I’m often asked, “Who are your students at h.e.a.r.t? Where do they come from?” My answer is always, “h.e.a.r.t. students come from a variety of places and we have entirely different student dynamics every term depending on many factors.” We get adventurers wanting a unique living experience for a semester, pre-field missionaries looking for a more hands-on approach to missionary preparation, college students looking to receive credit for a different kind of learning in cross-cultural ministry and people searching to discover if they are, indeed, called to cross-cultural ministry. We have had students just finishing high school, college students, adults just getting started in their cross-cultural ministry careers and even ‘experienced’ individuals wanting to transition from their long-term careers in a variety of fields to more grass-roots ministry in a new cultural context.
They each bring something distinctive and special to our very unique community in the h.e.a.r.t. village.
Over the course of many terms with a variety of students we have received a lot of feedback about our program. One of the highlights of the h.e.a.r.t. experience for many of our students is the initial phase of the program where they get a feel for the separation often felt by cross-cultural workers serving in remote places overseas. During that first phase, which lasts approximately five weeks, students unplug…completely. Rather than participating in the latest Twitter frenzy, posting copious personal reflections of their experiences on Facebook or even reading their email or a newsfeed, students spend intentional and intense time with their newfound village community. Furthermore, the students don’t have the traditional modern comforts of indoor plumbing or electricity during this critical community building time. For those five weeks, h.e.a.r.t. students do nearly everything together and learn to rely on one another to accomplish the tasks of everyday life. It is an intense experience physically and practically, socially, spiritually, and emotionally.
During the Phase 1 experience, students receive snail mail only on Fridays. It is a highlight of the week
for them to get news and love from home. This is just one more intentional portion of the Phase 1 experience
to simulate the disconnect and isolation that people feel when they transition to serving cross-culturally.
Students often arrive at h.e.a.r.t without a good understanding that a huge part of their experience as students at h.e.a.r.t. will incorporate learning to live, work, study, worship, resolve conflict and just play in community. Interpersonal and relational skills are integral to longevity and efficacy in cross-cultural ministry overseas. We certainly talk about those things in our classes, but the truly wonderful lessons learned in that arena take place in the crucible of extremely tight-knit living conditions during that first phase and throughout the rest of the semester. Although most of the students typically come from very similar cultural backgrounds, it doesn’t take very long at h.e.a.r.t. to realize that culture is an extremely dynamic and specific thing. Originating from the same country, state, even town, does not necessarily equate to the same culture. Living at h.e.a.r.t. is indeed a cross-cultural experience.
In addition to our full semester, fifteen-week program, we offer a three-week program that begins in the middle of May. Traditionally, we have incorporated a very brief Phase 1 in that abbreviated program. Over the course of the last few terms, however, we as a staff have concluded that the Phase 1 learning curve needs to be more integral to h.e.a.r.t. life even in our three-week offering.
In 2015 we’ll experiment with an entirely Phase 1 experience for the duration of the three-week program.
If you would like to spend three weeks learning about cross-cultural ministry, exploring appropriate skills useful for ministry in other cultures and being challenged by a totally unplugged community living experience, look for our application on the website and join us in May 2015.
Post by Dr. Michael Webb