After five years I am just now beginning to understand what and how much I don’t know about this culture. Short-term missions are wonderful as well, but for real discipleship there must be a long-term commitment.
Answer from Steve in Canada, who has served for five years with SU Sports and Northern Connections, serving in Canada and the United States, El Salvador, and Honduras, Wales, and Indonesia.
1. Language: I believe that in order to effectively understand a people group, you must first understand the language. It generally takes about two years to acquire language; less for languages closer to your mother tongue and longer for those further removed.
2. Culture: Understanding and adapting to culture takes time as well. Some believe that the gospel presentation can be the same no matter what culture it is presented in, but this is simply not true. Many people who do not understand their host culture are actually building walls to the gospel when they share instead of effectively building bridges.
3. Momentum: The law of momentum shows us that larger things often need a lot of energy to get going at first, but once they are established, they are moved along much easier by momentum. It takes time to build momentum, but once it is built it can carry you and be a huge blessing to others coming after you.
4. Shortage: Lastly, the number of long-term workers, especially from the West, is decreasing. Long-term missionaries will increasingly be highly valuable and special to the people that they serve. Of more than billions of people on the planet, only about 150,000 are Christian missionaries. If you stay at it long term, you will truly be counted of great value to the Kingdom.
Answer from John in Thailand, who has served independently in Thailand for two years.