>This past Tuesday, I had the joy of being at a gathering of church leaders convened by World Relief to talk about Haiti and an appropriate response from the church. Aside from the sharing of those who are on the ground in Haiti, the highlights were hearing David Livermore (author of “Serving with Eyes Wide Open”) and Brian Fikkert (author of “Helping without Hurting” and a former UMD prof).
Here’s a summary of some of what they shared. I’ll do Livermore’s today and Fikkert’s tomorrow. I found it deeply insightful.
Livermore: 5 Guiding Principles for Formulating a Response to the Situation in Haiti
1. Center of Christianity – following the research of Phillip Jenkins, Livermore noted that the center of Christianity is no longer in N. America and the West. There are vibrant Christian communities in places that need our help. If we attempt to do missions thinking we are the orthopraxical norm, we will embarrass ourselves and cause more trouble than aid.
2. Motivation – often, short term missions are billed as an adventure or fun, or some sort of self-fulfillment motive drives our efforts. We need to rethink the role of suffering in our missiology.
3. Urgency – Americans carry with us a “can-do” spirit of ingenuity and urgency. We want to do something, and we want to do something now. Often, that sort of Promethean spirit trumps long-term sustainability for local indigenous churches. We must remember that most often the people we serve know what they need better than we do. We need to take the time to listen and learn before going in and “fixing” things.
4. Money – who really is poor? Because we define poverty primarily as materialistic deprivation (something Fikkert addressed), we think of the solution as material. We come back from missions trips saying, “I realized how blessed I am…” Such a condescending attitude reinforces a superiority complex and an imperialistic attitude when it comes to serve. Do we look for wealth in the cultures we are going to serve? Do we enter into the mission field recognizing that we ourselves are poor in very different, but significant ways?
5. Bible – this has to do with contextualization. Do we think that as an educated Westerner we have the monopoly on how a text should be interpreted? How can theology be globalized? How can we learn from the biblical interpretation of other cultures?
One more thing: Livermore presented a compelling motivation for why short-term missions are important. He suggested that what people do on a short-term trip is not nearly as impactful as what they will do when they return home, and that they need to go on a short-term trip in order to gain a vision for what they need to do at home. Thus, the debriefing of a mission trip is hugely important because it connects our experience over there to our lives here. This could be through advocacy, mobilization, or launching into other cross-cultural missions opportunities right here on our doorstep.
My takeaway is further conviction that every Christian should go on an international short-term trip at some point in their lives. The reasons for this are that we will see how the North American church needs the global church (as well as how the global church needs the North American), we will get a taste for what God is doing in the world, and we will begin to embrace a global vision of the Church at large.