The time I spent in Arkansas last week was rich. As I have reflected on it, one session was particularly memorable. Three young missionary families who are preparing to move to Tanzania interviewed several missionary families who moved to Kenya thirty years ago as a team.
There were light-hearted moments when cultural/linguistic missteps were shared. There were points when the one sharing would choke up when the memories from decades ago came rushing back.
Two answers to one question really stood out for me, though. “If you had it to do over again, what would you do differently?” the new team asked. The older responder (currently serves as a professor of missiology) said, “We would teach them to give from very early in our time with them, and we would turn the leadership of churches and projects over to them much more quickly.”
This former missionary who continues to explore missions shared that the issue of giving had been raised recently. He had traveled to Kenya for a large gathering of the congregational leaders from the churches that had been planted. One African leader rebuked him sternly: “You did not teach us to give. We would not be facing some of the challenges we are right now, if you had taught us what the Bible says on this from the beginning.”
Acknowledging the truth of the rebuke, this older, wiser brother reminisced over the difficulty this topic raised. The team arrived with vehicles, finances and resources the people of this tribe might never have. “How can we call them to give when they live on less than $2.00 per day?” summed up the struggle.
This former missionary stated that their team had been intentional in turning over leadership more quickly than was the norm thirty years ago. But he affirmed they still waited too long.
These have lodged in my mind. Next week I plan to share some reflections on these two. What are your thoughts? I would love to hear from you before I express myself.
I don’t know much about missions, but reading this post made me think about control. I can imagine those missionaries “knowing” how things need to progress in these new churches without allowing them to grow the way God wants them to.
Another thought was that, as Americans, we often miss what a blessing it is to give. We are so consumed with getting the next gadget, that giving is an afterthought. We often give out of obligation rather than the joy the Bible teaches.
Having said this, I cannot imagine how hard it is to go into another country to teach the word of God. That these people you met with over the weekend even have a story to tell is amazing and a blessing to me!
Michelle, control is a huge issue in missions and in Western churches. Giving is so significant biblically, but even that gets sucked up into the issue of control. My next two posts will address each of these separately. Thanks for leaving a reply. I strongly agree with your last paragraph! It was a blessing to me to hear the wisdom being passed on to another generation!
John, what came to mind was they would probably given of their $2.00 a day more cheerfully than I gave for many years.
Realizing how God wants just me so He can live me has allowed me to give not out of necessity but my growing love.
Thank you for sharing!
Especially if they had discovered that giving is at the core of God’s own nature. My first trip to West Africa I witnessed a church where giving time was called “celebration time” and it truly was. Jesus’ comments about the widow’s giving certainly come to mind.
In what sense were they referring to giving?
Here’s to smooth sailin’
Regular giving to support the kinds of things taught in the New Testament: supporting widows and orphans, advancing the gospel into unreached areas, providing whatever is needed on a local level rather than wanting others to fund such needs. Too many mission points learn a financial dependency from the missionaries’ actions of funding projects without any local financial support.