Reflections and resources for lifelong learning for missionaries

Category: New Missionaries

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.

The Least of These

Matthew 25:37–40 (NIV)
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?
38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?
39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Although many, including Mother Teresa, have understood Jesus’ reference to “brothers” to include all the poor and oppressed in the world, I don’t believe that fits the context or the way that Jesus uses the term “brother” in the Gospel of Matthew.  Instead, I believe that Jesus is referring specifically to those who are his disciples and are suffering deprivation because of their service in spreading the Gospel.

Stressed from Core to Cosmos: Article Review

“Ministry is a hazardous occupation! To be in ministry is a ‘high calling’ and a grave responsibility–and therein lie much of the stress and struggle which makes it so hazardous. Anyone who chooses a role in ministry across cultures compounds the hazards almost geometrically.”

So begins an article by Lawrence and Lois Dodds entitled “Stressed from Core to Cosmos: Issues and Needs Arising from Cross-Cultural Ministry.” The Dodds were cross-cultural missionaries for many years before founding Heartstream Resources to provide care for people in cross-cultural ministry. This article addresses the familiar topic of struggles that missionaries face. The strength of the article is that it also provides suggestions for dealing successfully with those struggles.

The Value of Coaching

Training in coaching – by coaching others

In our mission organization, we provide a coach for all of our new missionaries at the mid-point of their first term.   This coach meets with the new missionary for a total of 6 times over a 3-month period to help them walk through the process of doing a self-assessment of their spiritual, physical, emotional and relational health.  This 3-month coaching period is called MOP-up (Member Orientation Program under pressure).   SEND’s pre-field training is called MOP or Member Orientation Program, and MOP-up is a follow-up event a few years later.  The whole program seeks to 1) reinforce the pre-field learning, 2) identify what has been learned experientially since arriving on the field, and 3) plan future learning goals for the rest of the first term.  You can read more about this training for first-term missionaries at this link.

At the end of the MOP-up experience, we ask the coachees to give us an evaluation of the experience.  Thus far with almost 30 responses tabulated, 64% have indicated that the coaching was very valuable and that they definitely want to be coached in the future.    This greatly encourages me, for one of my hopes was that in exposing first-term missionaries to coaching, they would see its value throughout their missionary career.

Training for “bush” Alaska

Flying through mountains in Alaska

During the month of June, this blogger was focused on other things than blogging, and I apologize.   We flew back to North America from Ukraine at the end of May, and spent basically the whole month of June living out of suitcases, travelling throughout Alaska and British Columbia.  Hence, I had little time to sit down and think through what I wanted to blog about.

How Do We Define Success as Missionaries?

A question that we discuss at length during every Member Orientation is “How do you define success for yourself as a missionary?” As disciples of Christ, who have been called and sent out to make disciples of others, we can only consider ourselves successful if we believe that we have accomplished what our Master told us to do. Hearing the words “Well done, good and faithful servant” is our greatest hope and ultimate definition of success.   How should we live and serve today, so that we can be assured that we will hear those words when we stand before the Master and give account to Him?

My first extended time of reflection about this question happened about 5 years ago. Our International Director stood with me in a cafeteria line at a LeaderLink training in Florida, and asked me how I would define success for SEND in Far East Russia. I had no answer for him. I had never been asked that question before. But that question would not let go of me. I returned to Russia, where I was leading our work in the Far East, and began to think deeply about this question.   Providentially, in my personal devotions, I was going through the book of 2 Corinthians, and I was struck by Paul’s amazing confidence in God’s approval on his ministry.

Understanding our Youngest Missionaries

At our last Directors’ Council, we looked at how we can better incorporate the generation called “Millennials” or Generation Y (those born between 1980 and 2000) into our mission. Dr. Jim Raymo, assistant professor at Northwestern College, and former US Director for WEC International presented his research on this topic. For us Boomers, this generation is the age of our children, but almost all of our areas now have a significant percentage of members from this generation.

We have every reason to be excited about the potential these young people bring to our mission, but we also recognize that there are significant differences in the way they (some of you) think. A great resource to understand this generation and their contribution to missions is a free Mission Exchange webinar entitled “Reset with this Student Generation: Engaging Millennials in Missions.”

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