If you sign up to be a missionary in a tribal context, I don’t think you will ever reach the point where “study” is not on your to-do list. And if you do find it scratched off, I humbly suggest you write it back on.
I work with a people group that speak a language I did not grow up hearing. And while I have learned to communicate more-or-less clearly, I will never say things just like they do. Until then, I keep learning new words, new ways to hook old words together, and new ways to organize my thoughts in order to be understood in this context.
Not only am I not a native speaker, I am not a native thinker in this culture, either. It will be a life-long pursuit (or at least all the years of my life in this village) to study out how the Nahuatl see the world, what is good manners, how and when to make comments, what is or isn’t funny, how to correct students kindly, and how to tell a good story.
I have learned, and keep learning, a lot of practical things pertinent to life out here. I’ve studied up on water-borne illnesses, how to clean a wound, and the best way to treat burns. I’ve learned some about d.c. and a.c. and solar panels. I’ve read up a little on marketing and labor vs. material cost analysis for use in our non-profit. I’ve learned how to clean dental equipment and about composting.
I study things that have to do with my ministry, too. Literacy techniques used around the world. How to help people with dyslexia. Leadership best-practice. Discourse analysis. Partnership development. Missiology. Discipleship methods.
By far the most dramatic thing I’ve undertaken to study is how to serve and know my Father better. Just as I am learning to think how the Nahuatl do, I am attempting to learn daily how to live in the culture of my true citizenship. Sanctification is teaching me a new language, a new thought pattern, and a new manner of being. If we think we have learned this lesson fully, we are mistaken. And if we stop studying, we are lost.