Going the Distance

Going the Distance

Author - Anne Dryburgh, Echoes International Mission Worker

Author Bio:

Anne has been a mission worker in Belgium since 1991. She works with women in the areas of teaching, discipleship, and counselling.

Missions has changed dramatically in recent history.

No longer are mission workers people who give their lives in service to the people of the country of their calling. Long-term mission is now often understood to be three years on the field of service.

Being someone who has served in both short- and long-term mission, I would like to explain the necessity there still is for (very!) long-term missionaries.

When I first moved to Belgium in 1991, I worked with Operation Mobilisation.

There were about forty of us in the year-team, serving in various locations in Belgium, and eight in the town of Zelzate where I worked. We learned the language from the local people, did children’s work, shared the gospel on the streets, and held all sorts of evangelistic evenings. People were reached with the gospel and people confessed Christ.

My time in Operation Mobilisation lasted for a total of seven years, during which I worked with people who came for three months, one year, two years, five years and longer. Countless lives were impacted in some way by the gospel. What a tremendous blessing short-term mission can be!

When I saw people confessing Christ, I was struck by the immense need for discipleship.

Mission work in the (very!) long-term reaches and transforms lives for the Lord.

There were people who had been adulterous or abused as children or victims of human trafficking. They had no Bible knowledge and needed help to build their lives on the Lord. Since there was no church in the town, there was nobody to help teach and disciple them.

Not only was there a need to teach the Bible, but also what it means to think and relate in a Christian way. I returned to Belgium with Interlink (now Echoes International) to try and help teach and disciple women in the long-term.

Twenty years since leaving Operation Mobilisation, I now know that, even after seven years, I hardly understood the culture in which I now live.

In the intervening years, I have gained much more insight into how people think and function, and what motivates them. For example, there is much more of a hierarchical structure in Belgium culture than I previously understood, which infiltrates all levels of society. The place of personal choice is vastly different than what it is in Scotland. Given the hierarchical structure, there is also a greater use of shame, guilt, and fear in relationships.

My understanding of how people express themselves is different than it was twenty years ago. How people express their disagreement with you, or what is going on in their private lives, are things that took me many years to understand.

It was after twenty years of being in Belgium, which is now eight years ago, that I started to become more effective in the work here because of this increase in understanding.

Although people know that I am Scottish, during the last eight years I have been closer to being accepted as Belgian by a lot of people. In the Belgium culture, outsiders are not included in the way that friends and family are. It has taken many years of relationship and winning people’s trust to come to this point.

Why is this important?

It is important because it means that Scripture can be ministered at the core of who a person is.

People can be changed at the level of their motives, values, and desires and how these are expressed in their relationships. This is something that would not have been possible in the short-term. In many other cultures around the world it also takes years to come to a place of acceptance and trust in relationships.

Mission work in the (very!) long-term reaches and transforms lives for the Lord.

Welcome to the joint blog of Echoes International and GLO. Sharing the thoughts and experiences from experts in mission across the world, we aim to examine the issues facing mission today, and challenge existing views about cross-cultural mission.

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