четверг, 23 января 2014 г.

Ministry principles for cross-cultural Christian workers

I am a seasoned 'alien and stranger'; I have spent 24 of my 39 years abroad (Belgium, Germany and Russia). And since I first worked with OM in 1992 I have spent over 10 years as what some people would call a 'missionary' (cross-cultural Christian worker).

I would like to share some principles which I have learnt and try to put into practice over this time. For the most past I owe these to OM and IFES, but have also benefitted from the sterling work of the Lausanne movement and the example of many unsung heroes of cross-cultural mission.

So here they are:

1. Enjoy it. There is no merit and little to be gained from a 'burning martyr' approach: hating every moment of being abroad, feeling sorry for oneself. If God has called you somewhere, embrace it, enjoy it, learn to like it.
2. Learn the language. Not everyone has the benefit of learning languages from a young age and some people find grammar etc. more difficult than others. But the experience of world mission is that any human language is learnable over 1-2 years in-country. You are not more stupid than everyone else. But you need to get the exposure to the language, so don't huddle together with other foreigners or sit inside. Languages are learnt socialising, not buried in a Teach Yourself book.
3. Love the people. God loves people - that's why he sent Jesus. Treat any misanthropic tendencies as sins to be mortified. As the 1980s song goes, "Love is the message and the message is love!"
4. Embrace the culture and go native. Every culture has its plus points and perks. It's exciting to find them and to embrace that aspect of God's goodness. Most people find that in a foreign language their personality is a little different - embrace it (while not abandoning your own nationality and culture).
5. Be part of the local Body of Christ. The church of Jesus Christ is made up of every tribe and people and language. And as a cross-cultural worker you have the opportunity of experiencing this variety first hand. Don't be so tied to form that you can't worship God in another language and cultural medium. The chances are that the host culture will open up new vistas on God and his Word, if only you are willing to see things from another viewpoint.
6. Submit and be flexible. Countless workers and projects flounder because they try to bulldoze through their way of doing things with them in control. It doesn't take that much effort to listen and observe, take advice and be willing to adapt. And it is only good manners to submit to local leadership even if you don't always agree 100%.
7. Find out what you can contribute and give 100% to the Lord and his people, not trying to prove yourself and make people grateful (that's a guaranteed path to disappointment and resentment).
8. Be willing to receive. There is no greater missionary pride than the 'benefactor syndrome'; the cross-cultural worker who always has to be the one with the money, resources and opportunities. There is nothing more humbling than gratefully receiving help.

"Surely the Lord is in this place and I was not aware of it." (Genesis 28:16)  

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