Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Amazing White, Western Missionaries

We had a pretty ordinary life when we were living in America. My wife and I both worked jobs. We drove decent vehicles, hung out with friends and family, went to Church, and had a pretty good middle class life. Five months ago when we moved to Kenya that all was turned upside down. We are now the only white people living among all Kenyans. Naturally, we draw some attention. Now my wife and I are famous. Whenever I am in town, everybody stares at me. Whenever I walk into a remote village or slum, I instantly have hundreds of children following me around. They come up and shake my hand, and beg for me to take their pictures. (African children just assume white people have a camera, even if I'm not carrying it.) I work at an orphanage, and several times a week people will come to our house and ask me for a job. Whenever I walk in public, I am constantly bombarded with people asking for a job, money, or food. I became famous the instant I moved to Africa. It makes you feel like the amazing white, western missionary. Everybody is coming to me for help. And after all, that is why we are here right?...

My wife and I do have a problem though. We are just like these people in a lot of ways. I can not solve all of these people's problem. I don't say that to sound unhelpful. I say it to be realistic. It would be very arrogant and condescending of me to think I can come over to Africa and just "fix" all their problems with the massive amount of "American Money" that every African just assumes you have. Don't get me wrong, I do understand. Compared to most these people my wife and I do have a lot of money. It's all perspective I guess. But back to my problem. I can not give all these people a job. I wish that I could. But if the African people have to rely on a white missionary in order to get a job, well.... they are going to be very disappointed. If they all rely on a white missionary to feed them and their families.... again, they will be very disappointed. We just simply don't have the resources to do that. As a missionary, I can not solve all these problems.

This is what I can do. I can share your burdens. I can use my resources and time to help these people carry their burdens. I can love you. I can get to know you and invest in your life. Most importantly, I can pray for you. I can help you come up with ways to transform your life and empower you. You see, if I just start giving out "handouts" to everyone who asks me for something, my impact will be minimal. I will eventually run out of money and the next day you will be just as hungry as you were before you met me. "You need a fishing pole, not a fish." You see if I just keep giving you handouts, then nothing changes. I mean, "I'm the rich one, your the poor one." "You need me, I don't need you." "I'm a lender, your just a beggar" That is not love. Love is when I come to you, and help lift you up. I can't leave you where your at. I don't want you to be a poor beggar the rest of your life. I want you to be empowered to make a life for yourself. That way you can help people the same way that you have been helped. My wife and I are not better than you are. We're all in this together. You have the skills and abilities to make a life for yourself. You are not inferior to me. But if your constantly having to rely on me, then that's how your going to feel.

It's easy to idealize missionaries. Don't get me wrong, I think that choosing to be one is very admirable and honorable. From experience, I can tell you that it requires an incredible amount of sacrifice. But... we are still the same people. The people my wife and I were back in America is the same people we are here. Again, I don't want you to misinterpret what I'm saying. Being a missionary has been a very transforming experience. But what I have found about living in a third world country is that it doesn't change who you are, but rather it reveals who you are. If you are a selfish, angry, hateful person in a nice American suburb, then you will probably be the same way in the slums of Africa. My wife and I are righteous people. But the only reason we are righteous is because we have faith in Jesus. It's not because we're missionaries or some type of "super-christian." A little secret by the way, there is no such thing as a "Super-Christian." We're all made righteous by the blood of Jesus. That's all.

I do want to ask you not to forget about missionaries. We need you. We need your prayers, phone calls, and emails. It's not easy being away from home in a third world country. Don't forget about us. But in that same breath, don't forget about the single-mother in your church that has sacrificed her entire life to take care of her children. Her sacrifice and love is just as valuable as the people who sell all they have and move to Sudan to plant churches. It's not about what we do, It's about how much love we use to do it. IF you help one person out of love in your hometown, that is more precious to God that helping thousands of widows in a third world country without having love in your heart. God wants you yo love people.

Paul was preaching one time, and miracles were performed. The people he was preaching to thought he was a God. Paul knew that he was just a man and that all glory goes to God. I pray that my wife and I are able to have an amazing impact here in Africa and in the lives of the children we serve. But if we do, it will only be because of the Grace of God. Not because we're "amazing white, western missionaries."

Be blessed!

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