Greetings again from the ZealWithKnowledge blog. We seek to infuse the zeal Christian’s have to meet the needs of the poor with knowledge on how most effectively to do it. We don’t claim to have all the answers and instead seek to learn together how to most effectively relieve the suffering in this world especially as it applies to the health side of the development equation. This week we will again use the award winning “Evangelical Tourism” video series to pin point an issue to highlight. We are now on video two of the series and we don’t need to go very far to reach an important topic to discuss.
At just 48 seconds into the video we are told “Pastor Jorge Duran finds poor people for AIM (Adventures in Missions) to help.” Pastor Duran goes on to say how he is happy (or content would be a more literal translation of what he actually says) because it is a group of Christians who come to share the love of Christ and the people (those that will receive treatment during the week) need to see this.
I don’t know if this strikes anyone else as being a bit troubling but it does give me cause for concern. It is good to hear directly from the pastor who is assisting this group but is it really the job of a pastor to be looking for poor people for this group to “help?” The pastors I know in the country in which I serve have an awful lot on their plates already, not the least of which is to help their congregants understand that his job is to equip them to do the work of spreading the good news of Christ among their family, friends and neighbors. The vast majority of pastors in Central America have little theological training and minimal knowledge when it comes to the wholeness of what the Church is called to be in this world. Enrolling pastors to be our tour guides and logistics person is a terrible misuse of the human resources He has given His Church. Admittedly the video doesn’t give us much information about the rest of the local churches involvement so I make comments from a limited understanding but my experience has been consistent with what I have critiqued above.
If we recall how Jesus and then His disciples/apostles (primarily Paul) went about spreading the good news of the coming of the kingdom we never encounter them waiting to bring in the big guns (in this case the NorthAmerican group riding in on their big white horse-or in a big yellow bus) in order to get a foot in the door to a community. This is how it has been explained to me in my own setting. Pastors like to use groups from outside the country in order to attract more people and to make it more likely they’ll get a foot in the door of a difficult community. I just don’t see how that is biblical. When I hear this explanation the first thing that comes to mind is “Why is that pastor or his church finding it so difficult to enter a particular community?” What is the history of this community and why might it be so difficult to enter in? What about the church our pastor friend is sheparding and what about the pastor himself? Is it a healthy church whose members truly demonstrate the love of Christ to all or does it have struggles that are making it a poor example thus making the unreached community more resistant? Is this pastor a true servant or have we been duped into helping someone who simply knows the right things to say to the foreigners to get them interested in a project that primarily benefits the pastor and makes him look good? Difficult questions to be sure but believe me I don’t bring up these types of questions without some knowledge that this is exactly what happens in some instances. But once we understand more thoroughly what is usually a very complex situation we can better help this pastor and his church strategize how to make an effective entry. How often do we approach our attempts to spread the good news by asking such probing questions? Not very often I dare say.
There is so much more that could be said but as blog entries are not chapter in books I must keep it short. For example another important question that comes to mind is what does it reinforce in the minds of the local communities when they see the local church bringing in outsiders who stay for a week, see lots of people in the clinic, and then leave? Seems to me it reinforces the common belief that little gets done right unless someone from outside comes in to help. This reinforces the fatalistic worldview that most of the worlds poor have and tragically continues the cycle of dependency that so plagues so many of our efforts at helping the poor live healthier lives.
This is the blog for the Best Practices in Global Health Mission division of the Center for the Study of Health in Mission. It is a space for all who are interested in sharing opinions, ideas and best practices having to do with Christ centered health related ministry.