Tuesday, September 10, 2013

People Group Studies

No matter how many times I try to explain our ministry it never seems to quite click with so many people.  The reason is because it so different than most teaching/discipling programs that is associated with church or missions.  I could say I teach missions, but that would only tell part of the story.  I could say I teach cross-cultural studies and anthropology, which is true, but what does that mean?

This week I am in Nepal teaching at the Kathmandu Institute of TheologyK(KIT).  It’s an extension campus, not affiliated with any denomination working on accreditation through other academic programs.  The students are already in ministry as pastors or working with Christian organizations.  They are overwhelmingly bi-vocational, working outside jobs for their daily bread.  KIT has a nominal enrollment fee and depends on professors, like myself, to provide their own transportation, accommodations and food.  I don’t usually take these types of assignments but glad I did for this project.

In each teaching assignment, whether it be for a DMin class or a non-formal training venue, I ask my students to find a group of people NOT from their caste, tribe or linguistic group, and do a research project on that people group.  In their paper they are to learn about the people’s religion, customs, history and even economics.  From that research paper they are to come up with a strategy of mission to reach those people.  Because I am with a class between two to three weeks and, because the scarcity of library research, the papers are not very comprehensive.   In spite of the limitations due to time and resources, I still believe this class is significant.

1.   It opens the students to new ideas on who, where and how to do ministry.  Probably 90% or more of my students have never even thought about cross-cultural ministry. 

2.  It gives them insight that they can reach ALL of their community, not just people from their own ethnic background.

Last week I asked them to give me a one-paragraph description of the people group they have chosen to do research on.  Here are some of those groups described the students.

a.     Tharu community – “They are the lower class people and are like slave to upper class people.”
b.     Rauate – “Almost naked people who live in the forest eating herbs and wild animals.
c.      Magar – “Live in western Nepal, say they are Hindus but really animists.”
d.     Sherpa tribe – “Live in the Himalayan, Tibetan Buddhist.”
e.     Chepan – “Tibeto-Burman people numbering about 52,000.  Often characterized as the poorest of the poor.”
f.      Nepali Muslim community.
g.     Madhesi Muslims.
h.     The Chhetri and Brahmin. “They are mostly priests and businessmen.”

Will all of them really do ministry on these groups?  Probably not, but at least by doing research on these people they will be more aware of the community that is around them.  Perhaps God will touch the heart of a few to give their lives to be missionaries to these groups.

As I read the proposed project papers the Lord reminded me, again, why I do what I do.  Many may not understand the purpose of teaching nationals how to cross cultural boundaries to take the Gospel, but I am indeed grateful that he has allowed me to do this unique and vital work.