want to do whatever I can to help you train the material that’s developed by your context for your context.” Or we might need to say, “We’re not going to build that. We’re going to raise the money for you to employ your people to build it.”


            In order to be motivated to persevere through the challenges of cross-cultural work, we must see how they relate to our other goals, which is a basic rule of learning.  We have to help each other see how eating unfamiliar food, sitting through services in a foreign language, and touring ancient temples is relevant to God’s call on their lives. 

            The average short-term team member won’t see how eating at McDonald’s could hinder their vacation Bible school program.  Yet we need to see the subtle but profound connection between where we eat, where we stay, and how we interact and how we fulfill our mission tasks. Soak in the culture and set the tone for others traveling with you about the importance of doing so for your overall mission. Persevere through the difficult interactions, try the foods and the language, continue the hard work of journaling, and seek to understand what’s really going on beneath the surface of what you see. If you’re leading a short-term mission trip, challenge your group members to soak in the culture as much as possible. Help them see how taking it all in can directly relate to fulfilling your mission – both your short-term mission and your lifelong calling to extend the redemptive mission of God.

SALT, Inc. "To know the will of God, we need an open Bible and an open map." — William Carey