An actual field report from a forming partnership for a Muslim people
group. (The name of the people group and country have been changed for
REPORT ON THIRD CONSULTATION FOR THE HIGHLANDER PEOPLE
About 30 people attended, representing 13 different organizations and based
in a variety of places.
The meeting began with prayer, a welcome and an overview of the purpose
of the gathering; namely synergy and eliminating competition between various
groups. Security guidelines were also examined.
Prior consultations were reviewed. The first was held in 1995, with sixteen
people representing seven agencies and five couples then living in the
field focusing on People-x. In that consultation there were discussions
of the larger regional consultation, an attempt to define "who are the
Highlander People," and agreement on the need for research, for networks
to publicize the need for workers, the need for Bible translation, and
the Highlander people newsletter to disseminate information.
The second meeting was held in April 1996 with seventeen people representing
eight agencies. Attendees gave a report from the larger area partnership
meeting, talked about the purpose statement, adopted security guidelines,
discussed release of the Gospel of John, encouraged people to get behind
the funding of the Highlander People scriptures, reaffirmed the need for
research and interaction with the Caleb Project, talked about video projects,
the educational needs of MKs, and proposed a congress of the Highlander
The first session of this third consultation featured a representative
from Interdev, which is an organization which facilitates partnerships.
He defined "partnership" as collaboration and not comity; a sharing of
resources, and compensating for strengths and weaknesses. Partnership occurs
when people begin to share resources, gifts, strengths and abilities in
order to work together as a collective group. Partnership isn't usually
where everyone comes together and loses their identity in the collective.
He proposed a partnership based on relationships versus strategies, plans,
ideas, or a statement of faith. Partnership recognizes that differences
exist, but because of the trust and love for each other, work through theological
and other potential hurdles. After relationship comes strategy, then structure.
In areas where one ministry has a specialty, it should take the lead in
that area (SIL could take the lead in translation, for example).
The need for partnership isn't a need unto itself, there must be a common
purpose. God will pour out His blessing when brothers are dwelling together
in unity. In John 17, Jesus prayed that the brothers would love one another.
The flavor of a partnership changes when other cultures participate. It
is easier to function when the group is homogenous, but the results are
better when the national culture is represented.
This discussion was followed by an update on Scripture translation. (Details
omitted for security reasons.)
There will be 70,000 copies printed of a children's book in the Highlander
People with illustrations. A local printer has expressed an interest in
the printing. A century old translation of Psalms has been updated by his
team, and is ready for a printing of 3,000 copies when funds are available.
A discussion followed of what is currently happening among the Highlander
The video project is moving ahead. They will do two videos; one to raise
awareness and prayer support, and the second as an evangelistic video.
This led to a debate of what events would best capture the essence of the
Highlander People culture, and what would be the most effective evangelistic
script. It was then decided that the project would be postponed for a year's
time. Different people were identified to coordinate the mobilization and
the evangelistic video.
Discussion then turned to the possibility of research teams who could assist
in researching the Highlander People culture and world view. …
The focus then turned to church planting with a ten step model including
1) commissioning, 2) audience contacted, 3) the Gospel communicated, 4)
hearers converted, 5) believers congregated, 6) faith confirmed, 7) leadership
consecrated, 8) believers commended, 9) relationship continued, and 10)
the church becomes a sending church. People-x situation currently features
existing churches, so it was agreed that a servant attitude is required.
Concerns based on experiences of Westerners in other parts of the ministry
area included not consulting national pastors, running programs independent
of the churches, claiming results on the basis of people who came forward
(versus actual conversion) at crusades, a paternalistic attitude from Westerners,
the differences in theologies, and inadequate translators who did not convey
what was intended. Another concern was the perception that missionaries
were on one side of the sectarian divide.
Next was a focus on the the Highlander People and the Flatlander People
congress which will be held later this year. The group hopes to gather
leaders and potential leaders. It will be a chance for the believers to
encourage each other, dream together, and hopefully provide a platform
for envisioning a church planting movement. The facilitating team are looking
for people (especially nationals) who could lead workshops on music, camping
ministry, worship styles, or other different kinds of outreach. Hopefully
the Westerners will be in the background with nationals in the forefront.
The total cost of the project is $12,000-$15,000 with about $6,200 covered
to date. Other moneys will be needed to cover the costs of the attendees.
Participants will be invited through a special letter of invitation which
will be distributed to known contacts in the churches. Sensitivity was
encouraged to existing multi-ethnic congregations.
The Interdev representative explained different levels of commitment and
involvement in partnership; from ignorance to awareness to communication
to cooperation to collaboration to (if necessary) constitution. He also
clarified the difference between form and function, and structure and strategy.
Form is more internally focused on the structure of the group, but function
is the primary interest. In theory a consultation agenda should contain
twice as many function items as form items, or else the agenda should be
revised. The same holds true for structure and strategy. The structure
should be absolutely minimal and should not be addressed until there is
a problem to solve (ad hoc structures to meet a particular need); but should
be firm enough as it needs to be. Input into these items should be driven
to internal perceptions and not by outsiders.
Then the group discussed perceived obstacles to the Highlander People church
planting. The list was revised and voted upon as the highest concerns.
The results were:
Lack of Scriptures/Other materials 20 Need to mobilize prayer and resources
13 Cultural identity with Islam 8 Lack of knowledge of how to reach them
7 Lack of trained leadership 6 Lack of Vision/Perceived need 5 Lack of
models for the Highlander People churches 5 Ignorance of God 4 History
of Christianity 4 Time required for survival 3 Suspicion and lack of relationships
There was talk of church advocacy and newsletters, with those working outside
looking to the people in [a city] to help give direction of how they can
effectively support the work. An example was given of the Valleydweller
people partnership, which has three full-time workers in North America
who do nothing but work to promote interest and support. There are a number
of churches in the States that have adopted the Highlander people. Two
Highlander People focused newsletters are currently published, one with
more general news, and the second with more confidential information. There
was a discussion of encrypting outgoing information for security reasons,
using visitors to transmit information, and the Mission Aviaton Fellowship
system which will now make information even more secure.
Interaction also focused on the inclusion of nationals in future consultations.
Examples of successful partnerships were given from Mali and Mongolia.
Both situations had tough going in the beginning, but led to successful
interaction. It was advised that the water will probably "get choppier"
when nationals are invited. There is the danger from working n two languages,
the possibility of people playing groups against each other, the perception
the Westerners do their own thing and the nationals do theirs, and the
possibility of creating the perception that the nationals feel like Westerners
are there to tell them what to do.
It was agreed that the meeting in September may be the first time that
many of these pastors get together, and this could be a springboard for
identifying potential consultation attendees. A subcommittee was identified
to hash through this issue. This group will also review and then propose
the structure of a partnership. It was noted that one way of strategizing
is looking at the obstacles, another is to look at the opportunities, and
a third way is to identify things that can be done to overcome an obstacle,
or take advantage of an opportunity. It was cautioned that too rigid action
plans are a Western invention and could threaten a national. Sensitivity
must be kept in mind. For Westerners, the issue is usually integrity, but
for the nationals it may be trust. These issues can be highly charged matters,
and the Western concept of accountability may be a different expression
than what is appropriate in a different culture.
The purpose of the larger area partnership meeting was reviewed. The purpose
of the meeting is to give a pan-regional view of work, ministry, and issues.
There are also regional working groups such as e-mail and communication
working groups, literature facilitating groups, radio working groups, plus
people who are also already functioning in partnership relationships on
the field. There is strong networking at this meeting. Four members of
the Highlander People consultation will be attending this meeting to serve
as advocates for the Highlander People people.
The meeting concluded with prayer.
John Hanna, Caleb Project,
Spring 1997. John was Advocacy Director of Caleb Project before moving
into his current role position in the Media Department.