If you’re anything like me, when you think about certain professions, certain tools come to mind. For instance, when I think about a mason, I picture trowels, cement mixers, trucks, and levels. When I think about a carpenter, a tape measure, table saw, and tool belt come to mind. Over all, the type of tools someone uses speaks to the profession that he is involved in.
So my question is, when you think about a missionary, what sort of tools come to your mind first? Maybe the first thing you thought of was a vehicle or a Bible. But what else? Those are a given in my opinion. And indeed, they’re necessary for us to minister to unreached people effectively. But my goal in this particular blog post is to show you some other items that you wouldn’t normally think of as tools of the missionary trade.
If I told you that digital voice recorders and point and shoot cameras were a main tool for us, you’d probably laugh and say, “Well I have that here at home! How is that an important tool?” Well, as it turns out, these items are essential to our language study. If we plan on learning Spanish to a high level of fluency in a relatively short amount of time (2-3 years), these two items are going to be a main tool to help us learn quickly and efficiently. How, you might ask? Well, let me tell you…
Digital voice recorders: These will enable us to capture high quality sounds we’ll need in order to mimic and acquire language. They also have the capability to store crazy long hours worth of recording. We’ll be able to “train” our language helper to speak into our voice recorder. Once he/she has spoken into our voice recorder and our language learning session is over, we’ll be able to take the recording and place it into a program on our laptops to begin practicing while he/she is away. Digital voice recorders are going to be a HUGE aid in our acquiring the language of the Paraguayan people.
Point and shoot cameras: This tool will enable us to capture what we call “cultural events.” Language is derived out of culture. We speak the way we speak because of our culture and it’s no different in any other culture/language. When we’re walking through the city and something begins to take place, we’ll be able to learn new terminology that might be unique only to that specific event or context. With our camera, we’ll be able to take pictures of the cultural event, and maybe even talk to someone afterward who can speak into our voice recorder and give an explanation as to what just took place.
Together they will enable us to learn a lot of vocabulary quickly. One example of the way that they will help our vocabulary is when our language helper quizzes us by saying, “where’s the fork?” We’ll be able to take a picture of a fork and record that phrase in order to acquire the language more efficiently. It will also enable us to truly grasp what is taking place in a “cultural event.”
Sometimes when we see other cultures playing out, whether it’s a festivity, dance, or costumes, we tend to think, “Oh, what a beautiful culture.” We’re so awed by the uniqueness of that culture that we often times miss out on what’s truly taking place “behind the scenes.” As a young missionary and someone who has just begun to delve into worldview study, I would bet that almost every single one of the “dances” that we see on national geographic have some sort of deeper meaning behind them. Maybe it’s appeasing a spiritual force that they believe surrounds them, maybe it’s helping a sick relative live another day. We really can’t say. Either way you look at it, our new tools will enable us to minister effectively and efficiently as we learn what it means to become Paraguayan for the sake of the unreached coming to a clear understanding of the gospel message.