…from one who still fits into that category.
Jim over at Missionary Blog Watch recently challenged us missionary bloggers to give some advice to new missionaries on the field. What follows is my own humble contribution. The first two are about work with nationals, and the second two are about relations with supporters.
1. Learn the language!
Learning the language of a people is the cornerstone for being able to minister to them. Even if you are called to an area where English is spoken, unless it is the area you grew up in you will need to learn different ways of expressing yourself. I recommend starting the language-learning process before arriving on the field. Some disagree with me on that, but it worked well for me.
Once you get to the field, consistently put yourself in situations where you MUST speak the language. Avoid constant contact with other Americans (or Europeans…or wherever it is that you are from). This will be harder for those who are married and have children, but it MUST be done.
2. Don´t overestimate the importance of learning the language.
This may seem odd following the previous bit of advice, but it is true. Language is the cornerstone of cross cultural ministry, but it is not the entire house. You cannot build a house without the cornerstone, and you do not lay the cornerstone and claim to have built the house. In the long run, things like a genuine love for people, the ability to get along with others, personal devotional life, and family stability are of tremendous importance.
If there has been one thing that has made the difference in terms of relationship with those “back home” who support this ministry, it has been the fact that we have maintained a regular blog giving details of our ministry.
4. Embrace the Social Web.
As with everything new, there has been a fair amount of resistance to social websites such as Facebook. Personally, I feel that Facebook is the best thing for missionaries since transcontinental flights. It provides opportunities to keep current with individual supporters and people within supporting churches. Social sites also help the missionary make and develop contacts on the field. This is especially true here in Brazil where Orkut (a Facebook-like site run by Google) is a national craze.
In the three years we have been on the field, we have brought down four different groups of teens from the US. Participants in these groups maintain contact with their Brazilian counterparts to this day through Facebook and Orkut.
If you are curious to see how one missionary uses these sites, you can check us out on Facebook, Orkut, and Twitter.
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