No greater task lies before our leaders in mission lands than the training of a strong, indigenous ministry, called of God to give the message to their own people in the land in which they were born.
Political conditions, immigration laws, and the spirit of unrest everywhere, bring home tothe heart of every overseas leader his responsibility to quicken the pace in this matter.
Nationals must be trained to carry with greater efficiency, the responsibility placed upon them, and prepared to carry increasingly larger loads. Many years ago the servant of the Lord, in speaking of those who should go out from the homeland to the mission fields, made clear their first and greatest responsibility, as follows:
"There are among us those who, without the toil and delay of learning a foreign language, might qualify themselves to proclaim the truth to other nations. In the primitive church, missionaries were miraculously endowed with a knowledge of the languages, in which they were called to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ. And if God was willing thus to help His servants then, can we doubt that His blessing will rest upon our efforts to qualify those who naturally possess a knowledge of foreign tongues, and who, with proper encouragement, would bear to their own countrymen the message of truth? We might have had more laborers in foreign missionary fields, had those who entered these fields availed themselves of every talent within their reach. . .
"It may in some cases be necessary that young men learn foreign languages. This they can do with most success by associating with the people, at the same time devoting a portion of each day to studying the language. This should be done, however, only as a necessary step preparatory to educating such as are found in the missionary fields themselves, and who, with proper training, can become workers. It is essential that those be urged into the service who can speak in their mother tongue to the people of different nations."—"Testimonies," Vol. V, pp. 391, 392.
To the extent that we have followed this instruction, God has blessed the work. In this article we are concerned chiefly with the training of the men and women who will have to give the message to the cultured, the educated, and those with religious prejudices in their own countries. Let us study the various aspects of a well-rounded plan.
Training School.—Where, in the providence of God, a strong training school has been established, it should be the constant purpose of leaders to select young men and young women of promise, and, if necessary, to assist them in getting a start in that school. Thus they may spend the necessary years in training school, and after being graduated, go out not only with a mental equipment and a fund of knowledge, but also with a spiritual and character preparation that training in our schools can give.
There will be others of mature years, some perhaps called to service before the days of the training school, who could with profit step aside for a year or two for some special study in the training school. This has in many cases changed a man of mediocre ability, who has struggled on for years with little fruitage, into a strong worker. Thus training workers has paid the mission well, even when some financial consideration has been given in the way of part salary or other help.
The educational advantages given even to those who are permitted to finish a course in one of our overseas division schools is, in most countries, but the finishing of a twelve-grade course, and at best, fourteen grades, in a few other sections of the world field. The larger group have had but a brief period of study in one of our schools, or perhaps none at all.
Ministerial Institutes.—In many fields there is a rainy season or holiday period each year which makes it difficult for workers to follow their usual program. We believe that a six weeks' institute during that period—perhaps every two years, held preferably at the training school—would well repay the time spent and the expense incurred. To this would come all the national workers to get instruction under the Bible teachers and perhaps other teachers of the school. Some special short courses would be given by the division and union leaders. After such a strenuous study program, they would go back to the field equipped for better service.
This would be for them an "advanced Bible school," if you please. They would study sermon outlining, would actually preach to one another and be criticized as in any pastoral training class. They would study church organization and procedure, methods of field work, departmental organization and plans. Round-table discussions would be held daily, and a strong series of lectures would be given at the chapel period.
Workers' Meetings.—At least one workers' meeting should be held each year by the local mission superintendent. At this meeting the plans of the field should be discussed and responsibility should be laid on the heart of each worker. Study of church problems and methods of meeting them is always helpful. A question box brings out the peculiar problems of the workers, and provides opportunity to give help. The worker's daily program should be studied and discussed. Thus each man is able to see where he can bring greater efficiency into his work. If possible, union and division help should be secured for such occasions.
Reading Courses.—A strong reading course should be recommended each year, as is done in many fields in leading non-English languages, and our standard annual English course as well. The worker should be urged to follow the course. As leaders we should counsel our associates in service to build up personal libraries to fit their needs, and help them to develop the habit of reading for self-improvement. Each worker should have all the works of Mrs. E. G. White that have been translated into his own language, or into a language he can read.
Firing-Line Training.—Perhaps the best help that can be given a national worker is for his superintendent to yoke up with him in an evangelistic effort, not for a few days, but for six or eight weeks, helping him by example and counsel to become a more efficient soul winner. Generally speaking, a European worker engaging in an effort should as far as possible have associated with him a national worker, and should permit this worker all the opportunity his experience and ability will allow in doing his part in the preaching and other duties in the effort.
Care should always be taken by the (from overseas) worker in all his contacts with his fellow workers, to avoid any appearance of a superiority complex or of a dictatorial spirit. Rather, by a humble, Christian leadership, he should draw to himself the men who surround him, breaking down any possible barrier that might exist because of a difference of nationality.
Example of Leaders.—After all has been said about the different ways of training our national workers for greater efficiency, there is doubtless nothing that will count for more than the example of those sent out to train and develop these workers. Our example in hard work, faithful hours, studiousness, earnest consecration, and, in fact, everything that goes to make for success in the work of God, will be reflected in the workers we are leading. If our preaching shows study and preparation, it will inspire our coworkers to follow our example. If our manner is genteel and courteous and thoughtful of others, they, too, will aim for this standard. If we are simple in our tastes, neat and orderly in our habits and homes, it will lead them in the same direction. If our children are well disciplined and well behaved, the children of our workers will be affected, too.
May God help us by a close walk with Him ourselves, ever to lead our national workers into a fuller, richer, and deeper experience in spiritual things.