This video was taken at the location of an old family mission outpost in current day Myanmar.
Over a century ago my great great grandfather, William Marcus Young, began working in Myanmar among the hill tribes of the Shan State. I am the fourth generation to work in this area, and some of my children have deep interest in working in SE Asia as well.
Previous generations had it so much different than we do now. They were not able to reach Myanmar within a matter of hours by flight, or to FaceTime their family once they arrived. In so many ways, their choice to work here seems like a greater sacrifice than ours. But it is because of the foundation they laid through their pioneering work that we have been able to build upon that work, and have an even deeper impact. Families who follow God’s call create impact.
Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Can a land be born in one day? Can a nation be brought forth all at once? (Isaiah 66:8 NASB).
I’ve heard people preach from this text over the years that a nation can be saved in a day. However, a mentor of mine, who was a third generation missionary used to say, “You can lead a tribe to the Lord in a day but it takes 3-4 generations for them to see transformation.” As a young guy on the field, this statement wasn’t very appealing. As I pondered it over the years, in the context of injustice, wars, and practices like head hunting, it began to become more clear.
Social psychologist Geert Hofstede’s research indicates that values are formed and set into cultures by the rising generation – children. It takes 3 to 4 generations for a culture to really move from one place to another. To unlearn the old and apply the new value set. This is cultural transformation at a deep level. We see a lot of external changes in a culture that seem to happen overnight, but if we study the history of these we find that there were things going on generations ago that are impacting the culture of today.
Consider how we can make pathways out of a culture of violence. This requires us to set values of peace into the first generation that can grow to something solid by that generation investing in the rising generation and so on. Our desire for fast change isn’t wrong. Our paradigm can shift radically when we understand who God is, but our culture still creates our canvas for understanding God. To shift the foundations of a culture requires us to invest in the generation coming behind us.
Families, business and churches who recognize these long term patterns and invest time giving their best to a rising generation are ahead of the curve. It’s not wrong to want change now, but it is unwise to expect lasting change without using generational strategy.
We work with organizations to help them develop impact strategies. If you or your organization are thinking through concepts of multi-generational change or if you’re struggling through how to maintain your impact in the midst of this pandemic, I would love to have a conversation with you, feel free to reach out to me. If you’d like to receive my blog updates in your inbox you can sign up in the link below.