Sunday, October 16, 2016

SIMGo #3: The Eyeglass Dilemma Exercise

Last week, as we were going through a couple of sessions on valuing others and cross-cultural team building, we were presented with the following scenario.

The Eyeglass Dilemma
Once there was a girl named Abigail who was in love with a boy named Gregory. Gregory had an unfortunate accident one day and broke his glasses. Abigail, being a true friend, volunteered to take them to be repaired. The repair shop was across the river, and during a flash flood the bridge was washed away. Poor Gregory could see nothing without his glasses, so Abigail was desperate to get across the river to the repair shop.
While she was standing forlornly on the bank of the river, clutching the broken glasses in her hand, a boy named Sinbad glided by in a rowboat. She asked Sinbad if he would take her across the river. He agreed on the condition that while she was having the glasses repaired, she would go to a nearby store and steal a transistor radio that he had been wanting. 
Abigail refused to do this and went to see a friend named Ivan who had a boat. When Abigail told Ivan her problem, he said he was too busy to help her out and didn't want to become involved. Abigail, feeling that she had no other choice, returned to Sinbad and told him she would agree to his plan.  
When Abigail returned the repaired glasses to Gregory, she told him what she had done. Gregory was so mad at her behavior that he told her he never wanted to see her again.
Abigail, upset, turned to Slug with her tale of woe. Slug was so sorry for Abigail that he promised her he would get even with Gregory. They went to the school playground where Gregory was playing ball and Abigail watched happily while Slug beat Gregory up and broke his new glasses. 
Rank the story characters from Best to Worst and give a rationale for your decision.

We took a few minutes to rank the characters for ourselves, then the session facilitators counted our votes for each of the characters. I was surprised that every character in the story was voted both "best" and "worst" by at least one person in the group! As we started to share our rationale, it was clear that our own worldview, our ideas of friendship and loyalty, our morality and absolute right/wrong, and even our emotions played into it.

Some viewed Slug as the worst for taking up offenses and beating up Gregory. Others said Abigail shouldn't have stolen the radio, no matter what. Others thought Sinbad was bad for wanting something in return for giving Abigail a ride. Ivan was blamed for not being willing to help. And even Gregory was voted the worst character for not forgiving Abigail.

On the flip side, Slug stood up for Abigail, Abigail helped a friend in need, Sinbad was just being a shrewd business man and didn't have to offer her a free ride just because she needed to get across the river, Ivan didn't have to stop what he was doing to help and he was honest with Abigail, and Gregory didn't really do anything wrong in the first place.

I thought it was an interesting group exercise, and it sparked a lot of conversation around our tables. I understood where each person was coming from, even though I didn't agree with it. It had been hard for me to pick a definite "best" and "worst" character as I thought each one had some redeeming qualities as well as some poor choices/wrong behaviors.

Overall, working through this exercise is teaching me that what I view as right and wrong may not be viewed that way by people from other cultures and mindsets. Especially in matters regarding personnel and people's behaviors, I must seek out more information before making a snap judgement.

What do you think? Did this story make you stop and re-think your initial gut reaction?

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

SIMGo Missionary Training #2: Cross-cultural teams

This morning's sessions on building cross-cultural teams really hit me. The presenter showed us the following graphics to demonstrate how vastly different two cultures can be (in this case, European and Asian).

Dealing with Anger

Expressing Opinions

 Seniors in Society

Dealing with Problems

Boss Relationships


All images found on Google. Originally published in Y Liu's book "Ost trifft West (East Meets West)" 2007. Economists Books

Which side do you most relate to? How would you work with someone who had the other viewpoint? Were any of these new to you?

At one point during the discussion we were talking about how to set boundaries appropriately in a cross-cultural team and one of the other course attendees who grew up in South America said, "before I came to the US, I had never even heard of the word boundaries and now it's everywhere!" It made me smile, then I realized just how much I do rely on the ability to set my own boundaries, protect my privacy, my space, and my time, and how I expect others to adhere to the unspoken rules of American culture and its boundaries. I anticipate that this will be an area I will need to grow in quite a bit when I move overseas!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

SIMGo Missionary Training #1

Greetings from SIM USA headquarters in Charlotte, NC where I'm currently in SIMGo, a two-week missionary training program. We're covering a lot of the nuts and bolts of being a missionary with SIM (getting computers set up, getting all required travel immunizations, cross-cultural and team-building skills) as well as learning effective strategies for building a support team and engaging with our financial and prayer partners.

So far, I'm doing OK with the amount of information we've been exposed to--I don't feel like I've been drinking out of a fire hydrant yet! Here are some of the highlights so far:

  • Morning chapel with all the SIM staff as well as other course attendees. I enjoy the worship and praying for SIM missionaries serving around the world, but I'm also encouraged hearing the testimonies of my other course attendees and hearing the journey God's brought them on.
  • Mealtimes. Not only is the food AMAZING, but I'm learning all sorts of tidbits of information about living overseas, what to expect, other missionaries I should connect with, and stories of SIM's rich history
  • The walks between the SIM campus and Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary next door where most of our sessions are held. It's a beautiful wooded campus and it certainly feels like Fall here!
  • The random trips to Target for munchies, to Michaels for craft supplies, and to Starbucks. I'm really glad I decided to drive here and have my car with me! Tomorrow, one of the SIM staff is taking a couple of us ladies to Hobby Lobby. :)

My roommate is incredibly sweet and we've enjoyed finding all the things we have in common! She's an MK (missionary kid) as well as a TCK (third culture kid) [someone raised in a culture other than their parents' or other than their passport for a significant part of their early development years], so we get along quite well! She likes dark chocolate, coffee, and reading, so we're off to a good start!

Keep checking out the "Pray" page here on the blog to find out how you can partner with me in prayer. I'll try to keep that updated often!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Help! My Halo's Slipping

This little book was on the required reading list for SIM new missionaries who will be serving long-term. As an avid reader, I looked forward to digging in. I found myself alternating crying, laughing, and sighing as I read about the first couple years the author's family spent in Thailand serving with OMF (formerly China Inland Mission.)

I was hooked after the first three chapters! I loved the candid nature of the story the author and would-become wife sensed God's calling to missions during college at Oklahoma University, picked a mission organization, went through the various stages of the application and interviews, sold all their possessions and packed up a few unused wedding presents, said goodbye to family at the jet bridge in the airport, went through language school (at #2 Cluny Road in Singapore, of all places!), and finally made it to Thailand.

I just might have purchased this book for all of my family members and my mentors! I found that Larry Dinkins' words portray the mixed emotions I'm feeling right now much, much better than I can.

Here are a couple of my favorite quotes:

"No experience can prepare you adequately for the mission field." - Introduction

Regarding the necessity of language learning: 
"Those who hope for immediate ministry in a foreign country will be disappointed. Once we asked a veteran nurse what advice she would give to first termers. She said, 'I would have spent much more time listening and understanding the culture and people, and would have been less earnest abut immediate ministry. People will forgive a first termer but are harder on a second termer who should know better.'" - pg 35

Regarding suffering on the mission field:
"The son of Adoniram Judson wrote, 'If we succeed without suffering, it is because others have suffered before us. If we suffer without success, it is that others may succeed after us.'" - pg 44

"...missionaries are made, not born." - pg 57

Regarding the impact of medical missions on church planting: 
"[In Thailand] to become a Christian is to become a social outcast. But as leprosy sufferers are already outcasts, they tend to stand better. Unlike other Thai, they have everythng to gain and lttle to lise by becomng Christians... over fifty percent of the Christians in central Thailand had their first contact with the gospel through medical work." - pg 77

Regarding the first months on the field: 
"I am convinced... that Satan attempts more in that first year or so of acclimatization  in a foreign country that ever after."--Doug Abrahams & "It is the love of Christ that constrains us, There is no other motivation for missionary service that is going to survive the blows of even the first year."--Elisabeth Elliot - pg 83

Regarding stress and culture shock: 
"During difficult times [my wife] was fond of quoting out loud, 'For this I have Jesus...for this I have Jesus...' At times of stress it was also helpful to reconfirm God's call." - pg 102

Regarding identifying with the local people:
"How far do we identify? As far as it takes to communicate Christ clearly!... Elimate the unneccesarry, minimize on the differences, capitalize on the similarities." - pg 136

"I have observed that those missionaries who are unable to laugh at themselves or giggle along with others don't usually last." - pg 149

"Missionaries have no hidden halos." - pg 157

"The field must work on the missionary before the missionary can work on the field." - pg 158

Friday, September 23, 2016

"Dimensions of the Faith"

For the last few months, I've been working through a series of Bible classes from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. All missionaries serving long-term with SIM are required to have some basic Bible courses, and this one was highly recommended. My first term of service overseas will likely be less than 2 years (and therefore not "long term"), but I am planning to return to Africa as a "career missionary," so I decided to start working on the additional requirements. *Go ahead, call me an over-achiever!*

Their "Dimensions of the Faith" course is available online for free, with both the audio lectures and PDF workbook available for download. The courses are designed for any Christian desiring to have a better understanding of how the Bible is put together, basic church doctrine and theology, and a proper understanding of missions. Thankfully, there are very few seminary terms, so it's pretty easy to follow along! Each lesson is about 45 minutes, and the two- or three-page workbook lesson helps me stay focused. Seriously, you should go check it out!

After working through the "Biblical Interpretation" and "Old Testament Survey I" courses, I decided to skip ahead and go through the "Church History I" class. Here's a quote from yesterday's audio lesson that really hit me:

"In our own post-modern world with its radical relativism, there appears to be less and less need to be tethered to truth or tethered to historical evidence. People simply tell their own stories and allow you to tell you ownbut with no absolute requirement, no rule against which all of these are tested. In the midst of that relativism, although, I'm here to remind us that for the Christian scholar, history must be a study built upon evidence. We must find those sources, study them, analyze them, and tell the story based upon what was the reality of the past rather than what we might have wished it to be. This means for the evangelical scholar that we must be absolutely diligent in our searching out of the truth rather than creating reality for our own purposes."
-Dr. Garth Rosell

Don't get me wrong; I'm all for "telling your own story" and recognizing each person's individuality. I believe it's important for each person to feel like they've been heard, their ideas are valid, their experiences are real, and their reactions are normal (albeit sinful at times). I agree that there are personal applications of Biblical principles. I agree that the Bible is "living and active" and that the Holy Spirit causes verses to "pop out" and enlighten us as we read. But where we can easily get into trouble is when we interpret the Bible or alter our theology based on our individual desires. However, the Bible is not a story that needs re-telling in our own ways, nor do I think it needs a "modern-day interpretation."

Likewise, church history should not be retold without talking about the crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, or the Reformation. Without understanding what led to those dark periods in our history, we can easily repeat it! There's a tendency to downplay the low points of our particular denomination while tearing down other denominations. It's easy to point fingers at other religions and their heresy while disregarding the wayward teachings in our own churches today. I see that the modern-day church is becoming more and more "culturally relevant" while becoming less and less a source of truth and clarity. In our search for the lost sheep, are we drifting further and further away from the sheepfold and the Shepherd?

Anyway, just some thoughts. I'm enjoying going through this course as it draws me back to the foundations of my faith, challenges some of what I've always been taught, and consistently points me back to the Scriptures to seek out the truth. I'm realizing how important it is to be firmly grounded in my own faith before leaving for the mission field. There, I know I will encounter Christianity mixed with animist (folk or voodoo) beliefs, churches that are struggling to implement Biblical worship and church government, and unique Biblical interpretations seen through the African worldview!