Long-term thinking for Short-Term Associates


Long-term thinking for Short-Term Associates

Mark Dartnell STA Co-ordinator

Malawi is known as a land of contrasts; contrasts between the rural villages and towns and cities, contrasts between poor and affluent Malawians. But recently, one of our team has, as part of his work, visited a country of even greater contrasts. Mark Dartnell is SIM’s International Short-Term Programme Coordinator and, as part of his work to visit other fields, he recently spent some time in Northern India.

As with other field visits, Mark was looking at how the Indian Field deals with Short-Term Associates (STAs) and the kind of programme they have for the STAs to work in. But he found a great deal more besides.

“In all of the other countries I have visited we have been able to talk openly about SIM, but not so in India,” said Mark.

“The part of the country I was in was strongly Hindu which meant we had to be very wary of what we said, even in private SIM-related meetings. There was a lot of idol worship; almost every street corner seemed to have one idol or another set up there and people praying to it. The River Ganges is a centre for prayer every evening and all of this took getting used to.

“But what was good was to see just how SIM India is coping with this and the kind of programmes they have for STAs, programmes which I think could work well in other parts of the world.”

One such programme, ‘Incredible India’ surprised Mark in the way it operates.

“It is almost like a Mission Exposure Programme, where STAs come for four months but spend the first two months in language and cultural learning,” he said.

“Only after that do they get any first-hand ministry involvement. It works very well and can be seen as a taster for STAs with a view to inspiring them to come back for long-term mission work. I think this could be rolled out in other areas, changing it as needed for local situations, but it could be a way forward for training STAs.”

Evening prayer to the River Ganges

Mark has been in his current post since 2009, starting when he was based with his wife Leanne (Personnel Coordinator for SIM Malawi) in Burkina Faso and continuing with the job when they moved to Malawi two years ago. As well as holding the International Coordinator role, Mark is SIM Malawi’s STA programme coordinator, looking to place people wanting to come out as STAs from all over the world for anything from a few months to two years.

So what is he looking for in a potential STA, whether it is someone coming specifically to Malawi or someone generally wanting to get involved with SIM’s STA programme world-wide?

“I think there are three essentials that anyone looking to come out to the mission field should have; a Kingdom Vision, a Servant Heart, and a Willingness to Learn,” he said.

“That applies across the board but I think it is especially important for STAs because my hope is that people who come out on short-term trips may be inspired to come back out to the field long-term, and all of those attributes are going to be needed.”

Looking to the future, Mark wants to set up better communication links between Field and Sending Offices’ STA Coordinators, to ensure a better transfer of information and a sharing good-practice to ensure that the experience STAs have in the various fields is positive, helping both the short-termer and also the field itself.