Confession #125: Service Without Wisdom Is Not Service At All
I’ve been a short-term mission participant,
Short-term mission leader,
I’ve played many roles when it comes to missions, specifically in Haiti. Overtime I have learned that service without wisdom and understanding is not service at all. So I started reading…a lot.
Today I want to share my favorite books on missions and Haiti. This is not a complete list. There are many other great books out there. Many I have not even read myself. These are just my favorites…today that is.
If you support missions in Haiti, serve here in any capacity (short or long term), or are considering starting something new of your own please pick up one or more of these books.
The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost you all that you have, get understanding. Proverbs 4:7
ON MISSIONS & HAITI
…you can truly understand only when you realize that to love Haiti is to come away bruised; that loving Haiti is to love something that may not even love itself, but that it’s still love, after all…
Between the 1950s and the 1970s foreign aid had become the only significant source of wealth in the country and because of the associated corruption, negligence, and near total absence of any accountability, it had become a monster. All the politicians and any industrious, entrepreneurial, and ambitious individual focused on the NGOs. Politicians, schoolteachers, craftsman, contractors, they were all feeding at the trough of foreign aid. It was the singular economic force, the pace setter, the final and only front in the war being waged against a disaster that in retrospect I try show in this book was largely the making of the NGOs themselves.
Superiority cloaked in a desire to serve is still superiority. It’s not our words that count but the perception of the local people who watch our lives and sense our attitudes…If you try to serve people without understanding them you are more likely to be perceived as a benevolent oppressor.
Avoid paternalism. Do not do for people what they can do for themselves.
What we do as cross-cultural ministers can have a powerful effect on a country either for or against a movement for Christ. Although our cross-cultural strategies are almost always well intended, they can actually hinder genuine growth of the church of Jesus Christ within nations. Our imprint upon another culture cannot be instantly recalls. As missionaries, our words and actions carry weight for years to come- the good, the bad, and the ugly.
I believe that God grieves for every child who is living in an orphanage because that situation was never meant to be. It maybe a temporary “fix” in a time of crisis, but as a long-term solution, orphanages simply aren’t enough to nurture children as God intended.
If we are serious about significant impact, the missions we invest in must produce measurable results. And to achieve measurable change in the lives of the poor and the communities they inhabit, focused, not diversified, investment is required.
ON MISSIONS & MONEY
Good intentions are not enough to ensure good outcomes in cross-culture partnerships.
Besides the differences Westerners face in language, culture, and skin color, they are not part of the basic interdependence of socity, even though they frequently interact with it and constantly bump into it. They are economically independent, so they never have need to be on the receiving end of reciprocal relationships. They obviously are not part of any local ethnic group or extended family. They are usually only present for a short time in an African community. So it is very difficult for Westerners to really fit into African society as equals or even as valid partners. The Westerners are people who appear to have ample resources that many Africans would like to have them share but lack most other qualifications for meaningful relationships.
Our challenge is to find a way to help that does not leave others with the impression they are too weal, too helpless and too uninformed to help themselves.
ON MISSIONARY RESOURCES
This handbook has been written primarily for those who live far from medical centers, in places where this is no doctor. But even where there are doctors, people can and should take the lead in their own health care. So this book is for everyone who cares.
Missionaries who communicate God’s eternal message in the contemporary contexts of the world’s people cannot base that message on Western cognitive domains because they cannot assume that all people accept these domains. They must learn the domains of their recipient culture and judge whether Christianity can be communicated through those categories or whether other categories of reality must be introduced.