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Why do many missionaries start their mission work through the educational institutions?

What is the spiritual focus behind starting a school?

How successful is it at proclaiming the Gospel?

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The question and notes about it are at odds. The question needs to be changed to match the notes. –  Steve Mar 23 at 13:43
    
Perhaps to teach people to read so they can read the Bible. –  david brainerd Mar 24 at 21:28

2 Answers 2

There are several reasons as to why Christian missionaries start schools. I am taking a missionary class called Perspectives on the World Christian Movement and some of their reasons are as follows:

  1. Making/building something to improve their lives(i.e. a school) is one way to make the people open up and be accepting towards you and your message.

  2. Many times the people need a school to understand their own written language(My friend on Papua New Guinea started a school for this reason.)

  3. At a school, you can have a Christian influence on your students and the other teachers. Unless you are in a closed country, you can teach classes on the Bible and share the Gospel in your classes.

Hope this helps!

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"Earning the right to be heard"

is a phrase which describes very well what some missionaries are attempting to do by establishing schools in the country and culture to which they've been called of God.

I like that phrase, because perhaps nothing else creates an entre into a people-group better than good works or deeds performed in the name of Christ.

Some missionaries feel led of God to serve in a ministry of literacy. As Jeremy Houle, above, has observed, if people are to read the Bible and subsequently be exposed to the gospel message in their "heart language," they need to learn, minimally, how to read. The ability to read, of course, yields other benefits as well. Literacy can potentially enhance students' ability to support themselves and their families by creating some upward mobility within their own country and culture.

A familiar refrain in this regard (in non-sexist phraseology) is as follows:

"Give people fish, and they'll eat for a day. Teach them how to fish, and they'll eat for a lifetime."

By learning to read, students can begin to learn how to better their lives, as they increase their knowledge about such things as innovative farming techniques (with crops and/or livestock), water conservation, home-based businesses, vehicle repair, AIDS prevention, life-saving inoculations, and a host of other self-help projects geared to enable them to "eat for a lifetime."

Moreover, in countries which are officially "closed" to traditional "proselytizing" missionaries, committed Christians can often become teachers of English (or French, or Arabic, or virtually any other language) as a second language. As they interact with nationals in the country where they teach, they cultivate friendships with their students, and out of those friendships come opportunities to share the Christian gospel with seekers.

Similarly, with Jesus as their role model, some missionaries today take their healing arts to people-groups in need of them, particularly in developing nations in the majority world where healthcare is spotty at best.

For example, a husband-and-wife team I know (he is a surgeon and she is a nurse) left a thriving Christian clinic where they served as cross-cultural missionaries in a developing African country for 30-plus years, and in their mid-sixties relocated to Cairo Egypt to establish a training school for would-be surgeons. Their goal: to equip Arabic speaking doctors and nurses (primarily) to use their healing arts in the name of Christ throughout the Middle East and beyond.

At the same time this mature, older, and well seasoned couple teach and train their medical students to become surgeons and nurses, they also instill in them a vision and a passion to build bridges to share the gospel with Muslims who have benefited from their (and God's!) healing touch and ministrations. Again, their rationale is to earn the right to be heard.

An encouraging sign within many American churches today, including my home church, which belongs to the Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination, is the prevalence of short-term mission trips and projects for young and old alike.

Sometimes these mission trips involve a specific building project, for example, whether it be digging a well, building a one-room school, or offering short term medical, dental, and even surgical clinics, with medical professionals donating their time and services! More than a few "short termers" have had their lives turned around through short-term exposures to missions and missionaries and have subsequently become fulltime cross-cultural missionaries.

Short termers can help "take the load off" fulltime field missionaries by assisting and encouraging them in practical and meaningful ways. Culturally diverse teams composed of white, Black, Asian, and Latino men, women, and young people often speak volumes without uttering a word, as the people whom they serve see how people of all colors and cultural backgrounds can work harmoniously together in serving their common Lord and Savior.

In conclusion, earning the right to be heard is not really a new concept. It grew out of Jesus' teaching on the importance for Christians to be both salt and light in the world: salt, as a preservative in the midst of spiritual corruption; and light, as a beacon of hope in the midst of spiritual darkness. As Jesus commanded His followers,

"Let your light so shine before men, that they might see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:16).

And as the modern proverb puts it:

"Preach and teach the gospel wherever you go. If necessary, use words!"

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