Monday, October 10, 2011

Were you building something? Yes, relationships

The first question we get upon our return from Zambia is some variation of the following:
Were you building something, a school, a house, a well, or what?
This seems to sum up the American Christian perception of missions; it's all about "doing" something. Or put another way, it's task oriented, it's about the accomplishment of something, the to do list of items to be completed, etc... There isn't anything inherently wrong with wanting to do these things for other people, but they seem to often take on the central purpose. Much has been written, spoken on, blogged about the whole short term mission idea and if it's even the right thing to be doing. Does it have to be all or nothing? Is there any worth at all in showing up in far flung places for a week with gifts, cameras, a VBS program, hammers, nails, and then leaving a week later?

There has actually been formal research on this and couched under the oxymoronic notion of When Helping Hurts. This is a great book by the way and should be required reading for any church sending short term mission teams out. It will challenge just about everything you probably thought you knew about taking the Gospel to the far reaches of the planet and especially the poor or "least of these". There has also been much anecdotal discussion from the perspective of those in the field and sometimes even heatedly so amongst fellow "brothers" and "sisters" in place like here, and here.

So what has my answer been to this ever present question of, so what did you DO?
We built relationships
We didn't build anything physical in nature.

We spent time loving on and playing with 200+ orphans and highly vulnerable children.

We listened to the Lifesong for Orphans school staff tell their stories, their testimonies, their dreams, their prayer request.

We listened to 12 and 13 year olds share their horrific life stories to date and how grateful they are for God's grace in rescuing them and a new found hope.

We listened to a caregiver in the local village share what she has to go through to scrape together enough for her $10/month rent and her dreams for her children.

We wrapped our arms around the missionary directors and their 3 children under the age of 6 and prayed over them.

We praised our creator and Father with a freedom rarely seen in the American Christian church.

I look forward to God cultivating these new relationships. And from these relationships will come true understanding of need, mutual respect/love, and Kingdom building opportunities.

Because at the end of the day, everything we saw Jesus model was relational in nature.

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