Growing Up in America… and Missions
"No simple combination of existing programs leading to existing degrees will effective!y prepare a young person for overseas service."
As an enterprise operated and owned by missionaries, we must admit from the outset that our view of the educational process is not entirely traditional.
Why? Because for years the educational structure in America has been moving away from what is crucial for overseas service.
For example, American young people today grow up with less awareness of foreign languages than ever in modem times despite the fact that tourism is booming and commercial people must travel abroad more than ever before.
Furthermore, in comparison with preceding generations, American young people are growing up less aware of Christian opportunities and Christian responsibilities to the peoples of the world.Christian youth at the turn of the last ceonay seized upon the slogan 'the evangelization of the world in this generation."
By contrast, young people today seem to have little appetite to help out with the problems of the world. They have been in a tunnel of gloom for many years and generally lack the optimism that something can be done!
School Postpones Education?
This lack of vision is partly because our young people grow up in a very sheltered and artificial enviroment. For at least 17 years (and even longer for those who go beyond the normal BA. degree), they are essentially non-functioning members of society.
In certain important respects 'school' has actually postponed their education!
They are expected to carry little responsibility except to focus on their own development.
As a result, the maturing process for many has been delayed until graduation, when 'the school of hard knocks' takes over belatedly and, often, traumatically. Moreover, our present system of higher education does not merely impinge on their lives while an school. Increasingly, students emerge from school loaded with large debit, making it very difficult for them to enter the mission agency structure without first spending years working to repay those loans.
School vs Family?
The present educational process also tends to sever relations with the family, the home, and the home church without any comparable substitute for those relationships.
Our current educational system thus contributes indirectly to marital instability and family breakdown, which nun higher in America than in any other country.
Even farm families today are sensing a toss of respect on the part of children for the basic "extended family" structure, which is not only the Biblical pattern but is found all over the world... except in America.
How tragic for American missionaries to be canying the eternal gospel, yet with such a defective social inheritance that they are slow to understand the more 'normal" family patterns they encounter on the mission field!
Because of this social fragmentation and detachment, produced to a great extent by our educational system, American young people who pursue membership in mission agencies often find themselves unable to serve.
They are unqualified for service due to problems of family, lack of home church Support, or lack of work and ministry related experience.
Before being accepted as mission candidates, they must lose valuable years trying to rebuild on a "cry inadequate foundation.
Many nun out of time or become so overcome by the problems that they never do move forward in a constructive manner for the cause of Christ in the world.
Can't There Be Something Better?
You would certainly expect that with a heritage of the most extensive mission movement in the world, American evangelicals should be keenly sensitive and alert to an educational system that gives a superior foundation for growth in world awareness and responsibility.
Unfortunately, no combination of normal American educational opportunities will property prepare a young person for overseas service.
That is why 'apart from additional, perhaps lengthy, "repair" preparation which tuilher delays and often degrades involvement on the field no simple combination of existing programs leading to existing degrees will effectively prepare a young person for overseas service."
What Can Be Done!
The purpose of the U S. Center's Training Division is In work with mission leaders in ccinccptoaliziitg. promoting arid evaluating various educational programs, and to do so from the standpoint of the mission industry.
Precisely because its Training Division operates a specialized laboratory school. William Carey International University (WCIU), the USCWM is in a unique position to test out new things to conceptualize, promote and evaluate educational programs relevant to the mission cause.
MA. In TESOL
For example, the Center early recognized that, despite the desperate need for qualified teachers of English in non English speaking countries, no Christian group offered an MA, degree program in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL).
What few courses Christian colleges had in this professional area were not necessarily offered within the context of clear cut mission concern.
Aware of this hiatus, the Training Division asked the University to try to initiate a graduate-level TESOL program.
WCIU's TESOL program, offered as it is out of mission concern, is currently the largest such program in the world. It has grown to its present strength primarily as the result of the strategic loan of a key missionary Ph.D. front the Overseas Missionary Fellowship.
Our M A. in TESOI. is now both author(wed and approved by the State of California (the highest category of State recognition).
Certain Christian schools are considering graduate programs of this sort now, and the Training Division expects actively to encourage them by what is learned here.
A similar hiatus seemed to exist in regard to Ph.D programs designed for mission and i national leaders.That is, for every such person who can do doctoral work in residence on the campus of a U.S. school, there are probably ten whose importance and responsibilities prcclude prolonged extraction from their work.
Thus we have pursued the development of an "external" program under the supervision of James Oliver Buswell Ill. Ph.D. It now involves mature interns in 28 countries and is being carried out in relation to an ever larger number of mission agencies. Candidates cannot apply. They must be recommended by an agency.
Less well known, and thus meriting greater space here, is our recently designed BA. program in International Development.
An Overseas Work/Study Program for Undergraduates
For undergraduate students, the Training Division under the auspices of its Institute of International Studies and to consultation with WCflJ has developed a restructured liberal arts degree.
It allows a student to do a work study program with extensive overseas exposure and yet graduate, in the normal period of time, with a BA. in International Development i BA. with hill, standard liberal arts content.
Experience and study are thus intimately bound together. During no significant period of time is the student merely studying or merely working; he or she is, and must be considered, an 'Intern.'
This BA, degree in International Development is characterized by three maor considerations:
First, to expose students (interns) to real working situations in a variety of contexts, they are required to work and study overseas for six months each year: each year in a different place, and each year affiliated with a different mission organization.
Secondly, interns' work assignments are carefully dovetailed into the educational schedule so that, throughout the four years of college. at least a portion of their experiences provide both remunerative and academic rewards at the same time.
Since the income from the work portion obviously assists with expenses. students may not utilize any loaned hinds in their educational program. (Scholarships and outright grants are acceptable!) In this way, students are encouraged to graduate debt free and without any financial impediment to mission service.
Thirdly, the whole experience is designed to follow guidelines best described in terms of 'full context education' - accountabiliry within four basic authority structures. We refer to 1) the family, 2) the local church, 3) the agency (or work) relationship, and 4) the academic entity involved.