I went on a short-term mission trip to a Central Asian country earlier this year. Before I went, some Christian friends and colleagues were asking me what I was going to do when I got there. They thought it all sounded a bit vague.
It could have been my insecurities, but I felt as though others regarded it as a bit dubious because it didn’t sound well-organised, and the outcomes weren’t clear. And what was I going to do, actually?
But I was confident because I’d been on another trip with the same agency to the Middle East. The reason my trip seemed disorganised was because the Christians in many countries throughout the world are under-resourced. They’re not disorganised; they just don’t have funds and systems in place to train volunteers or even the time to communicate extensively about their work and how volunteers can support them.
So I knew there were Christians on the ground and some systems in place and I would just slot in where I saw a need. We are so well-resourced in Sydney Anglican circles and easily forget that there’s few other places in the world that are so blessed.
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But these countries will benefit if you go with a heart to serve. God will take charge if you have the right intention, and that’s exactly what happened. I went over to mentor and help a teacher at a Christian school in this Central Asian country. Her role was to set up an English as a Second Language (ESL) Program and I was there to support her. But really all we did was spend a day photocopying and laminating together, and that was about it. She knows she can contact me in the future.
I knew there were Christians on the ground and some systems in place and I would just slot in where I saw a need.
I took with me the new Beginner English for Life resources that I had written for Bible Society Australia along with Mike Raiter’s Meet Jesus book. These Beginner resources, called Luke 1-5, come in two parts, Part Two is the essence of them and what I’m modelling future resources on. They simplify a Bible text into approximately five to eight sentences with matching black and white sketches that have been purpose drawn. They can be used in various ways: sequencing the images structuring the sentences, matching the sentences with the images to help children learning English become familiar with a biblical text.
The highlight of my time was at an independent language centre and the relationships I developed there. A local Christian woman who works at this language centre heard that I was coming and asked me to conduct some professional development for the English teachers at her workplace. She considers this language centre as her mission field.
You need to be willing to put yourself out of your comfort zone when you go on a mission trip because it’s often unclear what’s expected.
Delivering two Saturdays of training for a group of ten teachers was a joy. I was able to transparently share that I was a Christian; this was only because they regarded me as a professor, whereas the local teacher can’t be as open. She’s now significantly reduced her hours at this language centre and is working at the Christian school where the English for Life resources are being incorporated. There’s this lovely synergy between two seemingly random events.
During the training, the teachers wanted to know how they could get their students to talk. They said, ‘Our whole lives, teachers have told us to sit down and shut up, and now you are telling us we’ve got to get them to talk!’. So I offered to model a one-off lesson for them. They’re going, ‘Oh, you won’t be able to get our students to talk.’ I was confident I was up for the challenge. I took a one-hour lesson on Vegemite and got the students talking, they filmed me so they could use it as a resource in the future. It was easy for me. I know that sounds arrogant, but the style of teaching I used was eye-opening for them.
The message from my experience is that you need to be willing to put yourself out of your comfort zone when you go on a mission trip because it’s often unclear what’s expected and what’s going to happen when you’re in the country. Obviously, some people are more comfortable than others with uncertainty, but it’s a faith issue of going, “Can I trust that God will use me?” Proverbs 16:9
Sarah Brown writes resources for Bible Society Australia and supports the church-based English ministries in Sydney and beyond.