Once, when traveling through the jungles of Ecuador, we came upon an abandoned brick building which was being reclaimed by jungle overgrowth and, when we asked what it was, were told it was once a church! Inquiring as to why it was not being used now, the locals explained the founders of that church had left and “never showed us how to do church!”
There is a distinct difference between teaching and training.
Missionaries may teach a lofty subject till the sun goes down and have done nothing but entertain. In order to train their target group, one must adapt materials to speak to the culture. Teaching alone does not reach hearts of indigenous pastors, it is training that adopts the teaching materials into hearts, identities, and eventually, cultures.
To quote an indigenous pastor, we were once told, “You have to scratch where we itch!”
Subjects and materials used in training indigenous pastors should not be used solely based on those produced in the U.S., as the tact of persuasion is geared to North American theologically educated participants. It must be adapted culturally. Humor, sports metaphors, especially North American football expressions, and even biblical references, must be tested for understanding. We recently had to explain to an interpreter the use of “pigpen” in the story of the Prodigal Son. Ecuadorians do not use pigpens, so we had to interrupt the speaker and translate it as “a little house for pigs!”
Literacy levels must be tested. When we translated the MIP program for Chimbarazo Quichua Indian pastors who came from an oral tradition, we used a text-to-speech program which took us years to accomplish. Then, we were astonished to hear some used all this material in a two-week session. “Our heads were spinning,” we were told. This group is still effectively using this material 10 years later.
Mother tongue-trainer teaching is the ideal. Christian interpreters can work. Timing is usually based on crops. We find the most receptive students are in the young married range. Feedback is essential, both for your students and the presenter. Testing and back translating courses, along with question and answer sessions, will aid communication and comprehension.
In conclusion, the teacher/trainers cannot make themselves a role model, as that always must be the Lord Jesus Christ.
COG Missionary in Ambato
Ecuador, South America
Project # 060-0029