Bringing Clarity to the Unknown
For someone considering missions, the potential future can feel like the great unknown. What is it like to live overseas? To learn a new language? How would I converse with a Buddhist or an Animist? What does ministry look like outside the walls of the church and programs I’m accustomed to? Is missions right for me, or am I right for missions?
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By Global Frontier Missions and OMF (U.S.)
To help answer these questions, OMF (U.S.) and Global Frontier Missions have partnered to create the Train & Go Apprenticeship. This one-year exploration program pairs five months of missions training with GFM with seven months of serving overseas with OMF.
Laney Dugan, GFM’s Global Partnership Coordinator, shares that the program is designed “To provide an avenue where people can get holistic pre-field training followed by immediate overseas experience with a sending agency.” It is a way to “get their feet wet” in what missions would look like.
The first five months constitute the Train phase, where participants attend GFM’s Missionary Training School, a training intensive based out of Atlanta, Georgia. GFM’s Training Director Rory Bonte shares, “MTS exists to equip healthy, long-term laborers with the knowledge, character, and skills to thrive in cross-cultural ministry.” Students learn through a combination of classroom time, community life, and immediate ministry implementation in a diverse area with over 150 people groups represented in just a few square miles. About the Train & Go Apprenticeship, Rory continues, “It’s not five months of just training and then seven months overseas; it’s a full year of ministry.”
Brandon S., a current MTS student who came from OMF shares, “It’s community – there’s a community here among the students and the teachers. First and foremost, from day one, we knew the teachers cared about us. We knew that they were invested. They wanted to see us grow in all areas of our lives, not just in knowledge, but spiritually, emotionally.” He also praises MTS for putting book learning into immediate practice. “They’re not just feeding you information. They’re giving you an experience. You’re experiencing these things. It’s not like, ‘Oh yeah, there’s this method of learning that a lot of people employ on the field that’s called GPA…’ No, it’s like you’re going to do it… It’s practice.” During their semester, Brandon and his classmates built relationships with people from 39 countries including 8 East and Southeast Asian countries in this diverse city in the US. They also shared the gospel with 37 of their new friends.
Even if the participant decides that full-time missions is not in their future, or near future, MTS imparts invaluable learning that will benefit students for the rest of their lives. Rory explains, “A lot of the stuff we talk about in the classroom equips someone to be a more mature follower of Jesus who will continue to make disciples. There’s a heavy cross-cultural component, but a lot of these concepts can be applied anywhere.” Many MTS alumni agree, and some have expressed that they wished every follower of Jesus could take the course. Brandon shares midway through the course, “If for whatever reason I had to leave the program today, I would say that it was absolutely worth it, because the freedom I’ve experienced and all the things that I‘ve learned thus far have made it worth it.”
After five months in Atlanta, participants then join OMF’s established missionaries for seven months on the ground in one of three locations: Japan, Taiwan, or South East Asia.
A strength of the Train & Go Apprenticeship program is that, because of the existing partnership between GFM and OMF, participants often have already applied for field placement. OMF collaborates with the student, GFM, and the OMF missionaries overseas who will serve as hosts during the “Go” phase. In many cases, all of these elements are aligned before the “Train” phase begins.
As part of the planning for the “Go” phase, Serve Asia (the sending department of OMF) works out arrival dates with field hosts. Typically, there is a short break between the two phases, allowing participants time to rest, reflect, and to prepare for their trip overseas.
Every participant is connected to a long-term OMF missionary as their host. There is also a corresponding Serve Asia coordinator in every receiving country who provides support to the participants during their service time. Serve Asia Director Matt Whitacre says, “We strive to create opportunities that help to advance a long-term church planting strategy in a meaningful way. Not only do the hosts act as mentors, but we also provide member care support from the broader OMF ministry teams.”
While the “Go” portion of the program is considered a short-term mission, it can lead to more. At the end of the trip, Serve Asia provides a debriefing and several months of follow-up conversations to help all participants discover ways to integrate their trip into their life. Matt says that what happens next is up to the participant: “Each individual’s goals and direction will be different. For those who desire to pursue long-term service with OMF, we will connect them with a ministry coach to prepare them for the long-term missionary application process.”
For OMF, a strength of the partnership with GFM is that it is providing insights that applicants to the program may not always have. Matt says many applicants have limited cross-cultural missions experience. He adds, “GFM provides an incubator-like environment where they can grow in knowledge and real-life experience with cross-cultural missions. Even seasoned, long-term missionaries who have gone through GFM’s Missionary Training School have found it beneficial. Short-term workers who train with GFM will come away with a refined sense of missionary calling, a greater confidence interacting with people from other nations, and a deeper dependence on God.”
Matt says that the character traits developed in this program will help Serve Asia participants be more effective and helpful to the long-term OMF missionaries they partner with.
To learn more about how you can be a part of this program, visit our Train & Go Apprenticeship page. We’re also thrilled that Lauren is sharing her Train & Go journey with us. Her first article is, Saying Yes to God and Yes to Missions.