I recently received a call from a college-age friend who is studying international economics at a Christian University. Over the years she has begun to experience increasing discomfort with the western church’s approach to mission — specifically international short-term teams. In one of her classes, she was assigned to develop a program that would impact the world through missions. She felt a little intimidated by her classmates, one of whom was a Ugandan student developing a project he was actually going to implement to help the orphans in his Ugandan community. I mean, seriously, how does a 20-year-old white girl from Texas not only think of such a community-impacting program, but actually understand the problem enough to develop an effective solution? I mean, she is pretty well traveled for someone of her young age and has been actively engaged in missions and outreach through her home churches mission program, but really — or so she thought.
The truth is she did have something to say and she did have the cultural understanding and relationships to create and implement a world-impacting program. As we talked, she shared about the things she gleaned from her home church’s missions programs — the good, the bad, regrets and treasured relationships. (Side note — I was the one leading missions at the church during her years of youth so for me this was truly insightful conversation). We continued to talk about her desire to see the American (US) Church end its current approach to missions and push into our painful mistakes of the past and seek forgiveness and healing. When the call ended she had decided to develop a program to educate pastors and those with deep influence in the church on “healthy” missions and the avoidable pitfalls of international, short-term teams.
I’m not sure how this project turned out or if she ever really took it on. I honestly wouldn’t put it past her to end global poverty. But she got me thinking, wouldn’t it be amazing if even just a few people used the time and energy typically used to prepare for and go out to serve internationally to educate their local Christian community (more specifically church pastors and influencers who genuinely think they understand and have a heart for mission) on what healthy mission looks like in 2018. Now that would be world changing!
If you are someone who is interested in being the type of world changer that acts locally by educating your church leadership, you have help. There are several organizations currently working hard to educate, engage and ever coach church leadership on how to develop a missions program that will not sacrifice God’s children around the world in an effort to educate or even bless western “missionaries.” Check out a few I have found helpful.
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