We were sitting in our hot tub with some dear friends who are long-term missionaries in Japan. Jim's wife is Japanese, so they have a unique understanging of that nation. They and their family are planting simple/organic churches there. As usual, our conversation ranged widely as we put the world to rights.
"A problem we see is people coming on the mission field with romantic ideas of saving the world, knowing God has called them into missions, full of enthusiasm, but totally unprepared for what they will face." said Jim. "A year later, they leave, disillusioned, having failed. They have never worked through the culture shock they experience. They miss the familiar, their families and friends. They go back home, tail between their legs and end up being good pillars of their local church. The problem has been in their preparation."
"What would you do that's different?" I asked.
"If I knew someone who was considering working for the Kingdom in Japan, I would have them come and live with our family for a month, first of all," replied Jim. "A month is long enough that it wouldn't be a vacation. We would give them insights into the culture; they would gain an understanding of some of the spiritual realities of a nation like ours. They would live with our family, eating our food, working at the things we work at on a daily basis. They would reach out to local people who are English speakers. They could get a taste of what life on this mission field is like to see if this is really the nation where they want to spend the next years of their life. Then if they still know God has called them here, maybe they would come for a year, learn some of the language, get more understanding of the culture before committing to full time missions."
I think that is a wise way to prepare someone for the mission field. Are there other families like Jim's who would be prepared to open up their lives to potential missionaries?
In my last post, I looked at some of the ways that preparation for simple/organic missions might be different.
I came across another idea I like a few weeks ago. A missions organization sent out a team to live in Europe with a dual purpose. The first was to reach out to the local people, to make disciples and start churches. The second was to provide a missions experience and training for others who were thinking of working in Europe. Although it hadn't been without challenges, a couple we met who had been through that year had been sufficiently inspired to make the decision to go back to Europe long term, but this time without their rose-tinted spectacles. They had been through God's school of hard knocks and practical experience and now felt prepared with an understanding of what they would face.
What we, as simple/organic churches do to prepare people for missions needs to fit within our simple/organic paradigm.
What ideas do you have? How can we best prepare people in a practical way?