Our LTO Experience
By Lloyd & MaryEllen Esh
Our whole family was scheduled for LTO [Long-Term Orientation] spring training. To be honest, we felt like we hardly had the time to go. But since it was a requirement of GTO, we knew we needed to.
We weren’t there long at all until we started realizing the many, many benefits of LTO. Even thought we had spent 2 ½ years in the mission field prior to this, we learned many NEW things. We also found our relationship with our Lord was strengthened, which is so important in effective witnessing. We really appreciated our teachers and all the work they put into the training. They pour their hearts into this ministry and were a huge blessing to us, answering questions and giving us many new insights.
One aspect of the training we felt was highly beneficial to us was afternoon street ministry. While this was quite stretching for us, especially at first, we found that the more we ‘practiced’ it, the more courage and boldness we had to go out and witness again. We also enjoyed the fellowship of like-minded believers of the whole class and made some lasting friendships.
Whether you are praying about if, when or where God is calling you into missions, or if you just want to more effectively witness in your community, we highly recommend going to NYC for the training. We are so thankful for all we learned. Our family’s plans are for moving to Chiang Mai, Thailand in the winter of 2013. We look forward to seeing what God has for us in Asia!
Spreading the Good News
by Marcel Witmer
Every day from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm we had the opportunity to go out into the streets and put to practice what we had been taught. Towards the beginning of Long-Term Orientation (LTO) Alan Roth had taught a class on personal evangelism. He had given us many tips on how to begin conversations with total strangers and ways that we could eventually turn the conversation into a presentation of the Gospel message. We also had a session on Islam and how to effectively witness to them; and a session on Buddhism explaining ways we can present the Gospel contextually to them. Then each day we were given an outreach assignment that stretched us and grew us in unique ways.
One day, after the first personal evangelism class, we were to pray for divine appointments and then go out and look to have a conversation with somebody in hope of sharing the Gospel with them. Another day we went into a Muslim community and talked with the Muslims that were walking the streets. One afternoon was spent in the metro system on the subways singing and sharing scripture and testimonies to the people present in the subway car. A unique opportunity that we had one day, was to give a kids program in the park. We sang, did a Bible skit, and passed out coloring pictures with crayons. An interesting activity that we did one day was doing some spiritual mapping of the community around the training center. With this information they could pray for their people more specifically and also brainstorm ways to reach out more effectively to the people of this neighborhood. Other times we would simply hand out tracks and/or prayer walk.
These experiences were very stretching for me personally, especially the personal evangelism assignments where we were encouraged to find people to talk to and share the Gospel with in a one-on-one encounter. It got me out of my comfort zone, it gave me more courage when witnessing to people, and it taught me to rely on God every moment for the words to say and the Scripture to share with them. It also convicted me of my need to commit more Scripture to memory because Scripture is more powerful than a two-edged sword and will stick with the people for quite a bit longer than the mere words that we say. I was also convicted of the fact that evangelism is not optional, it is a mandate (requirement) of God for those who call Him Lord. Finally, the most important thing I got out of this orientation was the fact that evangelism is not primarily leading people to Christ for salvation from Hell, but leading people to Christ so that they may glorify God. We as humans are only fully alive when we are glorifying God. That is what outreach is all about, preaching the Gospel so that people may become fully alive.
Cross Cultural Training
By Ernest Witmer
It ought to be easy for conservative Mennonites to understand the need for cross-cultural training in Christian Evangelism. We are an ethnic group ourselves within American society and without serious cross-cultural outreach toward us in centuries past—whether by intent or otherwise— we’d be up the creek without a Savior. And further, the only way we’ve been able to have an impact at all has been to think, feel, and function cross-culturally. This, by the way, is true for every Christian subculture.
Unfortunately many of us don’t do so well at this for one of two
quite opposite—though common-based, reasons. On the one hand, some of us feel threatened by syncretism and are afraid the distinctiveness of our faith will be lost in our efforts
to reach beyond our own ethnicity. On the other hand, some others of us feel personally insecure about who we are in Christ and try to run away from our ethnicity in order to disguise our identity within culture. But if we can be personally secure, both in Christ and ethnicity, all of us can develop an appreciation for, and an understanding of, cross-cultural training in Christian evangelism.
God has created everyone in HIS own image and whenever anyone has tried to make something of THEMSELVES, or has tried to protect themselves from threat of identity-LOSS, God has taken drastic action. At the tower of Babel, God deliberately confused the languages thereby forcing upon them the greatest cultural barrier possible… all because they tried to create an arrogant identity. And Cain was reprimanded and sent off into no-man’s-land ultimately because he felt threatened by his brother’s more favorable treatment. So weather trying to establish one’s own identity or trying to protect one’s perceived identity… rather than willingly embracing our GOD-given identity and that of others… we risk the discipline of God Himself.
The lesson here is that we are both special and estranged, and our only real asset is God. It is HIS culture we embrace, and HIS identity we seek. We do not hold at bay those who are different from us nor hold ourselves up as the model. Instead, we accept ourselves for who WE are and others for who THEY are while all along recognizing our common creation by God.
So when it comes to communicating the Gospel of Jesus Christ to other cultures, we must approach the task humbly as learners and as servants… servants OF God TO others. We don’t create identity, and we don’t condemn identity. We simply communicate an Identity beyond us all! •