Reflections and resources for lifelong learning for missionaries

Category: Learning Attitude Page 1 of 2

Global Humility – A book, a challenge, a prayer

Editor’s note: This book review was originally posted on the blog, A Life Overseas. It is reposted with permission from the author, Marilyn Gardner. Marilyn grew up in Pakistan and as an adult has lived in Pakistan, Egypt, the United States, and most recently Northern Iraq. She currently lives in Boston where she works with community health workers from immigrant and refugee communities. You can find her blogging at Communicating Across Boundaries. This review of the book Global Humility was written in 2018, just after she moved to Northern Iraq.

“Building bridges means moving beyond my enclave of cultural comfort, moving to a place of cultural humility and willingness to learn.” 

 Marilyn Gardner, Between Worlds, Essays on Culture and Belonging 

Five weeks ago we moved from an apartment in the multicultural city of Cambridge, Massachusetts to an apartment in a city nestled beneath the kewa rash (black mountains) of Kurdistan in Northern, Iraq. We are learning to live and love in a city and country that we have known just through visiting. With this move, our daily life has changed dramatically.

We arrived in Rania like new born babies, eyes wide open to everything around us. Like babies, we don’t have language to describe our feelings and we too want to cry when we are hungry, or sleepy, or thirsty. But we are not babies. We are adults and we have many years behind us that effect how we engage and interact in our new surroundings.

A Book

Global Humility

It is within this context that I completed reading Global Humility: Attitudes For Mission by Andy McCullough. In this book, he asserts that the number one factor affecting missions in our world is lack of humility. This is a powerful and troubling assertion. It’s also an important one. Those of us who are Christians engaged in cross-cultural work, whether we be missionaries or not, have the important task of communicating across many boundaries. To do that well, humility is essential.

boundary - helping Ukrainian refugees

A different understanding of boundaries

A Gentle Word to Those Wanting to Help Ukrainian Refugees

Editor’s note: Julie Mosse and her husband Alfie have spent many years working as cross-cultural workers in Ukraine. Recently, they spent a few months in Poland, helping Ukrainian refugees fleeing the military conflict in their own country.

Recently, I sat with one beautiful Ukrainian church worker in a little cafe in Krakow, Poland. She loves Jesus, is a seminary mission program graduate, and has a wealth of ministry and cross-cultural experience. Currently she is also a refugee from the war in Ukraine, having fled Odessa with her mom, sister, and tiny nephew.1 See another blog post about refugees from Ukraine. She works with a local Ukrainian church which, like all of these churches, is flooded – with people, with needs, with decisions, and with opportunities.  

Weary leaders

The leaders of these Ukrainian diaspora churches are doing everything they can to be faithful in this flood. Meanwhile many of them carry much trauma and anxiety of their own. Even if they recognize the trauma they are carrying, many have no time to address the needs of their own hearts. My friend carries an enormous amount of responsibility in her church’s local ministry. God is using her in amazing ways. But she, like many other Ukrainian church leaders, is weary. She is in need of wise partners who can also refresh her. 

It’s a picture that tugs at many of our hearts. We Westerners long to jump in and help. Some of us have visited Ukraine and feel a connection to the terror and trauma our Ukrainian friends have experienced since February 24th. But while we feel the urgency to help somehow, we definitely don’t want already overburdened Ukrainian believers to also alleviate the needs of well-meaning, North American helpers. We don’t want them to carry additional burdens simply because their practice of both hospitality and boundaries differs from our North American cultural practices. 

teaching in another language

What I have learned about teaching in another language

David Benzel has served cross-culturally in both Russia and Ukraine for 30 years. After studying the Russian language in Kyiv, Ukraine, he and his wife moved to Khabarovsk, Far East Russia where he taught for more than a decade at the Far East Russia Bible College. Then in 2008, the Benzels moved to Kyiv and David began teaching at Kyiv Theological Seminary. In the early years in Russia, David taught with the help of a translator. But he has now been teaching and preaching in Russian without a translator for well over twenty years. David is highly respected as a teacher and as someone who loves God’s Word. He will be greatly missed as he transitions to life and ministry back in the United States this year. The SEND U blog editor asked David to share what he had learned about teaching in another language over these many years.

I was asked to share what I have learned about learning and teaching in another language. I can’t say if other approaches work or don’t work. In fact, I don’t know if God has used me because of my approach or in spite of my approach.

Biblical examples

Let me start by recognizing that our faith has a long history of teachers teaching in a language other than their native tongue. Much of the NT was written by non-native speakers of Greek. These non-native speakers were at different levels in their proficiency in communicating in Greek. Anyone who reads even a little Greek knows that John is much easier to read than Luke. Paul is much easier to read than Hebrews.

We also need to acknowledge that biblical leaders and teachers were not always confident in their mastery of a particular language. Even Moses felt he couldn’t communicate well in Hebrew, perhaps because of growing up in Pharaoh’s house.

Teaching and Learning: a review of two great books

Two great books on teaching and learning have been published in the last two years. They complement each other well. In 2020, Duane and Muriel Elmer’s The Learning Cycle: Insights for Faithful Teaching from Neuroscience and the Social Sciences was published by IVP. And this year (2021), Baker published Craig Ott’s Teaching and Learning Across Cultures: A Guide to Theory and Practice. The authors bring both extensive research and experience to the discussion of teaching and learning.

The Learning Cycle by Duane and Muriel Elmer

The Learning Cycle book

In a sense, this book is a capstone of Duane and Muriel Elmer’s writings and ministry.1 Many of Duane Elmer’s books have been foundational training materials for cross-cultural missionary service. See a review on this blog of one of his books, Cross-Cultural Servanthood. Duane created “the learning cycle” as part of his doctoral research at Michigan State University (p. 6). Subsequently, Muriel added the “barriers to change” to the cycle. Furthermore, they have both practiced the model throughout their teaching careers in various contexts. The insights from neuroscience do not dominate the text and come from “the more stable insights from the brain literature.” (p.11)

The Learning Cycle Model

lifelong learning
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Cultivating Learning Attitudes

Part of SEND U’s vision is: “Every SEND missionary will be proactive in creating habits of lifelong, intentional learning focused on both character and skill development.” What attitudes does a missionary need to cultivate in order to get personal buy-in to this vision? I suggest that cultivating attitudes of humility, openness, civility, and commitment provide motivation for personal buy-in. Moreover, these attitudes are the soil in which habits of lifelong, intentional learning will grow.

Humility

Humility is an essential attitude for learning, for without it we will not recognize the need to learn. Furthermore, humility helps us remain teachable. On my desk I have a quote from John Calvin as a reminder to stay teachable:

coaching for goals
Photo by Isaac Smith on Unsplash

What happens in a coaching session?

Do I need a coach?

This month, I will be thinking hard about my ministry and learning goals for 2021. My mission organization asks me to put together an annual ministry plan (AMP) and a personal growth plan (IGP) for the new year.1For further information, see the AMP/IGP guide that our training department has created. As part of that planning process, I am going to consider whether I will need a coach to help me with my ministry and learning goals. Setting up a few coaching calls might very well make the difference between reaching our 2021 goals and not doing so.

But what does a coach actually do? I have written about coaching in this blog. See “What is coaching?” and “The value of coaching” as two examples. But our blog posts have never really explained what a coach actually does. About 10 years ago, I addressed this question in a series of newsletters to our mission membership, entitled “Comments about coaching.” You can find these on the SEND U wiki. But given how long ago that was, I thought it would be helpful to revisit some of those “comments” and update them as well.

Learning by doing
Photo by VisionPic .net from Pexels

Is learning by doing better than learning through courses?

Recently I reacquainted myself with a common formula used among trainers. It is the 70-20-10 model for learning and development. The model is based on research back in the 1980s on what were the most significant learning experiences for effective leaders.1https://trainingindustry.com/wiki/content-development/the-702010-model-for-learning-and-development/.

The research showed that leaders learned most (70%) through hands-on-experience at work when they accepted challenging assignments and worked on problem-solving. This included learning from taking risks, experimenting and making mistakes.

The next greatest source of learning (20%) came from working with others. This would include collaborating with others, giving and receiving feedback and receiving coaching and mentoring. The last 10% was learning through educational courses, seminars and books.

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