Trusting through the differences

JJ & Melissa Alderman


West Africa is known for having two sources for gasoline. One is the conventional developing-nation gas station and the other is what we call boude. For years I have wondered why the proud owner of a motorcycle or vehicle would put substandard gasoline that has been mixed with kerosene into his prized possession. Doesn’t he understand that if he uses this fuel a mechanic will need to clean the carburetor every three months? Doesn’t he understand this fuel has been stolen from broken pipelines and carried in buckets to be sent across borders?

For years, drivers filling up on the side of the road have expressed their distrust for the official filling stations. They say that no matter which commercial station they patronize, they end up paying for more fuel than they receive. This is why they purchase boude in clear bottles on the side of the road. They want to see what they are buying.

The honest truth is that both perspectives have valid points. I might not trust the quality, and they might not trust the quantity. I have been taught to trust official gas stations, and they have been taught to trust what they understand. We build trust in different ways.

In Stephen Covey’s book The Speed of Trust, he wrote that when trust increases, time and money decrease; when trust decreases, time and money increase. This can easily be illustrated by the TSA lines of post 9/11. Covey’s book pushed me to evaluate my relationships in life and ministry. If trust is the currency of my relationships, then how strong is my economy? 

It can be easy for me to view issues from just one side. I can so easily negate another person’s position and viewpoint without trying to understand where he or she is coming from. It was when I started asking better questions and not applying a filter to the answers that I began to comprehend the distrust from the other person’s viewpoint.

I still purchase fuel in the same way I always have, but the conversation has reframed my vantage point. I understand that other people are dealing with trust issues just as I am. It encourages me to give a little more grace, even when I don’t understand.

Trust is the issue. When I find myself not trusting people as I should, I am normally trying to protect my interests. This is magnified when I am living as an expat and building relationships with people from all walks of life cross-culturally. I am also not talking about blind faith without discernment. So, what should I do? I should trust to the point that I am comfortable and then take one more step. I should take a step outside of my comfort zone to understand that others want to be trusted just as I do. The way we were raised, educated and see the world could be coming from opposite directions.

I find the more I trust my Savior, the more I trust others. I see people who want to be known and understood. I am more focused on him and his work than on myself, so I trust people more because I trust him. I see the world through others’ eyes and not my own.

JJ & Melissa Alderman, Missionary

Help the Aldermans plant churches and develop leaders in Togo, West Africa.