A great film, a somewhat dodgy Instagram post and some reflections on charity and mission.
An American author tells us what Africa needs and an African disagrees. Who should we be listening to?
‘I have little doubt as to the good intentions of the vast majority of mission efforts from the North to the South today. I do doubt whether many practitioners in the North understand what is happening in the South.’
I am not calling for an end to mercy ministries. I am calling for them to be made better. I am calling for them to be more reciprocal, less one sided and thought of more as a stepping stone on the road to serious Christian discipleship within the local church.
Not everything that claims to be Christian witness is actually effective or even comprehensible to other people. It’s also true that not all forms of aid or financial support are effective in helping the people they are aimed at; in fact some forms of outside development aid can actually be harmful.
… that there should be some missionaries from the West whose ministries are conducted in the language of the people being reached, without use of outside financial subsidy.
We are not to be self-dependant, but interdependent. This is true of individuals, but it is also true of Churches. To plant churches which are fully independent and self-reliant is as much of a problem as planting churches which are wholly dependent on foreign missionaries.
The hardest thing there is in ministry is getting people to just open up their Bibles. Be a champion for getting people into the Word of God; don’t be a champion for getting people away from a translation.
However, while trying to be balanced and charitable, I do have one huge problem with the whole Band Aid thing; it portrays Africans as people who need things doing for them and aren’t able to address their own problems. Of the six countries which have been affected by the current Ebola outbreak, two (Senegal and Nigeria) have contained it effectively (which is more than the USA managed) and Mali seems to be on top of it.
The uncomfortable message in this video is applicable to Christian mission as much as it is to the wider development world. There is a role for expat missionaries and volunteers in Africa, but that role is working alongside local people, under their leadership and responding to their realities. Not taking pre-packaged solutions from the West.