Time management for American missionaries is often difficult, because they live
in two different worlds with different views of time: the internal world they
take with them and the external world of the mission field.
American Time and Foreign Time
Americans are obsessed with time.
Time can be divided into discreet intervals and scheduled.
Time is handled like a material: earned, spent, saved, wasted.
Four American values about time:
Time is valuable and should not be wasted.
Time is a comodity that can be bought, sold, lost, made up, measured.
The duration of time can be measured and must add up.
Time has little depth for Americans (not very interested in the past).
Americans are future oriented.
Americans have a limited view of the future (5 or 10 years).
A "long time" can be almost anything to an American.
Four American isolates about time:
The more urgent the need the more time seems to drag.
People should not do more than one thing at a time.
People must keep busy.
Doing things without variety (the same things over and over again) is boring.
Among Pueblos, events happen when the time is right.
Among Navajos, a poor gift now is better than a good one promised for the future.
The Sioux have no words for "late" or "waiting".
Time does not heal on the island of Turk.
In the Middle East, appointments are not made more than a week in advance.
In Latin America, people may do several things at one time.
In Latin America, there is more tolerance for waiting.
In many countries, there is not the American need for punctuality.
For further reading:
Edward T. Hall's The Silent Language
Time in the Bible
Prov. 10:4 -- be diligent rather than slack
Prov. 13:4 -- be diligent rathar than a sluggard
Eccl. 3:1 -- there is a time and season for everything
Col. 4:5 -- make the most of the time/opportunity
Eph. 5:15-16 -- make the most of the time/opportunity
John 9:4 -- work while it is day; night is coming when no one can work
Two Greek words for time: chronos (time that passes) and
kairos (the opportune time)
quiteness and rest: Psalm 46:10; Isa. 30:15
The items that follow fit American time management procedures.
They must be used with care to maintain the missionary's productivity and sanity,
but must not be used too much in public situations lest the missionary be
culturally inappropriate and ineffective.