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Perspectives on Training from the Southern Hemisphere

Updated: Mar 20

May 4, 2023

Karen Hedinger

The CultureBound team greatly enjoys training people who are not from the United States or western Europe. As Jesus builds his church around the world, he is sending people from everywhere to everywhere. It is beautiful to see Latin American missionaries serving in Asia and African missionaries reaching the United States or Europe.

A couple of years ago I wanted to understand the perspectives of the Latin American church when preparing people for international missions. The blog below will report what I gleaned from a fascinating and enthusiastic conversation with a man I'll call Daniel.

Daniel comes from Argentina. He served as a missionary in Eastern Europe for years, and then returned to his homeland where he began a mission training center. I asked him to talk with me about how he and his team help others learn to live, minister, and speak in a culture and language different than their own.

The Role of Scripture

"Training should always have the scriptures throughout it--the trainer should be so well-versed in scripture that it naturally flows into the teaching without having to stop and look things up." He continued by saying that scriptures are more powerful for planting divine seeds than experience or theory. I believe the apostle Paul would agree with Daniel. Paul said, "For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12)

Daniel spoke passionately about scripture because he felt that many missionary trainings revert to a more business-like approach to prepare workers who are going overseas. Training can easily be so much about technique that we relegate God to a quick devotion and prayer and concentrate the rest of the time on skills and knowledge.

The Role of the Trainers

Daniel stated that the trainees are the protagonists and the trainers are facilitators. Trainers are guides on the side, not the sage on the stage. According to Daniel, this requires that trainers have experienced what they are teaching so they can share with authority.

Good trainers should be perpetual learners. They should seek to always learn new theories, techniques, and technology so that presentations are not "cold" or just a "knowledge-dump." Trainers should also be learning about the participants beforehand so they can cater their teaching to each particular group.

Shared Training Philosophy

As I listened to Daniel, I realized that CultureBound culture and language training is based on the same learning principles. We give course participants tools and skills to learn culture and language, but we encourage them to learn from the people to whom God has sent them. In this way, they build relationships in their new place. As God opens doors for the gospel, they know better how to share God's truths in an understandable way because they know the people well.

It was such a privilege to have this conversation with Daniel. I know I want to continue to learn how to better train cross-cultural workers who are our brothers and sisters around the world!

Karen Hedinger, EdD, is director of language acquisition program at CultureBound. Her experience learning several languages allows her to effectively lead and teach our language courses. Karen has led both culture and language training alongside her husband Mark for many years.


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