Tuesday, July 31, 2007

3 Essential Questions

The metrics surrounding cross cultural mission are dire. 60% of all short term mission experiences due detriment to the witness and reputation of their hosts. 50% of all long term mission teams leave the field within the first year, never to return. Setting individuals and teams up for success requires forethought, creativity and a willingness to do mission differently. In light of the two very sobering statistics from above, here are 3 essential questions you should ask yourself and your team before you commit to a missions trip:

1. Am I planning to have an impact that lasts for 500 years? [original idea via Alex McManus from Origins 2004]
If you are predicting a summer, a year or a decade of impact, you are thinking too small. How do you have an impact for 500 years?
- Impact local, indigenous, nationals - people that live in that culture and can impart their lives in that dna and context.
- Lead leaders and not just followers - movements start by creating leaders that are persons of peace, mavens, and connectors.
- Empower them to impact with a simple, reproducible strategy.
Like that "Teach a man to fish" proverb, making an impact requires being intentional about dependency and ownership, empowering instead of limiting. Cross cultural teams that are proactive about these issues will impact people for centuries.

2. Can both host and teams trust each other because we are partners?
What I know about my hosts - not only about their logistics and planning but their values, personality and style of influence - should embolden my trust of them with my team. Have I done everything I can to ensure that my team is culturally ready, has the appropriate ministry skill training and understands their job is to serve others with an attitude of flexibility? Mutual trust is built on partnership between the two parties - host and visiting team. One is not there to serve the other but rather, the shared experience is built keeping in mind the strengths and talents of both teams in the specific context.

3. How will I engage the culture?
Extremes of engagement go from living with your friends in an isolated compound to total immersion in a host culture. Although certainly daunting, you should error in the latter.
Other questions to ask:
- Will you live with a host family?
- Have you been given some cultural understanding of your new locale?
- Does this include basic language skills, trying the food and hearing about some of the major stories in this culture?
At best, failing to engage the culture will leave your team bored and remembering the experience as lacking. At worst, your team might not understand how the Gospel is relevant in every culture, you might propagate all the worst American stereotypes, and you may do more harm than good.

Some real world examples:
Dominican Republic - 1993
Brasil - 2005
Cameroon - 2006
Hungary - 2007

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