Friday, September 5, 2014

Fieldschooling: Seven Subjects for Study

Photo by: imagerymajestic

It's back to school time! Whether you’re on deputation, furlough, or the field, every missionary lady needs to be “fieldschooled.” Fieldschooling can be very entertaining. This is what we're talking about:

Fieldschooling* = learning about your mission field

Here’s how to get educated about your own field of service: 
  1. Read and study the history. We live in Spain, and its history goes back thousands of years. It totally blows my mind! This king marries this princess, swapping lands and titles, and all the rest. After a while, the history of Spain all meshes together in my mind into one huge royal stew. The clear standouts are the queen who traveled around with her husband’s dead body, actually opening the casket from time to time. (No wonder they called her Juana the Crazy!) Then there’s cruel King Felipe II, responsible for much persecution of Christians—in the name of the Church. He also hastened the end of Spain’s Golden Age when he sent the Spanish Armada against England and lost the battle. Also, I think of Carlos the Fifth as “the great destroyer of beautiful things.” (He’s the one who tore down parts of the Alhambra and the mosque of Cordoba in order to put in his own palace and cathedral.) Spain’s new King Felipe is from the long line of Bourbon kings. With all the annexes and wars and changes, we got to where we are today—a fairly stable country with very deep divisions. Learn the history of your country and particularly the region where you live, and you’ll have a better understanding and appreciation of your adopted home.
  2. Study the culture. This can be done informally or formally. Ask questions! Find out the reasons behind fabrics and clothing styles. Find out how to cook native foods just like they do. (Ask a friend if you can hang out in her kitchen at dinnertime, and watch what she does. You’ll learn a lot about achieving authentic flavors this way.) Get out of the house. Go to the market—even if you can’t speak—and observe how people interact, how they buy, how they jump places in line (not that you want to copy). Find out why people shop every day. Find out how they preserve food, grind flour, and make that weird paste you can hardly swallow. Look around you at the way the women dress, walk, and gesture in conversation. Find out the backgrounds of their music, art, and folk dances. (Know if they perform them to honor false gods or saints or if they are only folk traditions.)
  3. Learn about the prevailing religions. As we are in our field to share Truth with our neighbors, we need to do it in a way that they will comprehend. For example, I always start witnessing with an “everyone knows” statement, based on Roman Catholic teachings. There are some things we can very much agree on. “Everyone knows” that the Bible is the Word of God, that Jesus is the Son of God, that Jesus died to pay the price for the sins of the world. Those are universal Roman Catholic beliefs. From there, I can easily share the fact that Christ died for me personally, and then I can share Christ with my friend. When a Catholic hears the phrase “receiving Christ,” he thinks he receives Christ when he eats the wafer in the mass. He has no idea this terminology means a heart decision. We approach people from a Roman Catholic background using terms they clearly understand. It is vital to familiarize yourself with the religious beliefs of your country and know how they’re worded.
  4. Learn about the people’s values. Even atheists have values. In our Basque Country for example, their values include: friendship, sports, good food and drink, competition, traditions, and hard work. Except for drink, we missionaries would do well to get familiar with those same things. When we can speak intelligently about the soccer game the night before, the bike race, or the guy who won the cheese-making contest, we are building a bridge between them and us. When we cultivate loyal friendships, we are showing them we value friendship as they do. When we work alongside our neighbors and church people, they understand that we value work. We earn respect when we share their values.
  5. Learn about the geography and land. I confess geography was never my favorite subject in school. But, it is essential for the missionary to have a very good grasp of the locations of countries, especially in the region where she’s serving. A picture (literally) of the world must be clear in our minds. Unless you’re going to Russia, China, Canada, Brazil, or Australia, most of your countries of service will be much smaller than the U.S.A. You need to know about your neighbors, the continent, the lay of the land, and where there’s water. Get a detailed map of your field country and memorize rivers, oceans, seas, mountain ranges, and cities. Understand the historical and actual influence of bordering countries on your field country.
  6. Study the people. You can’t do this until you get to the field, but it’s important that you begin as soon as you get over jet lag. Make it a continuing study that never gets old. Watch the women. How do they interact with other women? How do they talk (gestures, movements, facial expressions, volume of speech)? What do they talk about? Find out if the men or the women customarily pay for everything in your new home. Who does the business dealings? Find out if the woman or the man leads the typical family. Find out about the prevalence of abuse. Find out about morals. (Even in “amoral” societies, there are concepts of right and wrong.) Ask non-nosy questions. Go shopping with native ladies. Take mental notes as you go. You will be able to identify with other women as you understand what makes them tick. You may not agree with much of what you find. You may even hate (Christianly speaking) the kinds of values you see in almost everyone around you. Remember, most of these ladies don’t yet know your Lord. There is no way they’ll be like you. But, it’s still very important that you understand their ways.
  7. Continue your Bible education. I am constantly surprised how little I know about what the Bible actually says about particular subjects. It's so important to know inside and out the key passages for women. You will use them over and over again as you counsel. They are: 1 Corinthians 7:2-39; Ephesians 5:22-24, 33; Colossians 3:18; Titus 2:3-5; and 1 Peter 3:1-6. Also know about a woman’s role in the church (Mark 16:15; 1 Corinthians 14:34-35; 1 Timothy 2:11-14; Titus 2:3-5) and about God’s guidelines about women’s dress (Proverbs 31:22, 24; 1 Corinthians 11:5-15; 1 Timothy 2:9-10; 1 Peter 3:3-5). Love your Bible! Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts (Jeremiah 15:16). 

Most of all, enjoy your fieldschooling! View your learning as an important adventure and challenge. Love your field and your people. God has lots of blessings in store!

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations . . .
and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
(from Matthew 28:19-20)

*Fieldschooling is a term I made up. You won't find it in the dictionary.


Jessi said...

Very good and practical post. Thank you!

Amy Meyers said...

Excellent! Thank you!