Friday, March 08, 2013

Learning by expressing ignorance, teaching by example

International Women's Day

Happy International Women's Day! I first learned about this celebration as a young woman visiting Turkmenistan, now almost 20 years ago. How time flies. As part of our research into social structures and events, we asked university students about holidays and celebrations. "You mentioned New Year's, and Korban Bairam (the Muslim festival of sacrifice)... are there others?" They were surprised we did not know about International Women's Day. "It is international day!" one girl exclaimed. (In her country it's a popular national holiday, complete with a day off of work or school.)

Ah, Americans. I felt the same sense of being ignorant and out of touch spending a summer in Mexico City a few years earlier. Everyone was talking about the NAFTA agreement then being put together and expected to have a dramatic affect on the economies of both our countries. NAF-what?

I am not sure how much this strategy works well because I'm a woman, and how much it's just a matter of personal preference ... but whether I'm in Asia, Latin America, or closer to home, expressing my ignorance of and interest in what others have to say is an effective strategy for building relational bridges.

I learn so much that way, too. Knowledge is power. Sometimes it is best to downplay one's own and seek out another's. Is that part of "people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care"? At any rate, life is just more fun and I enjoy it more when I draw other people out and find out where they're coming from.

Women in Missions

The more I learn, though, the more I want to pass it on to others. Recently I taught missions history for a couple of Perspectives classes. Sometimes I'm the only woman speaker they will have. One of the lessons really lends itself well to a discussion of women's lives and contributions to the world mission. I threw out some questions for the students to wrestle with and told a number of the women in missions stories I started to collect when writing Through Her Eyes.  If you are interested in that topic - or speak on it yourself - look through the collection of blog posts to see if there's something you can use.

All this seemed to really hit the spot for the students in a class in Anchorage, Alaska:
"This lesson was very informative. I like history and had never thought to look at the women in missions. I look forward to reading your book."

"Love the women's perspective on their involvement in missions. I had only ever heard 'about the guys' and was unaware of the great sacrifice and powerful role women played in missions."
I'll admit it, I like it when people's response is to like me better. Like the student who wrote,
"You are fun. You are spunky. You laugh a lot and say things quietly to the side, as an afterthought, almost to yourself. I caught a lot of those things. I laughed a lot when I don't think others understood your jokes. Thank you so much for giving your time. Jesus is shining through you and some of him fell on top of me tonight. You rock."
But what's best of all is when people respond to the material by taking to heart, for themselves:
"I was at a point in this course where I was feeling very inadequate. Marti changed that - she is an engaging presenter with a sincere desire to help the learner see the picture that life as a missionary might present. She did not sugarcoat it, and she did not minimize the fact that God has a plan for each one of us if we are willing to pray and step out in faith. Thank you for taking the time to help us."


Unknown said...

Wonderful feedback, Marti! Clearly God is using you as you share your gifts of speaking and writing. Lynda

Marti said...

Thanks, Lynda! I appreciate the encouragement. Sure miss you!