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.