The first two years of a missionary’s ministry are crucial. But with that being said, missionaries do not have a set program to follow. In other words, after deputation, some missionaries may go to a specific language school to learn the language, others don’t even learn the language and start the work immediately, some start language school and immediately after they start a church, and there are some who may go about it another way. This is not so with other careers (I understand that being a missionary is more than a career, but please bare with me). A doctor has to complete his/her undergraduate studies, then must continue his education further with medical school. After medical school, he/she must complete a two – six year residence training, after all of this he/she can become a doctor (I found this information on www.bemoacademicconsulting.com). There is a set path for a doctor to take, but this is not so for the missionary.
As I stated above, those first two years are crucial, and I think it would be great if missionaries did have a set path to follow in order to help them succeed. Those first two years constitute a foundation that may well determine the success and longevity of the missionary. They are a “parenthesis term” for the missionary. They are no longer on deputation, they are on the mission field, but they are not planting churches or serving in the capacity that they will be when they begin their first term, even so, this “parenthesis term” is not a waste! It actually will become a solid foundation on which the missionary will build a ministry! I wish all missionaries would complete a 2 year “parenthesis term” after deputation!
So what does the missionary do during their “parenthesis term” to lay such a foundation? Two critical things…
- Language learning
- Cultural acquisition
Both of these things will greatly determine the success or failure of the missionary. They may well determine the longevity of his ministry as well. A missionary must learn the language and must learn the culture of the country he serves in, if not he will not be an effective missionary! The truth is learning a language cannot be done in one year, or two, or even three, it is a life-long process. But one – two years of dedicated language learning should get the missionary to a place where he will be able to serve effectively. He will be learning along the way, but he will have a foundation of the language to build upon. Like the language, learning all of the “ins and outs” of a culture will not happen in two years, but he will learn so much that will enable him to act and interact appropriately with the nationals. This two year parenthesis term is vital!
I understand that this is not a standard path, but I do believe it is one of the best ways to become an effective missionary!