Redefining Old Terms
A phrase heard during my service in the US Army was, “If it ain’t raining, then it ain’t training!”. This meant that if you weren’t training hard, you weren’t really training. In the past, we defined training as short trips overseas to train indigenous Christ followers in various skills alongside local partners. Events over the last year-and-a-half have made it necessary to revisit our definition of training.
As international travel restrictions begin to lighten, we have been able to send teams overseas again. Earlier this year, we had the opportunity to conduct in-person agricultural trainings in both East Africa and West Africa. However, much of the world remains logistically closed to us. Many countries still require a 14-day quarantine upon arrival. This makes travel for a one-week training trip impractical. We have been left to ask ourselves, “is there another way to ‘train’ believers in countries with restricted access?”.
The Possibility of Virtual Training
In October of last year, Brian from our media team conducted ITEC’s first all-virtual training with a partner in Central Africa. The goal was to train indigenous believers to share stories of Jesus through film. What normally would have been five days of training was divided into four weekly three-hour sessions. Despite the challenges of language, internet availability, and distance, the students were able to produce quality films. This demonstrated that the training was effective.
While an online training will never be the same as one conducted in-person, there were clear advantages. Students had a week between training sessions to work on projects and come up with questions, encouraging more active intellectual participation. What would normally have taken some of our team members out of the office for a week and a half was only a half-day commitment once a week for the duration of the training. This increased the capacity of our ITEC team as it allowed us to spend more energy training than traveling.
Next month, we plan to conduct a virtual agriculture training with a partner in South America. We will involve our ITEC Ecuador team with the goal for them to eventually lead their own agriculture trainings among Spanish speakers.
Even today (at the time of writing this newsletter), I spoke with a man requesting agricultural training in a central African country which is currently requiring a 14-day quarantine upon arrival. He was very excited about the prospect of possibly doing a virtual agricultural training because we would not need to wait for travel restrictions to lift before starting the training.
While some disciplines such as dental will not be able to do their trainings virtually, there is a possibility of doing preparatory teaching ahead of when the training team arrives. This provides the advantage of the students being able to learn the classroom material in advance which would be reinforced by in-person training.
The last year, though challenging, has brought tremendous opportunity for growth and innovation. We appreciate your prayers as we continue to adapt to the ever-changing needs of the mission field. At ITEC, it is our goal to come alongside churches and help them process strategies for sustainable missions.
We would love to engage your church in a discussion about what missions in a post-COVID world may look like. May God grant us the wisdom we need to be good stewards of the time/opportunities that He has placed before us.