EFP Week 4 Post

 

  1. The reasons you chose the person with whom you had the conversation.

I chose this person because they are someone from a cross-cultural (Syrian Muslim) background that I have started to build a good relationship and trust with. This person also indicated recently that they would like to be Christian. I would say that I have already begun an empowerment relationship but am still figuring out how I can empower better.

  1. A brief description of how your context affected your approach.

I interviewed him in his home and because he is Muslim and Syrian background and had only just expressed interest in being a Christian I needed to be extremely careful in my wording and not reference his desire to be a Christian as his parents were home and frequently within earshot. All of the language which I used needed to be fairly simple English and not assume prior knowledge of Christian concepts. It also meant that several of the concepts I was explaining required considerable explanation.

In hindsight I feel that the questions should have been more focused on story rather than concepts as the times which he described his own story were more beneficial than almost all of the answers to any questions.

  1. The questions and comments you used that generated helpful responses.

One of the questions that yielded the best results was asking him what we can do together to help him to introduce others to Jesus. He expressed an interest in learning more about Jesus together, about wanting to read the bible together, pray and go to church.

Another question which helped was asking him about what would benefit his family. He expressed that he felt the issues that his family struggled with were from putting themselves first rather than knowing God and that if they could know God better he thought they would struggle less.

Beyond those questions however I found that many of my questions fell flat. I often did not get answers which helped me to better understand him or how he sees the vision God has for his life.

  1. A description of what was helpful and what was difficult in the process.

One of the biggest difficulties was overcoming the language barrier. There were several times when he did not understand the question or he did understand the question but did not know how to explain his answer. There were a few times where I attempted to use google translate to help but he still was unsure of how to respond. I think I was asking him questions that were outside of the typical English conversations he’d had as his English normally is quite good.

Another difficulty was that his answers tended to be more generic about what people should do rather than answers being about him specifically. He seemed to understand the concept of vision but didn’t seem able to grasp what kind of vision God might have for him. I struggled to be able to restate the questions in a way which might help him to come to an answer.

What ended up being pretty helpful was not trying to interrupt or correct him when he wasn’t answering the question correctly or directly. There were several times where he did not answer the question I had asked but instead shared his story which actually gave greater insights to what his heart was than the original question would have. For example, one question I asked him was “What type of people do you have compassion for?” At the time he simply said “Anyone who is in need. Anybody who needs something I want to try to help them.” But when I asked him about what he liked about a retreat we went on he shared with me differences between Canadians and Syrians and told me that he has not felt lonely in Canada like he did back in Syria and that he has a heart for people who feel alone.

  1. What you learned that will shape future interactions as you seek to empower others.

The greatest thing I feel I learned from this experience was patience. Our discussion yielded that trust has been established, he feels comfortable with me and he believes that I care about him. The conversation did reveal some of his heart and how God has been working in his life but it failed to uncover or direct him towards a specific vision. It did however give some clues as to what that might be, for example: his heart for the lonely. It also provided some opportunity for empowerment in the future as he’s expressed interest in reading scripture together. Overall, I came away feeling like I’d made some progress but not the level of insight I had been hoping for. I feel like some of this was due to some of my questions being overly complicated and that this could be helped by having the questions more focused on his story than on concepts.

itskevinmiller

About itskevinmiller

I'm 29 and living in Edmonton, AB. My wife Micaela and I have recently been accepted into full time missions with Fellowship International. We hope to go to Pakistan in Summer 2019. In preparation for missions I am enrolling in the Immerse Masters of Divinity program at Northwest Baptist Seminary.

12 Responses to EFP Week 4 Post

  1. Mark Naylor Mark Naylor says:

    HI Kevin,
    I love this thinking. Even before the person becomes a Christian, you are thinking about empowering. Great stuff, especially with Richard’s adage – “what you win them with is what you win them to.”

    I also like the insight about story vs abstract concepts. Westerners like to distill and summarize into main points. Pakistanis find the impact in their stories and poetry – much more profound and impacting. You might want to ask Rod for some Sufi stories 🙂 His comment about not feeling alone in relating an incident in his life is a great illustration of what you have discovered.

    You mentioned: “I often did not get answers which helped me to better understand him or how he sees the vision God has for his life.” I wonder if this is partly a cultural issue. You may have been asking a personal / individual question. This may have sounded like taking initiative and focusing on a personal life choice. It is very western for people to feel like leaders or at least in control of their own lives and able to make decisions and it is easy for us as disciple makers to frame the questions from that western viewpoint. However, those in the majority world are more communal and see themselves as followers fitting into the world as it is. This may be why he has the vision that if “we – our family” knew God more “we” would suffer less.

    I suspect that this orientation is reflected in your comment “He seemed to understand the concept of vision but didn’t seem able to grasp what kind of vision God might have for him.” We in the west are able to think clearly as individuals about what we might do and where we might fit. See Cathy’s leading question and my comment about starting with God’s vision and what good change looks like and then moving to where an individual may fit into the picture of God’s great mission.

    I smiled when I read this:
    “The conversation … failed to uncover or direct him towards a specific vision. It did however give some clues as to what that might be, for example: his heart for the lonely. It also provided some opportunity for empowerment in the future as he’s expressed interest in reading scripture together.”
    I smiled because I thought you made great progress and it wasn’t a failure at all. The “clue” is great insight with incredible potential and worth pursuing. His passion for discover what God wants and what God is like is very positive – empowering looks like then challenging him to always say “Now what do I do?” after each study.

    Empowering others is a journey that is more about the rider and the elephant than the pathway (see my comment in Cathy’s post). The pathway is the easy part, the rider and the elephant can take a long time to develop – but once the elephant starts moving, it is hard to stop.

    This is a great beginning. Thanks Kevin.

    • AdamP AdamP says:

      “Even before the person becomes a Christian, you are thinking about empowering. Great stuff, especially with Richard’s adage – “what you win them with is what you win them to.”
      – This brings up a questions for me Mark. Is empowerment still possible with someone who hasn’t expressed any interest in Jesus? Kevin’s friend has expressed interest, which makes discipleship / empowerment / a possible DBS scenario possible. Are there ways to empower someone who isn’t an interested seeker, maybe in ways that create a space for that curiosity to manifest?

      “In hindsight I feel that the questions should have been more focused on story rather than concepts as the times which he described his own story were more beneficial than almost all of the answers to any questions.”
      – I love this. Rather than asking questions that require a conceptual response (direct communication?), how about asking questions that create the space to share a story (indirect communication)? I can envision this as being a powerful tool with the Japanese, and even for my friend that I interviewed. My impression is that he’s so used to distilling info and giving the expected answer, point-by-point, that creating a space and encouraging him to story-tell might be powerful as well.

      “What ended up being pretty helpful was not trying to interrupt or correct him when he wasn’t answering the question correctly or directly. There were several times where he did not answer the question I had asked but instead shared his story which actually gave greater insights to what his heart was than the original question would have.”
      – This is cool, and reinforces the story-focus in asking questions. Allow the response to be the natural response, not an expected response on our part.

      “I smiled because I thought you made great progress and it wasn’t a failure at all. The “clue” is great insight with incredible potential and worth pursuing.”
      – Thanks for this Mark. While my friend didn’t seem to grasp any sort of drawn-out vision that God has for him, he did mention working and serving youth a lot. That can be a potential clue worth pursuing as well.

      • Mark Naylor Mark Naylor says:

        Thanks Adam,
        Re. your last comment. That is a good thought that your friend may have a vision and call to serve youth. Worth pursuing.

        Re. empowering. The question is what is the priority for your energies? What will give you the greatest increase in the kingdom of God? Jesus dealt with this in the parable of the sower. The seed is the word of God, the soil is the person. The good soil is the person worth cultivating because the return is the greatest with the seed or the word increasing a hundred times. The multiplication principle seems to point to discernment about who we invest in at the intense level that empowering requires.

      • itskevinmiller itskevinmiller says:

        Hey Adam,

        I think that questions that lead to story are great and help reveal a lot more about who we are and what our vision is! I think asking Canadians is great practice because it’s a lot harder! We tend to not think of our lives as story quite as much but we all have our stories to share. I think it will be invaluable for me in Pakistan too. I’ll have to follow up with Mark’s suggestion and ask Rod for some stories.

        “Allow the response to be the natural response, not an expected response on our part.” Not that I didn’t have some awkward moments not knowing how to respond or what to say when he went on a tangent that didn’t answer my question :P. I may go with the flow but sometimes it’s a pretty bumpy ride haha.

    • itskevinmiller itskevinmiller says:

      Hi Mark,

      I really like that saying. I think I’m going to be quoting that more in the future!

      I have found that reading this book has synced up well with reading Leading with a Limp. That book focuses quite a bit on how our story and identifying the story of others is essential to effective leadership. During the mens retreat I led a couple of weekends ago I had the group read through the book of Jonah and identify similarities with their stories and share those with others. Story and it’s importance in our lives has been on my mind a lot lately!
      In terms of your analysis of whether my questions were too personal/individual I don’t think this is the case for him. Despite being from a more communal society he is very individualistic. It was not that he did not have a vision for the future or of things that he could be doing for himself but that he did not see clearly how God was a part of that. His answers about what he should be doing or what his vision was for the future were all about working, learning better English, making money. I think it was more that the idea of a relationship with God is still so new that he does not fully grasp that God may have a plan for him. In terms of his relationship with his family, he has a very difficult relationship with his family and sees himself as quite distinct from them. The wording was that “if THEY could know God better they would struggle less.” He feels he believes in God but that his family does not and if they did as well the families issues would be better.

      I also feel I should be clear that I didn’t think the interview was a failure…I more meant that my initial questions for the most part fell flat and that I didn’t feel I was able to nail down an exact vision for him. I came away from the exercise feeling I’d made some decent insight and had some steps to go forward. It felt like it was very much the tip of the iceberg however and that many more questions discussions will be needed to help him with narrowing in on that vision!

      • Mark Naylor Mark Naylor says:

        Thanks Kevin,
        Good clarifications. Glad to see that you time with friend did feel like a good beginning, even if it faltered in places.
        Thanks for the clarification about the individual / communal dynamic. You explanation seems very feasible. So where will you take the conversation now? How will your experience impact your understanding of empowering and help shape your comprehensive project? (no need to answer these questions here, but I would like to see that addressed in your paper).

        Perhaps a direction to pursue is to find out what it means for him to know God better than his family, and how that it evident in speech and action.

        • itskevinmiller itskevinmiller says:

          Hey Mark,

          I think the next step is to start walking through scripture with him. Maybe through one of the gospels. I also might invite him into the mens group I meet with regularly as we will be going through a study on grace (608 #4 Grace in Action) one of the things I noticed from his responses was that he does not appear to understand the concept of grace. In his understanding of how Jesus works in peoples lives he frequently made statements like “If you do good things, set your focus on God and live a good life then he will do good things for you.” I think either a focus on grace or learning more about the character of Jesus together will be a great next step. Grace in action could be great because it immediately transitions after the study to “how do we put this in action?” It can get him seeing early how he should be applying and walking through what he’s learning. Even before this interview I have also started making sure we pray together at the end of each time we meet together.
          I think one of my big takeaways for my discipleship project is that it will likely need to be more fluid, not scripted questions and program, but more of a focus on helping to identify Jesus’ story in the individual. More of a focus on the rider and elephant rather than having a set of specific steps to go through. More to come in the paper of course 😉

          • Mark Naylor Mark Naylor says:

            Excellent Kevin,
            You are indicating great discipleship instincts – not only identifying a weakness (lack of perspective on grace), but you have a laid out some very practical, doable and impacting next steps to deal with in a “discovery” fashion. This also requires some sacrifice on your part in giving your time to him. Good character and skills in evidence here.

  2. Cathy Yinger Cathy Yinger says:

    Hi, Kevin! So glad to know this Syrian man has you in his life! What a blessing for him. Do you enjoy doing things together? Does he see you as someone with whom he can have fun, as well as someone who can help him with his spiritual struggle?

    I loved this: What ended up being pretty helpful was not trying to interrupt or correct him when he wasn’t answering the question correctly or directly. There were several times where he did not answer the question I had asked but instead shared his story which actually gave greater insights to what his heart was than the original question would have.
    Good for you for hearing his heart!

    • itskevinmiller itskevinmiller says:

      Hey Cathy,

      Yes, he and I have a pretty good relationship in general. I have brought him to play games many times and we frequently hang out and do things together for fun, both individually and with each others friends. Our church has done a great job of coming alongside their family as a whole and I feel pretty blessed that it is not just me that has been invested in their lives. I had the privilege of leading a camp retreat which was their first time in the mountains and they connected really well with the guys who came out. Phil was there and he bonded pretty well with them too!

      • Mark Naylor Mark Naylor says:

        Hi Kevin and Cathy,
        You are both making a good point that mentoring / empowering needs to be more holistic that focusing on the task at hand. There is a personal dimension of getting know each other in casual, friendly ways that creates bonds and breaks down barriers. Thanks for the reminder.

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