Members of One Body

By Karissa Uhlig

Imagine being in a completely new place. You don’t know the language, you don’t have any friends, and you have a new job. Many mission workers face this situation, so JAARS does its best to prepare them for this great adventure. For years, JAARS has provided an Intercultural Communications Course (ICC) for mission workers preparing to serve overseas. This course includes training to develop a solid worldview, greater spiritual vitality, multigenerational and multicultural sensitivity and team-building skills, and language proficiency. However, the COVID-19 pandemic complicated the course this year.

JAARS had planned to hold ICC as usual in Summer 2020 until the spread of the pandemic in March 2020 made this difficult. The continued presence of regulations prompted the Learning and Development (L&D) team to host the training online and make it shorter. Because they had to modify the course, the team renamed it Training Intercultural Partners (TIP). 

Screenshot of the TIP participants

TIP’s online format required a steady internet connection. Many staff members at JAARS, who were working from home due to the pandemic, didn’t have good enough bandwidth to sustain the programs needed for the course. A frantic search for offices at JAARS for all of these staff members began. The staff couldn’t share offices because of the virus, so the Facilities team at JAARS, directed by Kerry Oppel, painted and refurbished some offices to ready them for TIP use. 

The L&D team also needed more technological resources than usual. Kirk Bleavins and the tech team here at JAARS, known as Technology and Business Solutions (TBS), provided the much-needed equipment: monitors, headsets, and more. Marty Barkey, director of TIP, said, “We discovered during this time it’s really helpful to have a second screen. We tried to set up one screen so that [we could] reference our script and then look into the camera [on the other screen]. Our JAARS [tech] team was great at getting us a bunch of monitors, getting us extra computers—whatever we needed.” 

L&D also created a tech team specifically for TIP. LaMima Gilbert-Lewis, TBS IT project manager, took part in this team. She and others helped the instructors present and share screens on Zoom and organized breakout rooms. The tech team practiced these actions ahead of time so that everything ran smoothly during the course. “The instructors want to give their students the best experience they can. The technology and help that we provide, [frees] them from having to worry about [tech issues], and they can focus on the teaching part, ” LaMima said. 

Even though TIP was all virtual this year, the staff still tried to make it as interactive as possible by using break-out rooms. One TIP student commented on the effectiveness of the student-teacher interaction during the course, “I liked the way [TIP] still allowed us to do small group time. I feel like I still got to know people and feel connected, even though we were all virtual.”

The L&D tech team, Facilities team, and the TIP instructors all worked together to provide effective training for mission workers. The TIP course is an amazing example of how different members of Christ’s body can accomplish great things when they work together using their unique skills. 

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