We just spent the last three weeks working on a SOWER project https://sowerministry.org/ at the Center For Intercultural Training (C.I.T.) https://cit-online.org/ in Union Mills, North Carolina.

Union Mills is just a small little community in the mountains of Western North Carolina. It’s about 50 miles east of Asheville. It’s such a small community we couldn’t even find it in our atlas! We were told this area has an interesting history involving gold mines, an original coin mint and it was a Cherokee Nation trailway. We didn’t get to do much research on this, but it did sound interesting.

Our project this month was to work at the center primarily in maintenance, repairs and in the kitchen. We knew that these were the main areas of assistance needed here before we arrived but we really didn’t know what their misson is.

The first day the director met with us to explain what they did here and tell us a little about their history. Our primary reason for choosing this location was a bit of a selfish one. Our older son and his family live about an hour and half from Union Mills and we knew we could visit them on the weekends.

Once we were aware of the size of the property, (they have 28 acres), the mission and the purpose of this organization we were totally impressed. There are numerous buildings and amenities there which include furnished dorm rooms, apartments, a cafeteria which provides several of their meals, a rec center, classrooms, a swimming pool, a picnic shelter, a fire pit, wifi, a couple of different age appropriate playgounds and a walking trail.

I’m sumarizing what we learned about C.I.T. while we were there, but more info can be gained by going to their website. https://cit-online.org/. Once an individual or a family has gone through the process and has been chosen to go to a specific country it’s been found that they are more effective if they’ve had training on the culture and language. For some, their ministry organization will send them to C.I.T. and pay for their expenses. Some come on their own. Training, housing and some meals are provided for them while they are there. If there are families with children, training for the children and childcare is also provided.

At first, we didn’t understand how the facilitators, mostly former missionaires, could train everyone on all the cultures in all the different countries. They actually teach them HOW TO LEARN the culture. The director explained that cultures are generally based on fear, shame or guilt. Fear of this god you’re trying to please but probably never will; shame that you’re not worthy and probably never will be or guilt about the things you’ve done or probably will do. Once that’s figured out they can learn how to relate to the people in their country. I think he said that most of these types of cultures are regionalized so that helps them have an idea about the culture of where they are going.

If they choose to stay for the extra two weeks of language training, they will learn HOW TO LEARN the language and they practice some language learning skills.

The first 6 weeks of the intercultural training gives them time to work on learning how to learn and practice those skills as well as team building exercises. They’ll be working with teams and developing new teams once they arrive in their new country.

They also have to learn how to raise support. This mostly entails speaking to individuals or organizations about where they are going, why they are going, and letting God do the rest.

Our SOWER group was privileged each morning to have one of the participants share their story with us. They told us about where they came from, why they were doing this, and if they could, they told us about their country and the team already there. Some countries are restricted and participants are not allowed to go there. They use the term participants because missionaries are not allowed in some countries. They may go in as humanitarians, perhaps english teachers, but not missionaries.

We didn’t learn all about the teachings for the children. Of course, it was age appropriate. There were both teenagers and babies there while we were there. These kids will be having all kinds of experiences which can be overwhelming, not even counting the hours of long travel and flight times. But the more they’re prepared, the better they’ll be able to cope.

This swinging bridge, is not only used for fun, but also for training the children but it needed some repair.

I’m not sure what each color means, but each color has a different meaning. The bridge is high on one end, low in the middle and then high again on the other end. As you walk across it, it’s a little shakey. The childcare worker explained that at the beginning of this new adventure, everything is fun and exciting and not too scary. As they continue on, it starts to get a little scary and it’s not as much fun. Eventually, they’ll get to the low part, where it’s not fun anymore, they don’t have many friends, they’re not getting the lanuage very well and basically just not happy, maybe even a little depressed. BUT, if they keep going, they’ll be back on the high part of the bridge. At this point, they are getting the language; they are getting settled in and they’re beginning to make new friends.

Another service provided at C.I.T. are week long rest and relaxtion sessions for those coming off the mission field. These are called debrief sessions. It’s a time for them to process what’s happened on the field and process all the emotions they may have had or currently have.

Below are some pictures from our stay there.

Although we didn’t know what to expect upon arrival, we were totally impressed with the large impact this relatively small campus can make on the world and the fulfillment of the great commission.

Until, the next time…