In Feb, 2016 i was In Rajahmundry India for the second time in my life volunteering at an orphanage. When i caught the eyes of a 12 year old boy named, “Sevah” in the crowd of five hundred orphans. Seva’s eyes lit up as if he remembered me from four years ago when we played together. Tears of joy began to cloud my vision. My heart leaped with compassion, as i ran over there and gave him a big hug. My heart was full to the brim as Sevah gripped me, like “A son would hold onto his father.” This memory is a treasure i hold dear to my heart. On this trip i also had the honor to share my story to a crowd of over 10,000 people in India. Humbled, not qualified, not worthy i shared my story and hoped that my words and my heart would encourage them. During the crusade we also provided the people with 2 meals a day. This trip challenged the way i live my life in America. Kindness is more than empty rhetoric. My words of wanting to help others began to take form. My broken heart began to experience sincere compassion for others. I hope people will share my experience and have a desire to help others.
Growing up in American Culture I've been flooded with ideas, images, and stereotypes of the American dream, a liberal individualistic approach to life. Americans believe that happiness is tied to some sort of financial security or an accumulation of possessions. These socially-learned behaviors I grew up with just haven't sufficed. Recently I was in the Macabebe Philippines an extremely poor area in the northern part of the Philippines. I noticed something different about the culture I was in. In this society, there was a genuine happiness, vibrant relationships, and a beautiful display of community. An aura surrounded them. I admired their way of life. They valued people, they cared for each other. This experience had shattered my Americanized worldview and opened my eyes to something new. That the culture I’ve lived in all my life and the things that I valued were beginning to lose their luster. This culture was having an impact on my identity: my values, beliefs, and my pursuit of happiness.
There are many elements that impact one’s identity: Family, culture, socio-economic status, education, peers, social media and many others. According to Dr. Maclachlan in His article “Cross-Cultural Communications styles,” he claims that high-context cultures focus more on relationships and low-context cultures are more task orientated. (Maclachlan) In other words, different cultures share different value systems, but what happens when high-context and low-context cultures meet? How does coming into contact with another culture impact one’s identity? Is there some sort of conflict or collaboration? Cultural synthesis begins to take place; beliefs, values, and ideas are exchanged-differences and similarities arise but a synthesis nonetheless. Personally being exposed to the Filipino culture and how they value relationship has affected me deeply. Although Americans take pride in their autonomy and independence I admire the Filipino’s sense of community and togetherness also known as “Kapwa.” Connecting cross-culturally can be difficult and uncomfortable, however allowing oneself to embrace cultural differences, opens up possibilities to renew and shape one's identity.
When I first arrived in Macabebe Philippines I was warmly welcomed by 350 Filipinos-kids-and-families. They screamed “ Mabuhay!” They greeted us with songs, flowers, and coconuts. It was exuberant and over the top. I began to weep. Tears began to roll down my face in awe of what was happening, I didn't deserve such a grand entrance. I was overwhelmed and humbled by their love and hospitality. According to Jeremiah Reyes in His article “Loob and Kapwa: An introduction to a Filipino Virtue and ethics. Filipino’s strongly value community. Their very nature is dedicated to strengthen and preserve human relationships.(Reyes) In other words, Filipino’s love people and I was a recipient of that love. A foundational virtue to the Filipino culture is “Kapwa,” kapwa means a “shared identity” or a togetherness.(Reyes) This term “Kapwa” interested me greatly; this oneness or “Pagkakaisa” a deep level of interpersonal interaction, intimacy and connectedness began to unravel places of my heart I didn't know existed. According to an American anthropologist, Frank Lynch famously coined the term ‘smooth interpersonal relationship. To describe the greatest value of Filipino culture (Lynch, 1962, p. 89). This everyday interpersonal interacting nurtured my soul, it's as if this relational harmony I experienced in the Filipino culture was what I was designed for. However, this deep intimacy and communal way of living I was experiencing also had its difficulties.
Building relationships cross-culturally can be difficult and uncomfortable but also very liberating. According to Dr. Maclachlan in His article “Cross-Cultural Communications styles” he claims that high-context cultures “such as Saudi Arabia tend to place a larger importance on long-term relationships and loyalty.” and low context cultures “such as the UK tend to have short-term relationships, follow rules and standards closely and are generally very task orientated.”(Maclachlan) In other words, high-context cultures focus more on relationships and low-context cultures are more focused on task lists. Living in a low-context culture like the US and then going to a high-context culture like the Philippines one might experience tension from this new environment. According to a student on “UKessays” In an essay titled cultural studies, when low context cultures interact with high context cultures, “There could be a number of problems in many aspects including language, attitudes toward time and personal space, and interpersonal relationships. These problems may not only cause misunderstanding and disappointment of both sides but also may lead to failure of business, so effective solutions are necessarily needed.” (UKessays) In other words, many problems can occur when communicating cross-culturally. One must learn to adapt to cultural traditions to build a bridge to the culture one is in contact with. Some cultural traditions in the Philippines are communal gatherings, food, and honoring elders. Someone who was born in American culture might not be so used to this ongoing interpersonal interaction or central sense of community and be stretched relational and forced out of their comfort zone. One might perceive it as uncomfortable but rather soon one might begin to really enjoy the conversations and interactions one might experience.
For Instance, myself being thrown into the “contact zone” or into a new culture I was forced to adapt. Feeling like an outsider. It encouraged me to be more relational. According to Mary Louise Pratt in her article “Arts of the Contact Zone” she coins the term “contact zone” which is when two social spaces or cultures meet, “clash, and grapple with each other, often in contexts of highly asymmetrical relations of power, such as colonialism, slavery, or their aftermaths as they are lived out in many parts of the world today.” (Pratt) In other words, the contact zone is where two different cultures connect; conflict arise, differences are experienced, and values are exchanged. I experienced this conflict in the Philippines. My American culture colliding with theirs. My independent task focused mindset had been interrupted by kindness. My ambition and drive had been stilled by their patience and genuine hospitality. At first, this change of pace was uncomfortable, but soon as I began to embrace what was happening, I began to feel alive. It as if I was still long enough to really experience their culture, this sense of togetherness, “kapwa.” Low-context cultures have the ability to not focus on their poverty or harsh living conditions but focus more on each other, which brings a sense of fulfillment to their lives. On the other hand, American culture is innovatively competitive and focuses more on an accumulation of wealth for fulfillment in life. Both identities hinge on someone or something else.
There are both good and bad characteristics of an identity of both cultures. In America a low-context culture pride themselves on education, ambition, and innovation. Although in the Philippines a high-context culture value Community, charity, and hospitality. Both cultures obtain virtues of strong character. According to Sunniva Heggtveit-Audio in her article titled, "Culture Values and the impact at work," ‘It is important that we try to learn and appreciate these differences in order to work effectively with people from other cultures.’ (Culture) In other words, we must expand our understanding of different cultures and learn to be accepting of other cultures in order to better get along. One must expose himself to cultural diversity to broaden one's understanding of self, and allow oneself to formulate a unique sense of identity; rather than being subjected to only one type of culture.
In Alice Phang’s Essay “Me, Myself, and I: Study of Self” she shares the cultural synthesis that occurs in her life. Alice being a Chinese American grew up practicing the principle of giving a group priority over herself which caused conflict living in an American individualistic society. She goes on to say, “Therefore, although I may perceive myself today as both an American and Chinese-American, one who values both individualism and collectivism, my identities are fluid and contingent in relation to historical and cultural circumstances--that is, forever changing upon exposure to various contexts.’ (Phang) In other words, she embraces both cultures, she thrives on her ambiguity, she embraces diversity and renews and enlightens herself.
We live in a time where different societies are merging together- a confluence, a meeting place of different tribes and tongues. One must learn to embrace the diversity of the times we live in. When one embraces the discomfort of cross-cultural communication and grows closer in relationship to other people groups, one renews our human need for personal interaction and sharpen one's identity.
In the book, Mere Christianity the writer C.S Lewis talks about hope. And when we begin to gaze and marvel at the idea of Heaven we find Hope.
C.S Lewis says, “ Hope is one of the theological virtues. This means that continual looking forward to the eternal world is not a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. "
In other words “Hope” is an art form or a learned behavior.
When one has the ability to imagine the Kingdom of God and its glory,
and brings it down to REALITY
and CAN LIVE FROM that place.
When I begin to entertain the kingdom of God things in my life change;
It’s like the fog clears and the sun begins to shine.
Things happen when you entertain the kingdom of God.
YOU BECOME self-forgetful.
Insecurities, character defects, and limitations begin to fall off of you.
and you begin to walk in something new
what God originally DESIGNED YOU TO WALK IN!
Relationships begin to flourish
LIFE begins to happen,
and HOPE begins to fill your heart.
But what about when we don't gaze on Heaven...
And our eyes begin to wander and we put our hope in somethings else...
or when we long for a relationship and were not satisfied.
or that drug or that drink and we still fill empty...
MAYBE it's because WE were designed in the image of God,
The CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE, PUT US TOGETHER.
hand crafted each one us DIFFERENTLY
AND PLACED A PART OF HEAVEN inside of each one us.
AND were TRYING TO FILL THAT COMPARTMENT OF HEAVEN WITH THE THINGS OF THE WORLD.
it's like trying to meet a heavenly need, with a worldly supply
it just doesn't work that way...
When our focus is not on the things of God
We render ourselves powerless or ineffective.
AND THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS NOT DISPLAYED IN OUR LIVES. and were not living to our full potential.
C.S Lewis affirms this idea when he says, “Aim at Heaven and you will get earth “thrown in”: aim at earth and you will get neither.
In other words, pursue the things of God
And watch everything else come to life. I can remember being in Teen Challenge just beginning to learn about the presence of God.
NOT KNOWING HOW TO PRAY
not knowing how to read my bible
but EXPERIENCING SOMETHING SO REAL AND GENUINE
IT WAS DEEP
IT WAS RAW
IT WAS INTIMATE
I was in awe of God.
It was unreal.
That the creator of the universe.
The God that breathed dust into man.
The God that placed the northern lights in the sky.
The God that designed us for the relationship.
Wanted to spend time with ME. it was unreal.
I didn't get it, it didn't make sense.
God began to deposit ideas and dreams into my heart.
That I would be part of a movement that would
“recreate the culture.”
A culture that would display the kingdom of God.
That would spread the love of Christ to the nations through all different forms of creative arts and evangelism.
It would be called “Art of the Covenant.”
5 years later.
has become part of my reality.
That seed of Hope has now grown into an incredible ministry.
I can also remember being in God's presence and being flooded with visions of beings on stages ministering to thousands of people.
Since then I've been all around the world to share the Gospel. India, Philippines, San Salvador, Africa, and Now Brazil in June.
What once was a vision
is now a part of my testimony.
I don't say all that to boast. I say all that to show you. That GOD IS FAITHFUL.
That the ideas, dreams, visions that God has placed in your heart can become a reality.
WHEN you keep your EYES ON HIM.
lives are changed.
Be hopeful, be encouraged. God is writing your destiny in this moment. You didn't GET TO WHERE YOUR AT BY CHANCE.
GOD HAS A CALLING ON YOUR LIFE.
He has placed a dream...
A DESTINY INSIDE OF YOU.
and He only reveals that destiny when you spend time in His presence.
Spend Time in Gods Presence and experience the Kingdom of Heaven in your life.
Just a heavy heart
To the bottom of the ocean
like an anchor
Lodged in the sand
Waiting for the ship to set sail once again.
We Realize its purpose
to be still
Unchanging regardless the circumstances.
Begin to swell
And storm clouds form
and lightning flashes.
At the bottom of the ocean
There's an anchor
Lodged in the sand
And its purpose
Is to be still
Unchanging regardless it circumstances.
As the storm will soon pass
The ship will set sail once again.
“be still heavy heart the Lord is my anchor.”
- Thomas Seibert, AOTC
“Our days on earth are like grass; like wildflowers, we bloom, then
wither away and die. “ (Psalm 103:15) I listen to the psalmist and
wonder what is the purpose of life on earth, if we’re here today and gone
tomorrow. Do we only exist and then that's it? Does life only consist
of climbing the corporate ladder, indulging in endless discourses of
education, or accumulating wealth and materialism? I think not. Will
people remember me after I’m gone? Abraham Lincoln was known for
abolishing slavery, Thomas Edison was known for inventing the lightbulb,
Mohandas Gandhi was known for Indian independence, and Jesus Christ was
known for bringing salvation to all humanity. All these influential
leaders have passed away but their still remembered today. Their words
echo in our hearts and ignite a passion for us to live a legacy that will
last longer than our lifespan.
What would be the most positive thing that could be said about you life
if you were to die today?
That I lived beyond myself. That I saw the needs of others and did what I could. I’m not perfect but I love people. I’ve been grateful to have another chance in life, so I share it with others. In Feb, 2016 I was In Rajahmundry India for the second time in my life volunteering at an orphanage. When I caught the eyes of a 12 year old boy named, “Sevah” in the crowd of five hundred orphans. Sevah’s eyes lit up as if he remembered me from four years ago when we played together. Tears of joy began to cloud my vision. My heart leaped with compassion, as I ran over there and gave him a big hug. My heart was full to the brim as Sevah gripped me, like “A son would hold onto his father.” This memory is a treasure I hold dear to my heart. On this trip I also had the honor to share my story to a crowd of over 10,000 people in India. Humbled, not qualified, not worthy I shared my story and hoped that my words and my heart would encourage them. During the crusade we also provided the people with 2 meals a day. This trip challenged the way I live my life in America. Kindness is more than empty rhetoric. My
words of wanting to help others began to take form. My broken heart began to experience sincere compassion for others. I hope people will share my experiences, like Sevah and about my efforts to help others long after I'm gone.
What would be said about you at your memorial service?
Thomas Seibert loved people wholeheartedly, not just with his words but with his
actions. He was selfless. He was a man of joy and positivity. He
planted seeds of hope, when those were trenching through the depths of
despair. He encouraged faith and inspired others to live beyond
themselves. He put the interests of others before his own. He was a
great man. He built a bridge from the grave to our hearts that inspires
us to live honorable lives, To be people of character and prayer. To
expand the post of our imagination, and not be scared to dream. To
plant seeds in the soil of the next generation, in order for the next
generation to reap a harvest. He was a man who invested into eternity.
In June 2016 I spent three weeks in Monrovia, Liberia. Liberia has
suffered a civil war for 30 years and for the past ten years has
struggled to recover. Corruption, poverty, and oppression weigh
heavily on the hearts of the people in Liberia. I spoke with a 27-yr. old
man named Magnus about his life in Liberia and I remember him telling
me this, “Poverty is not how much money you have in your pocket it’s a
state of mind.” This statement revealed the condition of his heart and
the hope he has for his country, and that they would see better days.
If I lived to eighty-five I would want to empower others to reach their
full potential. Developing farming skills in third world countries.
Providing economic stimulus in impoverished areas through business
development. Teaching proper use of natural resources. Encourage
Innovation and creativity. Providing healthcare and education to those
that don't have it. Planting churches and orphanages. Teach others to
know God, love people, and live life to the fullest. Some specific
activities I would need to be engaged in to accomplish these goals
would be: Church, Education, Multi-Cultural Communications, Journalism, Video/Photography, Design, Economics, Agriculture, Business, Socialism, Humanitarianism, and Philanthropy.
- Thomas Seibert