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August 2011 Training Tracks

Hello SEND-ers,
In this letter:

  • Brief report on 2011 MOP
  • The importance of a Day Alone with God
  • Book recommendation - "Cross-cultural Servanthood"
  • Combating the superiority virus by learning about, from and with others

Bertha and I are on a short home service, and so I am not quite as involved in SEND U activities for the next month or two. But in July, I was back in Farmington to help lead our 2011 Member Orientation Program. Twelve participants came from Poland, Austria and the USA. We were trying a few new things in MOP this year, including visits to Angel House (a Middle Eastern outreach center in the heart of Dearborn), an Iraqi mosque, and an ethnic church. We will definitely want to repeat these hands-on opportunities for cross-cultural exposure and learning. Our next MOP will be in the Philippines in January.

Again we noticed how the spiritual formation parts of this pre-field training stand out as highlights for the MOP participants. This year, Carl Kresge led most of the morning sessions on spiritual formation, building up to the "Day Alone With God" which happens the day before MOP ends. Carl emphasized that busyness and demands of ministry can so easily distract us from the priority of developing an intimate relationship with God, and pointed the MOPers to the example of Mary (in contrast to her sister, Martha) in Luke 10. Several of the MOP participants resolved to repeat a Day Alone with God on a regular basis, and I would wholeheartedly endorse this practice. A Guide for the Day Alone With God can be found on the SEND U wiki.

This past month, I read Duane Elmer's book, Cross-Cultural Servanthood: Serving the World in Christlike Humility. Elmer, a former faculty member at Missionary Internship (now MTI) has written a number of helpful books about the process of transitioning into another culture and working effectively as a cross-cultural missionary. Cross-cultural Servanthood addresses the question of what we need to do so that we are actually perceived as servants by the cultures to which we have come. As he points out, servanthood is culturally defined, so our efforts to serve others may actually be perceived as superiority and condescension by the host culture and national church. Elmer has heard many host culture people say, "Missionaries could more effectively minister the gospel of Christ if they did not think they were so superior to us." How do we unconsciously communicate superiority, and how can we avoid this and demonstrate Christlike servanthood?

One of the chapters talks about the importance of adopting a learning attitude. As missionaries, we often are infected with the "right answer" virus. One of the symptoms of this infection is that we find it difficult to learn from those whom we perceive to be less educated or less spiritual than us. Unfortunately, in my personal experience, the more experienced we are as missionaries, the more virulent this virus becomes. Elmer says to combat this virus we need to take a big dose of humility and learn about others, learn from others and learn with others. Although learning about others is important, we need to move on to learn from and learn with the people of the host culture to which we have been called.

"Learning about others yields facts that help us adjust our expectations and generate fruitful avenues for deeper learning after entering the culture. The danger: we may stop learning and think that now we know everything necessary for ministry It also tends to create 'we-they" categories."

"Learning from others yields understanding that moves us into strong, enduring and trusting relationships resistant to colonialistic attitudes and dependency. The danger: we may tire of learning from and move into the telling mode; that is, I have the answers."

"Learning with others yields authentic partnerships where each probes deeply the mind and heart of the other, bringing interdependent growth and culturally sensitive ministry "We-they" categories are replaced with "us" categories. The danger: I can't think of any."

Let's all continue to be good learners, learning not only from people, books and resources from our home cultures, but also from the people, books and resources in our host cultures.

Keep growing,

Ken Guenther
SENDU Director
based in Kiev, Ukraine