The need for missionary agencies to send out well prepared workers was brought home to me during my first year working in Central Asia. A fellow worker had faced a choice between an organisation requiring a four month orientation to ensure she was ready for the field, and another which required only a week. Keen to get on with the task, she choose the one week orientation. This led to her bringing ‘excess baggage’ with her, resulting in her colleagues setting aside their work to help her deal with her issues. Issues that would have surfaced and been dealt with during a well-run longer orientation.
In WEC NZ we do a twelve week Candidate Orientation (CO). This is a time of practical preparation for people heading out to various parts of the world on missionary service. Our time of orientation has three core functions. The first is to ensure that the new worker is ready for the rigours and strains of cross-cultural life and ministry. Are they firmly rooted in Christ? Do they have a suitable grasp of the truth which they are trying to teach others? Are they able to relate well to others? Can they relate to people of different cultures? Is their marriage strong? Are they comfortable being single? Will their family withstand the pressures of life on the field? Can we affirm their sense of call and their fit with their intended place of service? We don’t believe that these things can be discerned over a weekend or even a week. During this orientation we are able to confidently affirm the missionary candidate’s readiness for their field – or not! And if not, then we work with them so that they will be ready – even if their time is ‘not yet’.
A second purpose of our three months together is to build a strong bond between the worker and those of us in the national office. As our orientation is residential, it gives us all at the national office a chance to really get to know the candidates and, in turn, they know what to expect from us. The importance of this was also brought home to me during our time in Central Asia. As we walked and talked, a fellow missionary complained about his latest agency (he’d been with a few). In contrast I expressed how satisfied I was with WEC. He stopped walking, looked me in the eye and said “You are the first person I have heard speak well of your organisation in your first term of service.” I believe our positive experience was a direct result of a good orientation.
Thirdly, our three months together is not just spent naval gazing, but includes training on various aspects that are likely to be encountered. Our training includes much class discussion, scenarios, role plays as well as readings, videos and shared outreach. We have divided our programme up into modules which include church planting, self-care, relationships, home and family life, crisis management, cultural adaptation, working in multicultural teams as well as an introduction to WEC.
It is not a Bible school and does not replace the need for Bible training. Orientation is led by various people, who share from their area of expertise. More than 30 people shared during our last orientation.
(Written by Joseph who is currently part of our Candidate Orientation team. He has previously served in Central Asia.)