Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What Are You Studying?

Bethany House
Bethany House, our home and our workplace for Orientation Program

We've gotten a lot of questions about what exactly we're learning about and studying over these next few months of the Orientation Program. It's kind of a hard question to answer because we're learning new things every day and every week. But here's a bit of a rundown of what we've been learning.

Just like any other job, we've had orientations to all parts of the organization--marketing, human resources, finances, etc. Those are the "how to's" and the "who we are's" of the organizational structure. Pretty typical stuff.

For the past week we learned about Dialogue-Based Education (aka Popular Education), which is a method for teaching adult education. It's based on the concept that ideas are generated from the group, rather than from a traditional teacher-to-student mode, like more traditional teaching styles. This type of education incorporates a lot of activities, discussions and dialogues, and the participants are seen as active decision makers rather than passive attendees. It also allows a lot more room for respecting diverse cultures. Cultural sensitivity will be especially important in mission because I'll be coming from a very different cultural reference point than all of my participants. Plus, who would know better about the problems in their lives and the potential solutions than the participants themselves?

One of the things that is also neat about Dialogue-Based Education is that it's sort of like how Jesus taught. For better or for worse, Jesus taught using parables and stories. He rarely gave a straight answer. Instead, He encouraged the people to come up with answers themselves. DBE uses this idea. And that can be great and/or it can be infuriating because it's a circuitous process and there's not always a clear-cut answer. This will certainly test my patience (not a strength of mine), but I'm hoping it will lead me down paths that I never would've thought on my own!

The training room at Bethany
Our training room

We've also had classes on scripture in which we've talked about various passages related to mission, as well as classes on the theology of mission. That was where we talked about what it means to be a missioner in the Catholic Church in 2011 (and beyond). That class was great because it cleared up a lot of concern that most of us had about mistakes made by past missioners/missionaries (and current missioners too, I guess) (for example, disrespecting indigenous cultures, forced conversion, ethnocentrism, etc). It was from this class that I got the quote I used in an earlier post.

The next few weeks will be interesting because we'll be cross training with three other Catholic Mission organizations, the Franciscan Mission Associates, the Society of African Missions and the Comboni Missionaries. They will stay with us in Bethany for 1 1/2 weeks and then we'll be going to DC for another 1 1/2 weeks. I think we'll be talking for the most part about how to handle trauma in mission as well as cross cultural issues. But I'll for sure keep everyone posted!

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