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APPROPRIATE AFFECTION

How to keep your cool while showing warmth.

I couldn't have painted a better scene of missionary life. Small, native children ran alongside, urging me to take their picture. Scraggly dogs yapped in rhythm. The air was heavy with rain, the smells rich and primordial. We walked a tree-lined road that was overgrown yet stately. As we walked, the pastor of the local church was explaining the move of God's Spirit in his country.

Then he unconsciously broke the marvelous mood. As a show of affection, this African pastor took my hand and firmly held it as we walked. The action took me by surprise. Every nerve in my arm screamed to my head, "Pull away. Fast!"

I looked around to see if anyone could see us-two men holding hands on their way to the next village. I hoped my sweaty palm would make further hand holding impossible, but the pastor ignored the squishiness and retained his warm grasp. In my discomfort, I learned something about myself: I am a child of my culture.

Even though all of us are learning to break through "macho" stereotypes, ...

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