I once heard someone teaching on discipleship say, “Never do anything alone.” Are you making a hospital visit? Take someone with you. Are you writing a sermon? Invite someone to watch and learn. Are you going to the grocery store? Let someone tag along and have meaningful conversations on the way there and back.
Never do anything alone. Discipleship happens in the midst of normal life, and so we open up our lives and invite others to imitate us as we follow Christ.
That’s why I love the RTIM Practicum, which provides us the opportunity to host young people on the mission field.
It’s not a sightseeing trip. It’s not a vacation. It’s not for the travel-obsessed, or the humanitarian-minded.
It’s also not a short-term missions trip. We’ve all seen the rowdy group of teenagers in the airport wearing matching shirts—and we hurried to get ahead of them in the security line. They (re)paint a few walls, take photos for their church bulletin board, and come home to tell their youth group how the five days abroad changed their entire life.
That’s not the RTIM Practicum.
Instead, we host young people who want to see an honest picture of real-life missions work. They’re serious about figuring out how God wants them to fulfill the Great Commission. So they take six weeks out of their summer to learn about missions on the ground. As missionaries, we don’t take this opportunity lightly; it’s a big commitment. We want to invest in them, love them, and pray with them about the next steps in their lives.
Since discipleship happens in the midst of normal life, I love investing in the next generation of missionaries through the RTIM Practicum. Why do we love it so much? Three reasons come to mind.
1. They learn that missions is church-centered.
The Great Commission happens in churches, through churches, and for the planting of new churches. Since missions is church-centered, we serve our practicum students best by showing them a healthy local church in a foreign context.
The practicum students jump into everyday church life with both feet, and our church members love them for it. They spend time with our young people. They visit our members’ homes. They have meals with church leaders. They share testimonies, devotionals, and teach where appropriate. If they’re musical, they play right along with our Brazilian worship team.
If we never do anything alone, this means our practicum students are tagging along with us for every aspect of local church life. They sit in on staff meetings, pastoral internship meetings, and service debrief meetings. They hear us think through difficult church situations. They see the joys and challenges of ministry in the church because missions is church-centered.
2. They learn that missions is normal life.
One of the biggest blessings we can give to our practicum students is to show them the normal life of an ordinary missionary family.
Before I moved to Brazil, I truly had no clue what a missionary did on a regular basis. What does he do when he’s not evangelizing or preaching? What does he do on Tuesday afternoon? I had only been on trips where the missionary had scheduled a week packed full of events so that we visitors felt like we “did missions.” I’m sure as soon as we left, the missionary let out a sigh of relief and returned to his normal life.
When our practicum students are here, they work hard. We go on week-long teaching trips into the interior of Brazil. Sometimes, they’re worn out! But other days are slower. They participate in our family worship, they walk with us to get food from the neighborhood food trucks, and they enjoy movie nights. Why? Because missions is normal life.
3. They learn that missions is cross-cultural discipleship.
Overseas ministry is uniquely challenging. Our practicum students immediately get immersed in another culture and language. They’re often lost in a conversation or confused by a cultural quirk. But at the end of the day, missions is simply making disciples in a foreign context.
We don’t want to do anything alone. In the car, on the metro, walking downtown—we’re always talking, always teaching, always learning. Our practicum students learn about the needs of churches and pastors overseas. As a result, their American assumptions are challenged, and their vision for the world expands.
I trust that as our practicum students return home they will make disciples wherever God leads them. They’ll invest in others by showing them the normal life of a local church. This can’t happen in a short-term missions trip. Which is why we love hosting the RTIM Practicum.
Editor’s note: For more information on the RTIM Practicum, click here.
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