Posts tagged with: missionary

globe-hands-missionsMore and more, Western churches are opening their eyes to the risks and temptations inherent in so-called “short-term missions,” whether manifested in our basic vocabulary, paternalistic attitudes, or reactionary service.

As films like Poverty, Inc. and the PovertyCure series demonstrate, our cultural priorities and preferred solutions often distract us from the true identities and creative capacities of our neighbors. Paired with a passion to “do good,” and standing atop an abundance of resources, it’s easy to forget and neglect the importance of real relationship, holistic service, and long-term discipleship.

For missionary Nik Ripken, those missing pieces were made clear through a range of interviews with persecuted Christians in over 45 countries, whose opinions about what makes a “good” Western missionary challenged his own approach and priorities.

In a stirring set of reflections, Ripken describes this shift in his thinking. Serving in an unnamed Islamic country, Ripken was interviewing a group of persecuted Christians about their trials and struggles with their families, communities, and government. They were remarkably open and vulnerable in their answers until he changed the topic to Western missionaries.

“What do we do well?” he asked. “What things do we not do well? What should we start doing? What should we stop doing? What should we pick up? What should we lay down? What makes a good missionary?” (more…)

missions-globeChristians have routinely accepted a range of false dichotomies when it comes to so-called “full-time ministry,” confining such work to the vocation of pastor or evangelist or missionary.

The implications are clear: Those who enter or leave such vocations are thought to be “entering the work world” or “leaving the ministry,” whether it be for business or education or government. To the contrary, God has called all of us to minister to the lost across all vocations, and to do so “full-time.”

With the rise of the faith-work movement, the problems with this type of vocabulary have been helpfully exposed, and the underlying attitudes and imaginations are beginning to shift. What’s less discussed is how such a view can trickle into the world Christian missions and global aid.

This is most evident in the realm of “short-term missions,” which have become a core focus of ministry for many churches and school. I recently highlighted some helpful tips on avoiding a “messiah complex” in such scenarios, a temptation that the broader culture continues to peddle and promote at every turn. As we enter and experience new cultures and socio-economic realities, particularly in short-term and limited timeframes, we should remember to be learners and disciples, even as we preach and bear witness to the Gospel. (more…)

Mincaye of the Waodani

Mincaye of the Waodani

As we continue to encounter the adverse effects of certain forms of foreign aid and other misaligned efforts to alleviate poverty, it becomes increasingly clear that those in need require a level of care, concern, and discipleship not well suited to detached top-down “solutions.”

But just as we ought to be careful about the types of solutions we create, we ought to give the same level of attentiveness to the needs themselves, which are no less complex and difficult to discern.

Steve Saint, author of End of the Spear and missionary to the Waodani people of Ecuador, offers some helpful insights and warnings along these lines, critiquing the West’s tendency to project its “standards, values and perception of need onto others,” particularly when it comes to material needs.

“When people visit the Waodani,” he explains, “they look around and think, ‘Wow, these people have nothing!’” Yet, when the Waodani encounter the lifestyles of foreign outsiders, they tend to find them unseemly and excessive. (more…)

fast-food-worker1Most of us have spent at least a little time working in jobs we weren’t thrilled about. For me, it peaked with McDonald’s (no offense, Ronald).

For Trevin Wax, it was Cracker Barrel:

I never wanted to work at Cracker Barrel. I had business experience as an office manager, plus five years of international missions experience tucked under my belt.

But none of that mattered when the most pressing question was, How will you provide for your wife and son this week? Like many before and after me, I did whatever was necessary.

In the past, I’ve referred to such work as “needs-based” — an adjective that would seem highly redundant to most of our ancestors, not to mention plenty of today’s poor. Our now-widespread discussions and contemplations about vocation and personal calling are somewhat new, and we should be careful to recognize why exactly we have the reactions we do about working at reliable, air-conditioned joints like Cracker Barrel.

Each new wave of economic progress and individual empowerment has brought more opportunity to look upward and onward, beyond meeting our own needs and toward something bigger and brighter and so on. This is a marvelous thing, but with such opportunity and privilege also comes a temptation to look inward when it’s convenient — to rejoice in ourselves when we succeed and get grumpy when we wind up sniffing grease at Cracker Barrel.

Wax, however, looks back on his experience as much more than a pay-the-bills moment. Rather, the 18 months he spent at Cracker Barrel serves as “a reminder of the Lord’s faithfulness to us during a difficult, sometimes frustrating, season of life.” Pointing out that “there are hidden blessings in unwelcome work,” Wax proceeds to offer four reminders for those who find themselves in work situations that don’t seem to fit the mission. (more…)