So you are going on a short term missions trip and you're beginning to ask the question, "Should I work at learning the language before I go?"
It is a question everyone seems to ask for which there is but one answer . . . .
YES! Yes you should!
But . . .
The missionary anthropologist Charles H. Kraft was recently asked, "How much time should one who goes to serve as a two month short-term missionary spend in language learning?"
Charles Kraft holds a high value on learning the local language. Learning the local language is often seen as little more than a means to an end. The end for most followers of Jesus is the proclamation of the gospel.
And yes, this is essential! This is why we go.
But it too often reduces to the local language to nothing more than a tool. This is unfortunate because language is always so much more than just a tool. Language is the carrier of culture and worldviews, of relationships, of love and joy and pain and fear and hope.
When we reduce language to merely a tool, we often come to the conclusion that we need not bother learning any of that language when we travel as part of a short term mission trip.
This is unfortunate for a number of reasons.
Practically speaking, language is important to survive. At the very least we can all understand just how important it might be to be able to say, "Do you know where the bathroom is?" Learning 10 - 20 survival phrases will go along way to saving you from the embarrassment of being lost or unable to find the nearest bathroom.
Relationally speaking, our efforts to posture ourselves as learners of the language and culture communicate fundamentally important respect and honor for the people to whom we have gone to serve. Nothing says that you actually care about the person in front of you quite as powerfully as stepping into the humble place of a language learner. In doing so, by taking on the role of the learner, of the one without the power, you invite your host to in effect, take you by the hand lead you.
This is an act of kindness. This is laying down our rights. This is love.
I want to encourage you to take a few minutes to read a four page essay written by Thomas and Elizabeth Brewster. They were at the forefront of helping generations of missionaries learn the languages of the people they were going to serve. The Charles Kraft quote above comes from this powerful essay.
You can read it here: Language Learning is Communication -- Is Ministry
So you have a trip on the horizon. You are a few weeks away from departure or perhaps you have many months to prepare. Regardless of how much time you have, here are a few things you can do to begin learning the language. These are the things I'm doing to learn French for an upcoming trip to West Africa.
Sign up for Duolingo: Ten minutes a day will give you a beginning in the language and get you started with a foundation of vocabulary and basic grammar structures. You can find it on the app store for your smart phone or you can access it on your computer. (learn more here)
Begin Listening to Worship Music: For the past month or so I've had a French worship mix from Hilllsong playing in the background while I work during the day. In a way, what I am doing is training my ear to hear and distinguish sounds, intonation and rhythms of the French language. You can find worship music by searching for it on Youtube. For example, by searching on Youtube for "French Worship", I found this mix of French worship songs.
Listen to a Gospel: Chose one of the gospels and begin listening to a chapter or two every day. When you finish, start over from the beginning. You'll be surprised how much you begin to understand. You can find many languages available on the Youversion app or the Bible.is app.
Memorize Phrases: Find and memorize 10 - 20 important phrases in the language. Make sure that one of those phrases is, "Can you help me learn your language?"
Here are 25 phrases I'll be starting to learn in French.
Keep Learning: While in the country take every opportunity to practice with your local hosts. Keep learning. Ask questions. Boldly step into the role of being the town clown! Yes, people will be entertained by your language foibles, but it is worth it!
A language mentor of mine used to say that "it takes a million mistakes to learn another language --- So get started!"
Don't Miss Out
Investing as much time and energy as you can in learning the language will do much to make your trip more meaningful and transformational. We all have different capacities and time constraints but we can all do something. It is what you'd want someone to do for you if they were coming to visit you. Jesus tells us to "do to others as you'd have them do to you."
Learning the language then is an act of obedience to Jesus.
Don't miss out.
My Language Learning Story
In a past iteration of life, I was a language coach, helping everyday, ordinary people be more effective, more efficient and have more fun with the language learning journey. I created a number of resources that I'd love to be able to pass on to you if you would find them helpful. I have a number of ebooks as well as a series of videos. You can watch the language learning tips videos HERE. If you would like to have any of the ebooks, leave a comment below.
Below is one of those language learning tip videos. Enjoy!
Power does funny things to relationships. It changes the dynamics of how relationships form and grow and become.
When I met my first friend in kindergarten, we met and built our relationships on even ground. We both couldn't read or write, we both struggled with things like tying our shoes and sitting still in class, we both came from similar backgrounds and approached life with the similar challenges and opportunities. And we both spoke English, the language of our neighborhood, region and country.
As I grew older I began to realize that the forming of relationships takes work. It takes time and it often takes patience. Sometimes relationships come easily. Other times it takes more time and more energy and sometimes I realized, our differences in life experiences create relational dynamics that make it more difficult to build authentic relationships.
Cultural differences create relational challenges that are often difficult to overcome. There are many types of differences; some obvious, some less obvious but all are impactful on the relationships we form. And while we can all work to overcome these differences, there are some differences that create power dynamics which inhibit the normal formation of relationships.
Let me give you an example.
I was at a conference in a North American city. The conference was a gathering of African pastors and elders from around the upper Midwest. All of them had come to the U.S. as refugees following a season of intense persecution against their particular tribe in their home region. All of them were men of reputation in their communities back in Africa and that had in many ways transferred with them to the U.S. They were leaders of men.
But they had invited some of the American leaders of their denomination to come and teach on a particular subject during the conference. I wasn't from that denomination but had been invited to do some training as well around relating to and sharing the gospel with Muslims. I decided to come for the whole day of meetings even though I wasn't presenting until after lunch.
The morning teaching went well for the most part until one of the African leaders voiced a concern.
The question was, "How can we do more to serve the North American church?"
The American leaders assured them, they there was no need to feel like they needed to do anything.
What was missed in the exchange was the underlying feeling of the African pastor that they were being seen merely as charity cases. The Anglo churches who were allowing them to use their buildings were doing so in good faith, believing they were serving their brothers and sisters in Christ. But a number of things were at play that prevented authentic relationships to develop between the African churches and their American host churches. And these things lead to a relationship that left these African pastors feeling like they were not being understood or appreciated.
First was a general assumption that the African churches were basically poor and needy. In that sense the African pastors were struggling with a sense that they were being viewed as charity cases.
That was unfortunate.
But this dynamic was in many ways the result of a number of relational dynamics. As the two groups met and interacted, the Anglo churches and their leaders entered the relationship from positions of power. This power dynamic shows up in various ways:
There are of course other challenges, but when relationships are built in these dynamics of power imbalance, relationships won't develop into the kinds of healthy relationships where both parties come to the table with gifts to share, with talents to contribute and with experiences from which we can all learn.
To be clear: this is just a reality. The North American church isn't sinning any more than my Turkish friends were in not knowing me better. They are not actively creating this imbalance of power - it just is. It is the crucible in which we find ourselves however and it is the challenge we must actively seek to understand and seek - in any ways we can - to disrupt and overcome.
We must not merely throw up our hands in despair. There is much we can do to right the balance of power. And we have a good example!
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death--
even death on a cross!
A Few Ideas
Here are a few ways you can disrupt this relational power dynamic.
The task before us is not an easy one. Building healthy relationships is difficult enough as it is. Add in the imbalance of power that naturally occurs in cross cultural relationships and the task can seem insurmountable.
But it's not.
With prayer and humility we can find a better way.
Here are some of the articles, podcasts and videos we've been encourged and challenged by this last month.
Why Some See Movements and Others Don't by C. Anderson - "People who want to see movements default to prayer as their most critical activity."
Teens Today are Dying to Find Hope by Angie Glasser
Where's the Time Going? by Chuck Wood (thoughts on discipleship)
Bullseye Discipleship - Time by Chuck Wood (more thoughts on discipleship
Fewer Foreign Students Coming to US for Second Year in a Row: Survey
Lifestyle Evangelism with Dr. Jerry Root by Crescent Project Radio (part 1; part 2)
And below we have a great talk by Steve Smith author of Spirit walk and co-author of T4T: Discipleship Re-Revolution.
The second video is a song by Jess Ray that gets to the tendency we have to box God in and require Him to be smaller than He is to fit into our carefully planned lives. It's been challenging me all week.
Here in South Dakota it's harvest season . . . it’s still harvest season.
It's been a difficult harvest for the farmers. There has been too much rain leading to too much mud. There's been early snow. There's been record breaking cold weather. And all of that has lead to a harvest that is still out in the fields. When they should just be wrapping up, there is still a long way to go.
The harvest is plentiful. It's abundant - not record breaking by any means - but there are good yields coming in on the corn and soybeans.
The harvest is plentiful but this year the harvesting is also really difficult.
It's downright hard and probably frustrating and I'm quite certain many a local farmer has been at it until three and four in the morning more nights than they'd care to remember.
But do you know what no farmer ever said?
It's too hard, let's just forget about the harvest.
It's too late. Let's just go in and go to bed.
It's too frustrating. Let's just give up.
You'll never hear those words from a farmer because their job - their calling - is to bring in the harvest.
Jesus said to his disciples, the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.
I've been convicted of my own sense of laziness and softness as I've watched - and helped a little - as my family works to bring in the harvest. They carry with them a stubborn perseverance, a tenacity and focus that I would do well to learn from.
As I pray for 2,000 Muslims to have an opportunity to hear the gospel here in our region and as I work to do my part to see the 3 billion who have never heard the gospel have a chance to hear it, will I grab hold of the vision and stick with it with everything I've got until it becomes a reality or until I die?
Jesus makes two statements in this verse:
He tells us to open our eyes and look to the fields. They are ripe for harvest! (John 4:35)
The work of salvation is the exclusive work of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Jesus tells his disciples in John 6:44, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day," and later in John 12:32 says, "And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
And so while the work is God's to do, he invites us into that work as He sends us into the world as his witnesses and ambassadors (John 17:18; Acts 1:8; 2 Corinthians 5:20).
The question is, will I pour my life into bringing in the harvest?
Will I dedicate my time and shun distraction and learn what I need to learn and rest when I need to rest and pray like everything depends on it because there is an abundant harvest in the field and the Father wants me to be about the work of bringing it in.
It's my prayer that I will continue to grow in my dedication to the harvest.
It's the Father's heart!
What about You?
Will you pray that your hearts would be shaped more and more like the Father's heart?
Will you pray that your hearts would be broken more and more for lostness?
And will you pray that we all begin to live with the same kind of urgency and focus and stubborn perseverance for the lost locally, nationally and globally that our local farmers have for the harvest sitting out in the field.
Here are a few things you can do to begin to grow your heart for the harvest.
Pray Luke 10:2 - Set an alarm on your watch or phone that goes off every day at 10:02 and commit to obeying Jesus and praying for the harvest.
Pray for your network - On a note card write down the names of everyone you know who is far from God and commit to praying for them every day.
Discover - Read and Meditate on the following passages in scripture: Luke 15; John 17; Matthew 28:16-20; Genesis 12:1-4)
Discover - Read the book of Acts once a week for the next four weeks (4 chapters a day).
Zume is a small group training module focused on helping small bands of Jesus followers learn how to obey the great commission and to multiply.
And in that, it is not your average small group study.
Zume is an online training that has ten lessons of roughly two hours each.
Zúme means yeast in Greek. In Matthew 13:33, Jesus is quoted as saying, "The Kingdom of Heaven is like a woman who took yeast and mixed it into a large amount of flour until it was all leavened." This illustrates how ordinary people, using ordinary resources, can have an extraordinary impact for the Kingdom of God. Zúme aims to equip and empower ordinary believers to saturate the globe with multiplying disciples in our generation.
Gather a group of like minded friends and get started today!
Over the last decade I've been regularly learning about discipleship and particularly, the principles of discipleship that lead to multiplication and the rapid expansion of the kingdom of God. One of the sources of that continued learning which has perhaps had more influence than any other is the Movements Podcast by Steve Addison.
Steve regularly interviews practitioners from across the world who are applying these principles and seeing movements emerge. I'd encoueage you to skip over to Steve's website right now and find out how you can subscribe to the podcast.
Visit Movements.net Now
One of those practitioners who has been frequent guest and who is one of the leaders of the No Place Left movement across the world is Jeff Sundell. It is not without reason that Jeff, who hales from Bugger Hollow North Carolina and who spent much of his life making disciples in Asia, has been perhaps the most frequent guest on the Movements Podcast.
And so when the most recent episode of the podcast featured a report from Jeff and his wife Angie's summer in Athens, I queued it up on my phone to listen to right away. I was not disappointed and there were so many nuggets of insight in their reporting that I went back and listened again, taking notes of the things that seemed extra important.
And so with this post I'd like to share those insights and encourage you to find some time in the next week to listen to the interview for yourself (or you can watch now below).
Here are a five of the nuggets that I gleaned from their conversation. If there are any "nuggets" that you hear that I didn't mention, feel free to share them in the comments below.
1. The Gospel is worth it.
Angie started the inteview talking about the many times they heard heartbreaking stories from refugees who had lost everything. People whose homes were destroyed, who had lost jobs, who had lost everything and over and over again they would say, "It was worth it! It was worth it because when I came here I got to hear about Jesus." The Gospel is worth it!
2. Train everyone to be a disciple maker.
One of the adjustments that the disciple makers had to make as they worked with refugee populations had to do with the transient nature of the people. A new believer from a Muslim background might be in Athens for a year or they might just be there for a month or even days. The workers on the ground began to cast vision early and often for the great commission and to train everyone to identify lostness, to share their faith and to make disciples. Everyone they worked with was seen as a potential missionary carrying the gospel to the next location whether that was further into Europe or back to their own country. Train everyone!
3. Little happens if disciples of Jesus are not broken for lostness.
Again and again, they saw that the hearts of those who had found faith in Christ and who were sharing that faith boldly, were broken for the lost. Their families didn't know Jesus. Their people didn't know Jesus. That was a heavy burden on their hearts which compelled them to go and to pray and to share. All the methods and tools in the world will do little good if the people of God are not broken by the lostness around them.
4. Focus on the grandchildren.
This was one of the most interesting and powerful lessons from the interview. As the summer progressed, one of the changes they made in coaching and relating to the leaders in Athens, was to stop asking about how they were doing at sharing the gospel, discipling new believers and leading new churches and to begin talking with them only about how their grandchildren were doing at those things. In other words, they began consistently asking about their disciples' disciples. This shift lead to more concientious focus on training disciples to train disciples and resulted in better discipleship.
5. A Hub stategy allows for local, national and global mission to exist.
I had first heard the idea of a hub strategy from Steve Smith in a 2016 article in Mission Frontiers Magazine. That article caught my attention and over the last few years I have continued to think about what home hubs would actually look like. It was Troy Cooper's Great Commission Pipeline video about a hub strategy which was published in April of 2018 that really fleshed out the idea for me though. Jeff and Angie got to see the fruit of that kind of strategy in Athens and it is exciting to see it develop and grow.
Those are five things that I gleaned from the interview.
What about you?
Watch the interview below!
I have heard the sentiment from a number of different people over the last few years - usually from moms.
Aren't there any missions experiences or training events that we can do as a family?
Too often, in order to get trained or to go out on a mission trip, we have to find someone to watch the kids and yet we want desperately to model for our kids what it means to live on mission.
Not easy to do when we are forced to leave the kids at home.
Everywhere to Everywhere has always been an event that is open to families coming and we've worked to create an experiential weekend of learning and training that older kids can enter into along with mom and dad.
Our regular E2E training weekends are good for high schoolers and mature junior high students who come with a parent. The learning is often discovery based and interactive and much of the weekend is experienced outside of the training room at the local mosque, ethnic restaurants and in neighborhoods.
But it still hasn't been conducive to a family with elementary aged children. And so in May we will have our very first E2E Family Weekend.
The idea is to create a weekend of learning and ministry that the whole family can come to together. It will be for school aged kids and above. We still aren't ready for babies and toddlers but are working to create a great weekend that the whole family can enter into together.
We will continue to working on the details and adjustments that need to be made and even today I came across another challenge that we need to consider: early bedtimes!
Our family is working together to create a weekend that your family can enter into together. But we'd love your feedback as well. Stop by and read through the program description page and then share your ideas in the comments for adaptations and adjustments that would help create a family friendly E2E weekend.
The dates for the first E2E Family will be May 31 - June 2 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Driving through Mcpherson, KS on my way back from an Everywhere to Everywhere training event in Wichita, I pulled into a gas station to fill up for the drive back to South Dakota. Mcpherson is a small midwestern town of around 13,000 people with a small Christian college, a strong economy and a lot of churches.
But there behind the counter was an olive skinned man whose heavy accent belied the reality that he was not born in the U.S. With curiosity and expectation I asked where he was from and he told me his homeland was India.
I inquired further, "So if you are from India, you speak both English and Hindi, but you also probably speak a third language as well, is that right?"
Surprised by my interest, he smiled and said, "Yes, I also speak Gujarati."
While he was telling me this and ringing up the sale, I pulled out my smartphone and opened the Jesus Film App. Clicking on the "map" tab, I showed him the map of the world that opened up on the screen. Zooming in on India, I tapped the little red flag that opened up a list of over 200 languages that are spoken there.
I pointed at what looked like the language he had mentioned and he said, "Yes, that is it. That’s my language."
Ten seconds later the Jesus Film began playing in his native tongue - a language spoken by nearly 57 million people. The man smiled then and nodding his head happily said, "Yes! Yes, that is my language."
The Gujarati people are an unreached people group at less than 1% evangelical Christian. And there he was right behind the counter selling me gasoline and a coke as we listened to the beginning of the Jesus film in his native language.
But then he caught me off guard as he asked me a question.
"Are you a Christian?"
"Yes," I replied, "I am a follower of Jesus." I was giddy with anticipation, thinking that this was one of those God prepared moments, that perhaps he'd had a dream of Jesus and was going to ask me to tell him how to become a Christian.
It was indeed a God prepared moment, but the the lesson was to be for me.
Reaching beneath the counter and pulling out a magazine, the man said, "Another Christian was here a few days ago and gave me this." He held out the magazine for me to see.
It was a pamphlet from the Jehovah's Witnesses.
The least reached from the world are here. They are immigrating to our cities and towns. They are coming to our universities. They are looking for friendship and hope and truth and if we don't reach them, someone else will.
If it’s not the Jehovah’s Witnesses, it’ll be the Mormons or the American dream or secular humanism or radical jihadists or atheists.
Someone at some time will reach them.
The only question is who it will be and with what message. Let us not neglect God's call to reach the nations locally, nationally and globally.
We all have a role to play in God's global purpose.
It’s not often mentioned in the list of important qualities of disciples of Jesus but in our strung out western world, it may well be the most important gift followers of Jesus have to offer a broken and hurting world.
It is what Moses had when God called him to lead the people of Israel out of captivity. He was not a gifted speaker. He made bad decisions. He wasn’t very brave. But he was available and in his going back to Egypt he allowed God to work through him to rescue slaves unto freedom and to move God’s redemptive story forward.
Availability is what Gideon had when God called him to lead an army. Granted, Gideon was hiding in a winepress when God found him, and he wasn’t exactly excited to jump on God’s bandwagon. Once Gideon’s fleece was wet however, he obeyed even as God reduced his regiment to a hilariously small number that gave all the glory to God in victory.
And Rahab was available too.
She was a woman of ill repute, a foreigner and a prostitute who at the time we can assume knew very little of the God of the Israelites except what she has overheard; that He had been victorious in recent skirmishes and miraculously parted the Red Sea. She steps into God’s redemptive story when two of Israel’s spies step into her room and she risks her life to hide them.
If we survey the prominent characters of the Biblical narrative, few are chosen because they are highly qualified leaders. A few were of course – King Saul, Judas, Saul of Tarsus, but most of these didn’t work out so well. It seems the highly qualified often lean a little too deeply into self reliance and self reliance usually leads to trusting in man rather than trusting in God.
Relying on his own gifts and abilities and education, Saul of Tarsus was hunting down followers of Jesus to have them arrested and thrown in prison. It was only when he left his highly qualified self behind that Saul became available to become Paul and the man whom God could use to build his church.
When we look through the hall of fame that is Hebrews eleven, the number one thing each of the faithful had to give to God was themselves.
They said yes. They were available.
And while Jesus is highly qualified in every way, he models the radical availability that allowed him to say, “the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does, the Son also does.”
And that is why Jesus’ ministry looks so vastly different than the successful ministries of today. His is the ministry of availability, of responding to the interruptions of the masses, of walking miles out of his way to heal a leader’s son, of inviting the little children to come to him.
Jesus’ model is not that of the best leadership style but of availability.
Jesus' avalibility in ministry begins as He models an availability to abide. Despite an incredibly full ministry, Jesus routinely makes time to be with the Father. He is part of the triune forever relationship of God and Son and Holy Spirit and this carries on into His thirty three years on earth.
He is a master of scripture, a mastery that most certainly came from years of immersion in those same scriptures. He is a master as well of prayer, of interceding on behalf of the sick and the demon possessed and the lost. There is authority in his prayers. And Jesus is the master at communing with God, of walking in a living relationship with the Father.
He is the master of abiding and he invites us first and foremost to do the same. And so while the immediate needs of the masses continually pressed in around him during his ministry on earth, we see the clear model that, “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”
When Peter and John were before the Sanhedrin in Acts 4, the characteristic recorded for all posterity is not that of highly qualified leadership skills or a refined speaking ability. It was that they had been with Jesus. The Sanhedrin note that while they were “ordinary unschooled men”, they had been with Jesus. Peter and John had become masters of abiding with God because it is the model that Jesus gave them.
And so at the forefront of the discipleship journey, we as followers of Jesus must learn to be available to abide with him. Despite the chaos of our frenzied western existence, we must learn to set aside time to be with Jesus.
Abiding is to be our first act of availability.
It was from this lifestyle of abiding availability that Jesus’ ministry flowed. And in his three years of ministry as recorded in the gospels, He models again and again the servant heart that makes him available to engage hurting, lost people – even when they interrupt him.
It seems an almost regular occurrence that Jesus responds to a pleading father, a frightened and sick woman or a shouting blind man. He is regularly going one way and then – in response to a need – heads another way. It seems at times haphazard and yet it’s not.
His ministry is focused.
He went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. There was purpose in his journeys. He trained up twelve men who would go on to launch His movement. He gave his followers what they needed – himself – to spread the good news of His kingdom.
Like Jesus we must live strategic lives of engagement with a clear goal in mind. But the way to do that – as modeled by Jesus – is first and foremost to be with God. To make knowing God our first priority.
And when we do. When we learn to discern the voice of God. When we begin to do only what the Father is doing.
Then we will be working in the ministry of availability.
We had been in Bang Chalong for months, and while we clearly felt God leading us to serve there, I often faced many feelings of inadequacy.
I had never planted a church before. In fact, I barely finished two years of Bible College! I don’t play guitar, so I couldn’t even use music as a way to draw people in. There were so many gifts that I lacked, so much that I could not do. Then God showed me that there was one thing that I could do. I learned this from the Book of Nehemiah. I saw that Nehemiah spent a lot of time in prayer before he ever built anything. I thought to myself, that’s something I can do! I can pray! So I began to do this.
We would rise early, at four in the morning, so that we could stand on a high bridge and see everyone going off to their jobs. We prayed over each person that we saw. Then we would walk the streets of Bang Chalong, praying for opportunities to meet people, to build relationships and to share the Gospel.
>>> read the rest of the story here
We are a collection of practitioners and trainers seeking to multiply disciples and churches locally, nationally and globaly among every segment of society until there's no place left.