“Did you learn to paint by correspondence course?”

...This was the reaction of a church friend when I (Paul Davies) told him that it was I who had decorated our apartment in Argentina. I took it that he wasn’t impressed with the quality. It is understandable because, as I often say, I am practically useless at D.I.Y!

It is true, there are things that one cannot learn to do ‘theoretically’. Dr Sherylle Calder, the visual awareness coach of the England Rugby team has said:

“We develop skills by climbing trees, walking on walls and falling off and learning - all those visual motor skills which people aren’t doing any more.”

This is so true of training for Missional life and work. We cannot simply train by reading books and listening to lectures, two ways which are great at transmitting facts and knowledge but cannot alone, develop the skills essential for cross-cultural life and work. These need to be taught by activity and example. 

My Argentine friend would have needed to show me how to use a brush or roller in a more skillful way. I could look it up on YouTube but without trial and error i.e. doing it, I would not improve my painting and decorating skills or confidence! 

At All Nations our training has always been praxis orientated – as distinguished from theory. David Morris, the Principal of All Nations from 1962-1981 was in the Royal Artillery and was appointed as Training Officer. In training he invented various scenarios to simulate crises that the gunners would face. This was called “Tactical Exercises Without Troops (T.E.W.T.). And guess what - Morris used this type of training at All Nations. 

Although we no longer require students to begin by building their own accommodation today, the practical, activity based training does still continue, especially on our En Route programme. We train for action! It is nice to have an expert validate what we do, thank you Dr. Calder!

So I may not be a ‘dab-hand’ at painting and decorating, and perhaps if I had more opportunity to try then I would be confident enough to paint Buckingham Palace; but I am confident to step out into the mission field and I thank All Nations for the ‘holistic’ training that they provided me with all those years ago and continues to provide today! 

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