Monday, February 25, 2008

The Way Things Were

The whole concept of International Christian Missions used to be a lot different. Back when it was called “Foreign” Missions people lived on compounds maintaining little Americas on foreign soil. Later on, when mentalities began to change and cross-cultural ministry began to be understood, the children were still shipped off to English-speaking boarding schools or if local International education was available, that’s where the kids went. Back then people used to “endure” four long years on the field, and then they were rewarded with a year back “home” in the states.

Nowadays “cross-cultural” is the key in missions. Church Planters are sent into a culture and they immerse themselves in it as best they can. They learn the language well. Their kids attend local, national schools. They visit the states to keep in touch and see family, but they tend to keep the visits short so they can get back “home” on the field, where they can’t imagine leaving their ministry for a whole year at a time.

It looks like all that may soon change for some missionaries, as international law and agreements between various countries is forcing things to be done differently. In many countries, people will only be allowed to stay five years and then they will be forced to leave for a year before being allowed to return and establish residence again.

What is the big deal? Hasn’t the old four-years-on-one-year-off been done before? Won’t it work just fine? Probably. However, the work will suffer the one-year absences of personnel. Families with children will have difficulty keeping kids in national schools when they must repeatedly take them out for a year.

As always, there are probably some silver linings in this change but they are hard to see at the moment.

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