the weblog of Alan Knox

They felt we had nothing to give them

Posted by on Aug 10, 2010 in missional, service | 3 comments

They felt we had nothing to give them

A friend of mine sent me the following quote from an article called “Anachronism and Adventurism: Recent Mission Trends“:

Most of the volunteers I have observed in the Dominican Republic and elsewhere have arrived on the field with the desire to work with, not for, the nationals. However, many volunteers lack even minimal cross- cultural sensitivity or knowledge of their own denomination’s understanding of mission. Such people are apt to repeat the mistakes of the past. On one occasion a group of American evangelical volunteers traveled to Barahona to spend two weeks “working with the youth.” After they returned to the U.S. I asked the president of our youth group what he thought of the volunteers’ work. He replied: “They said that they had come to us with a mission, but they took no time to understand our mission. They should have come to share with us. It’s as though they felt we had nothing to give them. They spent a lot of time on the beach handing out tracts and lying in the sun. Evidently this made them feel good.”

This is a good admonishment and warning to anyone attempting to work with people from other cultures. However, I think this warning also applies to those who are seeking to minister to people within their own cultural context.

Do you think it applies? How?


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 8-10-2010

    As I was reading this I began thinking about how much “ministry” we do in our own community that probably doesn’t do much more than make US feel good.

    This reminds me of some posts you made Alan about the minuistry you do in the housing project. Many other groups had been there, but they failed to actually talk to the residents about their needs and concerns. Instead these groups just did what they wanted and I can only presume it made them THINK they had done a good thing when it really just made them feel good. I see this all the time in my own context too.

    Much of what we think is ministry seems to me self-indulgent. It is more about our need to do something for God than it is about loving and serving others. We waste a lot of money and time in this way and haven’t really done much to really help people. I think this is the case with many of our church programs.

  2. 8-10-2010

    we have learned from experience that the most effective, quickly multiplying church planting force comes from the very harvest. Funny, seems like I have heard that somewhere. I think when thinking of cross-cultural ministries some of the benefit comes from the people being from the people you are usually working among. However, i think there i something more to it. When we teach this apostolic, go-ing mentality to new believers, i think they understand more clearly the heart of the God they serve and they are able to obey in more effective ways. I think it is time we stop trying to import christianity and just be the church and let his glory reach the nations.

  3. 8-10-2010

    “When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor… and Yourself” and yourself is by far one of the best books that helped shape the ‘restorative justice ministry’ at the local church I served as a social/restorative justice pastor. Of course, there are tons of resources I could recommend; however, this work stands in distinction to all the others on helping alleviate poverty via any justice initiative/effort(s). I highly recommend it to anyone who is serious about missions in general.

    You will be challenged reading this great work. And, I think every Christian ought to read this book if they are seriously thinking about getting involved in any mission effort.


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