An American in Europe Teaching Africans ... About Culture??!!

By Phil Rice, YMI Romania Director and Vice President of Ministry Expansion

Recently, I had the privilege of teaching a great group of youth ministry students from the Evangelical Theological College (ETC) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on-line.  The course was our YMI Youth Ministry Master’s degree-level course entitled “Contemporary Youth Culture.”

The two-week adventure of engaging in their youth ministry training was both challenging and rewarding. When teaching on-line there are often difficulties but, in this current time, this is our most reliable platform to help us cross international borders. 

The reality that I was teaching African students about youth culture from Romania made me remember that God calls us to greater things than we can manage (or imagine) and provides all that we need!

The students at ETC were a mix of pastors, youth organization leaders, social workers and some young students who are just starting out in ministry. They were from all over Ethiopia and serve in multiple churches. The different backgrounds and professions, languages and cultures, denominations and experiences do not even start to address the fact that we were conducting class on-line in separate continents.  

So, what connected us when all these other differences made it difficult to understand one another’s worlds?  For it is the common bond that God has called each of us to reach and teach young people with the Gospel of Christ! This goal is worth pushing through any of the challenges that present themselves.

In those two weeks we studied how God created culture and is able to work in the midst of all the differences to reach people where they are. In a world where we are experiencing rampant polarization and division I saw God show up to give us His heart and breakdown barriers; to focus on learning how to work together for the purpose taking the gospel to a lost world. There will always be difficult days, but a life of ease is not what God has promised His children. When God calls us to greater things than we can manage, though it may be difficult and stressful, He always provides a way through it in the midst of it all!

Communicating cross-culturally on-line is indeed a challenge! It made me quickly realize how much I take for granted when I teach in-person.  It requires much more energy, effort, organization and focus from the teacher. Relationships are much harder to develop, and it can be difficult for the students to stay engaged. Organizing and communicating ideas and concepts electronically, especially when the emphasis is on the importance of relational development, seems sadly ironic. The patience it takes to have your schedule adjusted to work through technological issues, patchy electricity in Africa, individual availability and the strength of the internet requires extra grace.

No matter what the differences or difficulties we face, focusing our eyes on what God has is calling us to makes it possible to accomplish what only He can do. The students ended up doing a good job of understanding the material and doing the best they could to give presentations about what they had learned.

We now have nine more youth leaders who have been trained in youth culture! Thank you for your prayers and support as we train this generation of leaders to reach and teach youth for Christ!


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