In the Spring of 2018 I visited the missionary training facility, CINCEL, in San Jose, Costa Rica. I had been informed by the Assemblies of God World Missions (AGWM) Central American Area Director, Jay Dickerson, that he had read my dissertation on the relationship of the role of adult learning theory in understanding cultural adaptation of missionaries. My qualitative research focused primarily on the new AGWM missionaries who were going through language training and preparation for their respective countries in Latin America and how the process was relating to their cultural adaptation. The period of my research covered 2008 until 2010. Having been a former Director of CINCEL and now in an area leadership role, Jay informed me that the findings in my dissertation were providing justification for further development in the process. I asked him if I could visit Costa Rica to follow up on my research to which he graciously invited me to do.
Upon my arrival I had a chance to converse with Jay regarding some of the specifics of the development of missionary training. One of the newer organizational developments was the formation of cohorts of new missionaries who would meet regularly through ZOOM with their respective leaders during their time of itineration. This related the findings of my research that AGWM needed to take advantage of the electronic means through social media and such to connect with the missionaries before leaving for the field, during their time of language learning and after their arrival to their countries of ministry.
Jay (pictured below) also informed me that they had increased the cultural training imparted at CINCEL and were looking how to continue that aspect of learning after the missionaries left for their countries. That need for continued cultural training on the field, along with continued AGWM connection with the new missionaries, was specifically one of the things that those with whom I had gathered my research desired.
The increase in cultural studies at CINCEL did create the challenge of limiting the amount of language learning the missionaries could experience in Costa Rica according to the present Director. The leadership is looking into ways that the missionaries can intentionally continue their language studies in their countries of ministry that would include local usage of vocabulary and idioms.
ADULT LANGUAGE LEARNERS
Along with my conversations with the leaders I had the opportunity to meet with a number of the missionaries in language studies (photo right). Over all they were very appreciative of the opportunities that had been given them for cultural training. My impression, notwithstanding the incredible stress that comes with language learning as adults and the reality of the new and different contexts in which they were to serve, was that the missionaries felt more cared for and prepared for their subsequent service than they had felt some ten years earlier.
A few other aspects of my time in Costa Rica included sitting in on a Missiology class, as well as a conversation class; an experience that brought back many memories of those challenging months when I was in that place of the new missionaries wondering if I would ever get it.
My time was enhanced with a visit to the particular ChildHope school in a poor suburb of San Jose (photo left) that our VU students have worked at through the Religion Department’s Vanguard Intercultural Studies Abroad (VISA) program. In particular, I observed the operation and the construction of the locations for the after-school programs for girls and boys at risk, respectively named Chicas de Promesa and Chicos: Champions for Change. Our Missionary-in-Residence (MIR) for 2017/2018 academic year, Mary Mahon, leads these ministries.