In seven days I am leaving with a group of 20 students and leaders and heading for Mpigi Uganda for a 3 week missions trip that I know will be life changing for all of us. For all the students this is their first trip to Africa or anywhere in the developing world and all of them feel deeply convicted that God has called them to this trip and each of them are excited to see what God is going to reveal to them through this experience.
As we have met and prepared to go, we have been very careful and intentional to help our students understand the culture and climate of where we are going . They have an understanding of what would be considered offensive or disrespectful. We have taught them how to dress, what to say, how to pray for people. Our students are aware of the religious culture, social norms and conventions and I feel they are equipped to serve and lead well there.
But I started thinking about all this training and education and wondered, we are training students to go abroad and prepare them for the culture they are going to encounter, but we are doing the same thing with our students at home.
-Are we training our students and our Churches about this culture?
-Do they know what might be considered offensive when talking about their faith?
-Are they equipped to articulate what they believe?
-Do they know how to talk about God in a language that connects with the people around them?
I worry that we are not doing a good job of that, although I assume that there are groups out there that do. I was working in my garage the other night and two young missionaries from the LDS Church were going door to door in my area sharing about Mormonism and talking to my neighbours. I think I am black listed or my neighbour tipped them off that I am a Pastor and they could see me waiting to chat because they skipped my house all together. But here is what I do know about them, the LDS missionaries have a better understanding of the demographics of my neighbourhood than me. They have a better understanding of how to engage people of different religions that I do and because of this they have had conversations with my neighbours I have only dreamed of having and they were equipped to engage.
This is a tough pill for me to swallow, but I am wondering how we can work this coming school year to do a better job of equipping our student’s missionaries for the mission field here at home. I am excited about it and would love to hear how you your groups train your students or congregation how to engage this culture and be true disciples. I wonder what would happen if we spent as much time equipping them for this missions field as we do for the global one?