I am a little late on the announcement, but I put up an interview with Jim Sloan on Monday over at Missionary Talks.
Jim is a missionary whom I met some time back. Although we have been in a few meetings together through the years, I had not had a chance to really sit down and talk with him until last week. I really enjoyed our conversation.
I mentioned over at Missionary Talks that my conversation with Jim would probably change the direction of my ministry. I have already had one friend call me and wanted to make sure that I was not leaving the ministry that I am in. No, that is not the case at all. But, what I learned from Jim is how to more effectively do the ministry that I feel called to do.
My goal in ministry is to establish Deaf works and churches in Latin America. This would be done through training nationals in a short period of time using the sign language from their area. What I learned from Jim (and you can hear the details in the interview) is that I can do this without spending several months in an area all at once. He usually does 3 trips to an area to get a work started. As he lines it out, it makes a lot of sense to me. I will be advantaged in that when I go I will already know the spoken language of the people. I will not have to work through a translator, which I am sure causes Jim to have to spend more time making things clear.
One advantage that Jim has over me (though I am getting there) is age. One of the basic rules that (current) missionaries live by is that we, as missionaries, are not rulers over the nationals. We are co-workers in the ministry. With this I heartily agree. But there are times that, as the teacher or mentor, you have to take the stand that you are the authority on the subject. You are teaching someone something that they do not know. They will need to look to you as the authority, and you really need to handle that situation as if you are the one in control. Sometimes we missionaries work so hard to make the national our co-laborer, that we forget that someone has to be the teacher.
The reason Jim’s ministry works as well as it does, is he goes into the work with the understanding that he is the teacher…he is the boss. He is not there to control and make demands of the people, yet he does know how the ministry needs to work. He has a limited time to train them in the ministry. Again, I think his age helps with that.
It seems that missionaries today (and I am guilty of this) want to be the co-worker and not be the authority. But, the secular world does not have a problem with this mentality and neither should we as missionaries. A new restaurant opened up here in town recently. It was no surprise to walk in there and see a group of Americans in charge of telling everyone how to do their job. They were there to train the nationals in how to run the restaurant. When we went back a few weeks later, there were no Americans and the locals were in charge of everything. The same scenario can, and should, work in the ministry.
How, then, does this affect me? I still have my same goal in ministry, but how I go about it may be a bit different than what I had imagined. I will now plan shorter trips into areas to prepare the people before I actually get a ministry started.
It changes nothing about our ministry where we are today. The purpose for being here for so long is different than our future ministry. This is still training time for us. But, we are affectively doing the ministry while we are still studying the language and culture.