Planning a Foreign Language Team

by Rob Loach
Bob Jones University

If you are considering taking a group of young people to a foreign country or culture, I am certain that you have many questions. Here are some questions and answers about teams.

Why?

  • To spread the gospel.
  • To expose your young people to the mission field. (We have too many "Dead Sea Christians".)
    • To see a devoted missionary and his family
    • To see the need that exists (The fields really are white already to harvest.)
  • To help and encourage missionaries
  • To encourage national believers

Why not?

  • A negative testimony can do great harm, at times irreparable, to a missionary's work.
  • Some missionaries are "teamed to death".
  • You personally are disorganized and poor at planning and carrying through. Poor planning leaves everyone frustrated and unsatisfied, and it is a gigantic waste of the Lord's money.

Who?

  • Young people with a heart for God.
    • Who are regular attenders and participants at church services and youth group.
    • Who willingly and eagerly do required reading, Bible studies, and written reports in preparation for the team.
  • Young people who are willing to be flexible and willing to move way outside their "comfort zones."
  • No one whom you are pressured to take.
  • No one that you have to "keep after" to meet deadlines or that you have to "carry" financially.

With whom?

  • Missionaries who really want you to come.
  • Missionaries whose ministry you are confident that you want to help and promote. Being out under a particular mission board does not guarantee that a missionary shares your standards and values. Know as much as you can about the missionary, from more than just prayer letters.
  • Missionaries who can use your team to good advantage.

How long?

  • If air travel is involved, try to go for a length of time with advantageous rates.
  • Ben Franklin said, "Fish and visitors smell in three days." Don't wear out your welcome. It's best to leave with everyone wishing it could have been longer.

How?

  • Each young person could work to earn part of the necessary funds.
  • The bulk of each individual's support should come from people who have confidence in that young person. Discourage a young person's family from paying his way.

What to do in general?

(Try to work out much of this with the missionary beforehand.)

  • What the students' language skills can handle.
  • What will give the missionary and his people the most help in accomplishing something they don't have the time, resources, or manpower to do.
  • What will give the students a sense of satisfaction -- that they have done something that meets some immediate needs of others and something of eternal value.
  • Keep a checklist so that you're sure to take along everything that you'll need that you can't readily get where you're going.
  • Encourage the missionary to have everything for the work he has planned for you on hand when you arrive. Otherwise much time is wasted.
  • Try to fit in some kind of sightseeing.

What specifically?

  • Memorize at least a dozen songs in the language (whole group, small groups, solos).
  • Each person should memorize the Romans road in the language.
  • Each person should memorize a testimony in the language.
    • Generally - be as organized as possible. It will save work for the missionary!
  • Have a personalized information packet on each person on your team. (vital information in case of emergency).
    • Photocopy of passport
    • Insurance info
    • Parents' names, address, phone number
    • List of necessary medications, any allergies, etc.
  • Keep everyone's tickets.
  • Give each person a packet with information he will need.
    • How to make a phone call in that country
    • The missionary's name, address, phone number
    • The name, address, and phone number of the family the student is staying with
    • Information concerning daily schedule of activities, housekeeping/cleaning responsibilities, etc.
  • Find out what is the most tedious task for a missionary, and offer to do it for him. (filing things, painting, heavy cleaning, anything . . . )
  • Instruct the young people to be extremely sensitive to the missionary, his family, and the nationals -- little things count.
    • Respect the privacy and property of those you stay with. (In many cultures, some rooms of the house are off-limits to visitors). No, you are not free to raid the fridge!
    • Consider the expense of what you do. In many other countries, utilities are very expensive -- take short showers, don't leave lights burning, etc.
    • Teach the students not to comment negatively or derisively about differences -- weird milk in little cartons, no Mountain Dew!, etc.

In our churches and Christian schools, as we train young people who live in the midst of a self-centered culture, one excellent thing that we can do is to introduce our young people to selfless, dedicated role models such as godly, hard-working missionaries. Perhaps the Lord will use this exposure to convict some young hearts that they too should dedicate their lives to serve our Lord.

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