“Knowing how to build and sustain healthy relationships is essential for success in any multicultural, global team organization,” says Marty Barkey. Marty is the director of our Intercultural Communications Course (ICC), which prepares linguists, support staff, field personnel, and volunteers for effective and sustainable mission work in the United States and abroad. The training prepares and strengthens new missionaries in the core elements of cross-cultural mission impact, spiritual resiliency, relational maturity, and cultural sensitivity. For teens whose parents are attending ICC, an ICC Teen program covers key elements that missionary kids need to thrive as they transition into a new culture.
“We are not looking for people who are perfectly perfect,” Marty adds, “but people who are willing to learn and grow.” Her 25 staff members come alongside students in small groups to teach, coach, pose thought-provoking questions, and engage in active listening.
“Bring your heart and prepare for your heart to get worked on,” advise former participants. The four-week course, held twice each year on the JAARS campus, is demanding. The curriculum includes Scripture memorization, increased awareness of attitudes and world view, studies in partnership skills, and discussions and introspection around marriage and family. Attendees have opportunities to practice their new skills and knowledge in a variety of intercultural simulation experiences such as language learning and participation in a local ethnic church. They also complete pre-arrival assignments and often weekend homework. Guest speakers—well-seasoned missionaries—spend time with students to answer questions, offer practical tips, and share experiences. “We want them to thrive at their future assignments, not just survive,” Marty explains.
Alex took the course earlier this year before departing to serve as a Bible translator and Scripture-use worker in Peru. “I must admit, when I first heard I had to come to ICC, I wasn’t excited. I thought my course work and time already spent studying and serving overseas was sufficient preparation,” Alex said. “But as soon as I saw the curriculum, I was all on board. After just two weeks, I was already so much more aware of myself and better equipped to address interpersonal and intercultural dynamics on the field. I can’t imagine going [to my assignment] without ICC.”
Katherine is a teacher in Mexico. “About 14 years ago, a rather nerdy little girl visited JAARS. She had grown up hearing stories about missionaries, but that day she met them and they were regular people! God used those regular people to plant a little seed in her heart, the hope that maybe she could join them some day,” she shared.
“I became an elementary teacher and loved what I did, but that seed in my heart had begun to grow and a quiet discontent began to settle. Could it be true that God was calling me to work as a missionary? Could God use a regular teacher like me to further the work of Bible translation? The answer was yes.
“You would think by this point I wouldn’t be surprised at how amazingly awesome our God is even in the intricate details of life, but I still am. Fourteen years ago I witnessed the passion for God and his Word while learning about Wycliffe Bible Translators at JAARS and I saw the vibrant fullness of God even more evident during ICC, my last stateside training as a Wycliffe missionary at JAARS.”
“The JAARS Center provides the comprehensive services necessary to make this training possible,” Marty says. She cites on-campus housing, childcare, and food services, along with a supportive and hospitable community that allows trainees to meet and learn from active and retired missionaries. An on-campus youth program ministers to older children and teens, nurturing their spiritual growth and preparing them for the transition to life overseas. Many ICC participants also take advantage of the four-wheel-drive training course, maritime training, on-campus counseling services, and a clinic familiar with health-care issues related to international travel.
As ICC continues to grow, Marty and her team remain committed to the program’s core elements that make it so compelling for partner mission agencies. When the staff they send overseas are both effective and able to endure the rigors of the transition, Bible translation can move forward. And now, thanks to decades of experience and the witness of missionaries who return on furlough, numerous church partners are approaching JAARS with an interest in applying ICC concepts to training their members prior to short-term mission trips or cross-cultural ministry in their own communities. Praise God that what he has taught us can now be used to support missions in exciting new ways, and ask him to provide us with both wisdom and capacity to support these increasing opportunities.