Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Missionaries Going "Native"

My boys and I have been studying "History of God's Kingdom" this year in their homeschool curriculum. We read a lot about how the kingdom has advanced in different countries, which means we read a lot about missionaries and heroes of the faith. One common thread we read is how much in conflict the missionaries were with each other. This is a sad thing to see! Mainly, the missionaries judge each other about the methods they use, and they end up dividing into two camps. The first one is composed of the missionaries who live on compounds all together and only leave to go out and preach, returning to their safety zone afterwards. The other camp is composed of the missionaries who don't live amongst their fellow countrymen and who go out and live, work, and explore with the "natives".

The most "successful" missionaries seem to have always been part of the second camp! David Livingstone & Hudson Taylor come to mind. My son pointed this out to me yesterday and then told me that when he's a missionary to Japan he definitely wants to be like them. There's a huge cost to it, though, so he needs to be prepared. I imagine the rejection hurts, the mockery stings, and the loneliness is prevalent in their lives.

We used to live in Nicaragua and we were the only Americans living in our town (besides Peace Corps volunteers coming in to learn Spanish). The other missionaries, who are Mexicans, lived two blocks away. I was always amazed to speak with the American missionaries we met in other cities, and they didn't know Spanish, they hadn't even been on a public bus and didn't know many of the national cuisines! They all lived in a gated neighborhood, and their kids all went to an American Christian school.

Here in our little town in Mexico, we have one other American missionary, and she lives two doors down from us on the ministry campus. I guess we are more sheltered here, but we also have Mexicans living on either side of us.

I hope that I am leaving a footprint here in Mexico by my willingness to live and work among the people I love so much. I DO love speaking with the few Americans I run into around here, but that is so rare that I don't feel like it distracts me from my calling to be Christ here.


Amrita said...

My dear Jan, very good post there.

Beind a "native" I have seen missionaries from both camps and know them well.

From a nartive 's point of view let me tell you that the 1st camp missionaries hardly achieve anything, they seem to be cooling their heels deputing natives to do all the hard work here. They are just the bosses - the sahibs.

Such a couple were members of our church. My family befriended them when they were new. But always thought themselves very superior to Indians and they tried to meddle with the affairs of our church. Many times we gave in but when we did not they left and took several others (under their influence) with them.People working for them suffer because their racist attitudes.

But the mssionaries from the second camp are just the opposite. They have mingled with us well . They are earthy people.I know many of them.They are loved and respected and when they go home for furloughs or retirement large crowds gather to bid them farewell and they are missed so much. And many of their children return to serve in India too.

I hope you don 't mind me being so frank. This is from a native 's point of view

Jan said...

Thank you for your point of view, Amrita! I have to admit that my American culture infuses pride in us about how we are the ones who have the answers for the world. Our independent spirit can be a good thing AND a bad thing. I was so humbled when we went on the mission field because I saw that God was working through the Nicaraguans to show me another part of Himself. I am thankful for this lesson, because He has shown me that I have a lot to offer, but I also have a lot to learn!
So, I offer my talents, my viewpoints, my opinions, my giftings - and I keep my heart, mind, eyes, and ears open to receive what the Lord wants to teach me through my brothers and sisters no matter where I am.

Amrita said...

Thank you Jan, and i must add I 've had a positive experience with most of the missionaries I have met, I have learnt a lot from them