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Getting PhDs to the Mission Field

Dec. 9, 2016By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

Seminaries and graduate schools around the world are asking for PhD holders to come as missionaries and teach Bible and theology.  I know of one major seminary in Europe who posted their openings in a major evangelical magazine, only to find no takers.  Why is this and how can we help?

Why They Are Hard to Find

1.  God has not called them.  This is simple enough.  To go to another culture with your spouse and kids usually requires God to uproot you in some way that is so clear that you believe God is leading you to the field.   

2.  Some think raising money is below their degree.  I only write this because I have heard it so often.  Raising support is for the M.Div. students, so I have been told.  It is for the staff of some campus ministry or for helping orphans and those on the margins of society. I know of many that would rather work at Starbucks or UPS than ask people for their support to go overseas. 

3.  It is a career killer, or maybe better an inhibitor.  You can't participate at ETS/SBL. Your library (if you have one) is more limited.  The education level of the students (in some cases) is at a much lower level then what you find in the US (though that seems to be changing for the worse here).  Their colleagues might not be as educated and able to provide them helpful feedback or sharpening of ones own skills.

4.  It may involve learning ANOTHER language.  Most PhD students have learned Greek, Hebrew, German and French and now we are asking them to potentially teach it all in another language.  This is a real challenge.  Who wants to spend 2-3 years trying to master Japanese in order to teach Greek when your mother tongue in English after having spent years toiling with participles?

5.  You don't have very many friends who can support you.  One reality that faces graduates is that in the last six years you have probably lived in three different locations, and in each locations you probably did not make a lot of friends.  You have spent a lot of time in libraries or have probably only gotten to know your fellow classmates.

6.  You can still teach modular classes overseas without leaving your job in the US. 

7.  Debt.  Plain and simple, going to school costs a lot of money.  Very few escape with a PhD and less than $45K of school loans from the various institutions they have attended (at least in my experience).

How The Church Can Help

1.  Pray God calls them (or me or you).  There is such a great need for well-trained, godly, pastoral cross-cultural teachers.  

2.  Challenge the belief that fundraising is not for them.  Have them read Steve Shadrach's Viewpoints.  It could be that one of the reasons people have a hard time asking for support is because they do not think the people around them are generous.  That is fair.  That means we should be even more open in our generosity and encourage them to go by pledging our support.  

3. Seminaries in the west must talk to students about the global Church and do so often.  It is not enough to talk about it in the Missions 101 class.  It should permeate all of our classes.  Maybe seminaries should offer some full rides to students interested in teaching in developing countries.

4.  Churches should talk about being missional not just in their community, but around the world.  They should also disciple these students and get them into small groups with people in the church who are not theology students, but serving the Lord in different career paths.   

5.  Create a way to get rid of the debt.  I have prayed that some donor would come to TLI or set up on their own a fund that would pay off the debt of PhD's if they committed to 5 years of service overseas. Medical doctors have a program like this.  I believe this incentive would unleash many into service. I am thankful for places like Bethlehem College and Seminary that are focused on keeping the costs low.

I am sure there are many reasons people do not go and many more ways we can help them.  This is just a starting point.

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The Cycle of Culture Shock

Nov. 21, 2016By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

In 1960 Kalervo Oberg traced the steps we take when learning to live in a new culture. They are helpful, especially for missionaries and those that send them.

The Tourist Stage (3 weeks-6 months)

When we first move to or visit a new culture, everything is new and exciting. This is the stage where more short-term teams and vacationers find themselves. It is fun to explore, see new sites, learn history, eat new food and get to know new people. There is no need to learn the language as you are probably with someone who can speak both yours and the local dialect.

However, visiting and moving to are very different. To become part of a community, things are about to get hard.

Disenchantment (6 months - 1 Year)

Have you ever been overseas for a short-time and just longed for your favorite food or drink? Maybe it’s a simple as a coffee from Starbucks or a hamburger from your favorite restaurant. That longing can be satisfied if you are headed home, but when home is where you have moved to, your diet will mostly likely have to change.

And so frustration begins to mount. Simple things like shopping and transportation have to be relearned. You might need to think about how to make sure the water is drinkable or if the food is safe. You might be tempted to pay a bribe just to get something simple taken care of.

If you have to learn a new language, the frustration is even higher. You might have two Masters level degrees, but you find it hard to communicate at a 1st grade level. People smile and laugh at some of the things you say.

Everyone who may have helped you move into your new home has now returned to their normal schedule, which means they are no longer providing you meals or calling to see how you are doing. There is a sense of anger and abandonment and you wonder if people even care about you - including the people back home who can not understand what you are going through.

This stage is what burns most missionaries out. They being to make a list of things they will do when they get home - eat at this place, drive to this place, talk to these people, etc. There is now a decision to make - will you resolve to stay or will the pressure and anxiety be too much to handle so that you will either live in ghetto with people from your own country or you will move home discouraged and rudderless.

Resolution (1 Year+)

Those who decide to stay continue to learn. This does not mean it is easy, but in your heart you resolve to press forward. This is when the missionary makes the new culture their own. It does not mean abandoning where you are from, but adopting where you are now.

Adjustment

Eventually the new culture becomes home. Going “home” means staying where you are serving, not going back to the sending church. Food and the rules of relationships and interaction become normal. You don’t miss your sport’s teams back home because you are not even sure who is on the team - you may have (God forbid it!) learned to enjoy soccer.

Reverse Culture Shock

I personally believe this is the hardest to be ready for. After living overseas for sometime your home church wants you to come back for a year. You say goodbye to your friends and head “home” to reconnect with family, friends and supporters. However, when you get back you have a hard time functioning. You are a stranger in your homeland.

Conversational topics to you are meaningless. Your friends seem more shallow then you remember them. The wealth and affluence really bother you, especially when you go back to your church. You wonder how anyone could not support your work with everything they have. Why does everyone need two cars? Why does anyone need to water their lawn? On and on go your questions, which leads to being angry. You watch your kids struggle along. They don’t know how to play with kids their own age and they don’t know English as well as others. They also begin to desire a lot of the “things” their new friends have, things that were not options to own where you lived. All of a sudden you long to go back to your new home where the church sent you so you can fit back in.You have become angry and judgmental.

--

With no desire to end on a sour note, this list is helpful for sending churches, especially in their preparation of missionaries and their care of them when they return. These individuals and families have been through a lot to take the gospel around the world. By knowing these stages, the church can bear the burden with them.

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The Impact of TLI in Four Minutes

Sep. 22, 2016By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio
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The 14 Worst Types of Missionary Newsletters

Jul. 20, 2016By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

Christmas-Missionary-Newsletter-from-Lets-Get-Together

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.

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How to Partner with a Poor Church Without Screwing Everything Up

Sep. 24, 2015By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

From A Life Overseas:

Partnering directly with poor churches is a promising way to do mission for affluent churches. Skip the middleman and Go Directis the mantra of this internet age.

I personally like the idea of this approach because of the possibility it holds for real, long-term, mutual relationships to emerge between rich and poor. But if you’ve been involved in one of these “Church-to-Church Partnerships,” you’ll know that they are FRAUGHT with difficulty. Fraught.

Read the rest here to get some advise on how not to screw everything up.

missionaries-uganda

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