Posts Tagged: Missions
Eighteen Year Old Bethany Fankhauser writes:
My dad, a missionary doctor, was standing in a circle of nurses and aids, praying. He was lifting up prayers for the patients who were suffering from Ebola, for their family members, and for the protection of the staff who were about to step into the isolation unit. I held my camera close to my side. When I heard my dad say, “amen,” I glanced at the group standing before me and felt a strong sense that I was in the presence of people who were acting as the hands and feet of Jesus.
Read the whole thing here.
I’d like to reflect on language learning, culture, and
effectiveness on the mission field. This is intended not for short-term mission
teams, but for long-term commitments that require preparatory language
Every missionary making a long-term commitment to
cross-cultural missions will say that he or she wants to be effective in the
target people group. There is no objection to wanting to fit in, identify with
the people and their needs, and understand their culture, and thus minister in
a way that will impact lives. There is no disagreement on these matters. The
challenge comes in the area of methodology. What is the most effective way to
prepare to be practically effective?
Mission organizations, upon sending missionaries to an area
that speaks a different language, sends them first to language school. For
example, missionaries going to French-speaking African countries are sent
either to France or Canada for a year of French studies. The rationale for this
approach is that they want their missionaries to arrive in their new setting
ready to go and ready to communicate with the people, thus finding it easy to
fit in, adapt, and be more effective in ministry. Yet, this could be misleading
for several reasons. Two questions come
- Location. Where is the best place
to do the language learning? Interestingly, French in France comes with
the French culture and accent attached. It is the same with learning
French in Canada. How does that affect the work of a missionary in a
francophone African country, which has its own accent and culture attached
to the use of the French language?
- Duration. Is one year adequate for
effective grasp of the language? At the most, one year gives one the
basics. The missionary needs to
grow in the use of the language, as well as understanding the local
I want to affirm the wisdom of learning a language in
preparation for ministry in a particular location. The importance of this
approach cannot be overstated. It is very helpful to arrive at a location
knowing how to address people and express yourself to them. So, this is good.
At the same time, I do propose the following:
While language learning is critical, the place of learning
the language should be chosen with careful thought. If one is going to work in
an African context, it would be best to seek to learn the language on site.
(There are benefits to this that will be stated later). So, rather than going
to Canada or France to study French prior to working in Congo or Burundi or
Cameroon, it would be preferable to spend that language learning time on site.
Why? Reasons abound. It’s cost effective, it helps local
teachers economically etc. but I want to expand on just a few:
- Language learning on
location will help the missionary make a quicker and more effective
adaptation to the culture. The fact is that when one is learning a
language, included is the culture of the country in which the language is
being studied. Culture-specific stories, touristic sites, entertainment
places, names of stores and other illustrative examples will be culture
specific. A person learning how to order from a menu in a restaurant in
Paris will be at a loss in an African village where there are no menus and
where you have to bargain in the open market place. But, if the language
learning occurred in the area of ministry, the culturally specific issues
needing to be addressed and gotten used to in ministry would be treated in
the course of language learning. This is beneficial.
- To be understood properly,
you need to speak in a way that is very close to the way the nationals
speak. This is true even with the English language. If you speak American English in a
former British colony, it is difficult to be understood. As an
international student studying in the USA, my pronunciation was often
corrected. It wasn’t easy, but I needed to learn how Americans pronounce
words, and adapt. Learning language on location helps remove this possible
hindrance by fine tuning the dialect.
- Cultural effectiveness.
Studying French in France will not prepare a missionary for the local
customs of the people he will be serving. As a result, one ends up
spending time in language studies and then more time on location adjusting
the language and learning the local customs. For example, it is improper
for a young person to cross the legs or wear a baseball cap in the
presence of older persons in some Cameroonian villages. Since crossing the
legs is a common American habit, the missionary has to unlearn it. When
learning language in the Cameroonian context, these customs become a
natural part of the lesson as you interact with people and practice the
- In terms of duration of
language studies, one year cannot possibly be adequate, but for a long
period of time will disrupt the vision for mission work. Rather than
giving a year for language studies, why not make it a life long process?
The first year of ministry can be specifically for language learning. The
second year continue language learning 50% of the time and then begin to
get your feet wet in the ministry context. By the third year, 30% language
learning and more ministry work. This provides more benefits than learning
the language at a remote location.
Language learning is a must for mission work. Yet, the
location matters and duration matters as well.
What if only 13% of your church members were proficient readers?
As you prepared to serve this congregation, how would you craft the material you are teaching so that it could be understood? Would you quote authors? Would you reference books - especially since most of the books you read (assuming you are part of the 13%) are not being read by those you are teaching. At what grade level would your vocabulary be as you spoke?
My guess is that if you were planning for a short-term trip in a cross-cultural context and heard this statistic you would take great care in your approach to teaching.
But what if I told you that this statistic is from the Department of Education in the United States?
Now ask yourself: Would you take the same care in preparing the message? Would you argue that Christians need to think hard and therefore speak about issues and use vocabulary that are beyond your people in order to try to press them into deeper intellecutal waters?
It is a difficult dillemna, but one thing seems certain. When Americans teach overseas, I have never heard them complain about the intellectual level of the people they are training. Yet, I have heard many American pastors bemoan the fact that their own people have a hard time grasping what they believe is important.
Are you considering your people when you teach in the place where you are from?
Other Equally Very Important Side of Romans 10:14-17
then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to
believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without
someone preaching? 15 And
how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful
are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the
gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and
hearing through the word of Christ.
words to the Romans in this passage have appeared in many sermons on missions
and in missionary reports. The argument often is that people must be sent to
preach the gospel, since without a preacher, people will not call on the name
of the Lord and be saved. The logic of Romans 10:14-15 is straightforward. This
point cannot be debated. But, have we missed an equally very important point of
this passage by focusing so much on the need to send? I think so.
is another part of Romans 10 that, if taken seriously, will intensify the
desire to bring the gospel to the nations. This point only comes into view when
we take Romans 10:14-15 in the context of Romans 9:30-10:17. We want to ask, “Why
did Paul say these words in this particular place?” To answer, we look in
summary form at the development of his argument and make the following
is a situation of unbelief that is displeasing to Paul (9:30-33). The
issue is that Gentiles have trusted God for righteousness. But Israel, by
trying to pursue righteousness through works, has not obtained it (9:32). The
actions of Gentiles and those of Israel are contrasted in 9:30-31. Israel
failed to understand that being made right with God is a matter of faith and
not works. It is the person who “believes in him” that “will not be put to
shame” (9:33). Right away, we see that faith is necessary for a right
relationship with God.
response to the situation of unbelief in Israel (10:1-4). In
response, Paul says, “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is
that they may be saved” (10:1). It seems that Paul is very burdened, desires
their salvation, and prays that God will do it. His burden is because his
fellow Israelites are zealous for God, but in ignorance. They do not know that
righteousness with God is by faith and not by works, and so they labor to
obtain it. In other words, they are lost and need the gospel that promises
salvation through faith alone.
message of salvation explained (10:5-13). In this
section, Paul takes time to explain the message of salvation that is by faith.
In order to do that, he contrasts righteousness by the law and righteousness by
faith (10:5-6). As a matter of fact, the message is not so hard that one should
wonder how he or she can possibly obtain it (10:6b-8). The message says, “If
you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that
God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one
believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved”
(10:9-10). This is the message taught in Scripture (10:11) and the same message
holds for everyone (10:12). What is required is faith: “Everyone who calls on
the name of the Lord will be saved” (10:13).
how is anyone to hear unless there is a preacher (10:14-15). The
words of Paul about the need for a preacher to be sent comes in the context of
the unbelief of Israel and the faith of Gentiles, his burden for his people and
prayer that God will save them, and his explanation of the gospel message that
view of the above observations, we can note the following points:
is not enough to be eager to send people to preach the gospel. One can do that
and not be moved by it at all. Anybody can give money for a preacher to be sent
to the heathen. Instead, it seems that preceding the sending is a sense of the
danger of the lost in seeking a righteousness of their own based on works and a
burden for them; a desire and prayer that God will save them. Paul was burdened
and so he prayed. He also knew how ignorant his fellow country people were, and
sought to help change the situation. So, there needs to be an understanding of
the situation of those needing to hear the gospel, a burden on our hearts that
pushes us to pray.
message of salvation is clear and rooted in Scripture. Paul took time (10:5-13)
to explain the message of salvation. It is not enough to know that people need
the gospel, it is not enough to be burdened and pray, we must armourselves with
a message. It must be clear and easily explained.
all of these, then we seek to see how that message will go to those who need it
by sending preachers (10:14-15). Interestingly, the preacher must have a
message because without a message there will be no faith. Note what Paul says
in 10:17, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of
we strive to bring the gospel to the nations, let us ask God to give us a
burden for the nations, be purposeful in prayer, confident in our message, and
obedient in going and sending.
From Amy Walters at SEND.
1. The Banker. Nothing but support updates and requests for money. Oh, and maybe a story about visiting a church and asking for money. “It’s not too late to join our team.”
2. The Paper Cut. Focused mainly on the long, paperwork-filled process of getting legal documents, like visas or residency permits. As boring and painful to read as the actual process of gathering the documents and waiting in line. “The officials did not accept our documents (which is very normal for the first attempt, although it was over very small mistakes). However, to get a second appointment would mean waiting the next day in a long line (this whole process has been full of long lines all over the city for different steps) to see if the quota is still open. So, the next day Leon* waited in line for 5 hours, only to find out that no, the quota is closed. This means that we cannot apply for the temporary residency until after the New Year.”
3. The Cluster Bomb. No communication for months and then a sudden rush of updates. Often this happens when the missionary needs something, like more support or home service is coming. “At the risk of sounding like a broken record, we will give another report about how wonderful our time was on our recent trip!”
4. The Itinerary. Basically, a long list of activities, locations and events in paragraph form. The audience feels tired after reading it and bouncing from one place to the next. “We were able to combine visits to see Kim’s* father in Pennsylvania, children and grandchildren in Lynchburg, Virginia and Buffalo, New York to meeting friends and attending a new career conference in Ocean City, New Jersey.”
5. The Treasure Hunt. Mostly filled with cultural tidbits and mundane details. But buried somewhere deep inside, like in a sidebar or at the very end of a long letter, is a great ministry story. [After nine paragraphs about other things] “Praise God for a girl in my class who has now received assurance of salvation.”
6. The Novel. Anything longer than three pages. This usually happens because the missionary hasn’t written in months. “And one more thing…”
7. The Christmas Letter. Almost entirely made up of family updates, with little or nothing said about ministry. Added bonus: long description and pictures of a recent family vacation to an exotic location. “Another family invited us to join them at a nearby resort.”
8. The Cliff Hanger. A desperate call for prayer or help that is not followed up and resolved in the next letter.“Ended up in hospital, trying to find what’s going on. Our life here is but a moment, so easy to take it for granted.”
9. Generic. As boring as the title, either from lack of interesting details or mainly focusing on day to day stuff. So general that it could be cut and pasted into anyone’s newsletter and still apply. “While at home, I did a lot of cleaning, sorting, and washing windows.”
10. The Shock & Awe. Too much going on, from too many different styles of fonts, to too many colors and clip art and photos and graphs and sections. The eyes don’t know where to look first. “Above: My fourth great-nephew and I pose for a comical photo on Thanksgiving Day.”
11. The Snooze & Blah. No pictures. No colors. No graphics. Just words.
12. The Judge. A negative assessment of the host culture, either subtle or blatant. “Is it possible to be both different and wrong?”
13. The Gory Details. Goes into great detail about something incredibly gross or personal, like a recent surgery or explosive illness. Also could include pictures. “We could admire the iron in our toilet bowl.”
14. The Bait & Switch. Teases you with the promise of a great story but instead gets sidetracked with related but unimportant details. “So we landed in [the city], got in a van and rode out to join the teen camp that was starting the next day. 10 days later we took part in the English camp. The time at the camp definitely got us back into life here quickly.”
She offers to helpful tips here.