December 17, 2011
SIMs in the City
For the past three days, we've been participating in a training seminar hosted by SIM (Serving in Missions), that dealt with effectively communicating the gospel to this culture. We learned all about the differences in societies that are literate and those that are oral, and about the differences in field-dependent and field-independent learners. What's all that mean?
It means that if I come into Paraguay thinking I can teach or disciple or preach like I would in the U.S., I'm going to get a lot of blank stares and not much retention. Imagine taking a class of kindergartners and explaining the planets to them using a power point presentation full of graphs showing the distances from the sun, their sizes, what composes their atmospheres, etc. And don't forget to provide them with a piece of paper and a pencil so they can take notes and create an outline of your lecture, right?
Okay, now picture someone telling the story of a man who travels to all the planets, telling of his adventures. Along the way, the little kids learn about the same things the power point was showing, but they learn through the story. And they can retell that story to someone else, the next time they hear a conversation where someone is wondering how big Mars is.
That example is a bit of a stretch, but the thing is that oral, story-telling cultures don't learn and process information in the same way that I do. And being oral doesn't mean these folks are less intelligent, or even that they CAN'T read. It simply means that they have a different way of learning, and we will have much more success adjusting our methods to theirs, rather than expecting them to learn our ways before they can understand the gospel we're trying to share. We practiced various ways of memorizing stories from the Bible, telling the stories, training others to tell, and incorporating this into our ministries. A key component to all this is that the listener can turn around and tell the story to his friends and neighbors, which spreads much more quickly than waiting for ME to get to all those same people.
We also learned about field-dependent learners and field-independent learners, and took a test to determine what each of us is. I found out that most women are field-dependent, meaning they see the whole--the big picture--but that I am highly field-independent. I see the little details instead of the whole. I prefer to have the teacher give me homework, turn me loose, and I'll see her again when I'm all done. Field-dependent folks prefer instead to work in groups and have lots of input from the teacher, valuing the community effort and knowledge. Most Paraguayans are field-dependent, which explains why homework doesn't go over well, everyone takes tests with the classmates' input, and they'd much rather do a group project than individual work. I'm simplifying this so much that I'm not doing it justice, but the summary is that we learned a lot about how to be more effective in ministry.
During this time, Camille and Caroline were babysitting the children of other missionaries. They had around 15 children ages 6 months to 3rd grade, and put in a whole lot of time playing, cuddling, protecting, running, and rocking. They had a good (a bit tiring) time and were a blessing to the parents of these cute little people.
Another highlight of the seminar was the fellowship, of course, and being able to sing Christmas carols in English before each session. This was held in an air-conditioned facility, so it actually felt much more like Christmas than it normally does here. :) Good times, good people, good teaching, and we are excited about the impact these few days will make in our work here.