Too Mutch

...a safe place to dance with ideas, play with theology, and re-create a life implicated by God

Monday, April 30, 2007

A Confession of a Prospective Short Term Missionary to Burundi

Honesty is not always the best policy. Honesty can be painful--viscerally painful. Being honest with someone can invite a harsh response. In fact, it could go beyond invitation to provocation. Beware of being too honest. On the other hand, honesty can be wielded as a vicious WMD. Insensitive honesty is often a horrendous policy. In an attempt to be honest tonight as I share some thoughts, I hope my honesty is taken as intended. This is not intended FOR anyone in particular, yet it could very well apply to many. It is not intended to thrash or wound, but it could perhaps bruise the ego. Now, I've just about talked myself out of writing the rest. I'm tempted to "delete" and change topics and ideas. Hmmmm.

What I've been wanting to say for some time now is more of a confession. Our team of 11 is leaving in one month to go to Burundi to serve and honor the country and people of Burundi. We are 11 white--pasty white if you disregard the lotion that can give you the appearance of a tan--Christians from West Michigan. More simply...just the West. Our team has written into our team covenant the need to engage this mission with a posture of humility. I love that we have talked about this need to recognize that we will be learning FROM the people of Burundi and that they have as much to offer us as we do to them. But...

It just won't sink in. I am struggling to believe it with any depth or conviction. Instead, I see the resourcing and education and experience that I bring to the table. I am guilty of believing that I have MORE to offer. I confess that I am living in the dream that though I will have some peripheral benefits from the trip, most of the benefit will go to the people and country of Burundi.

Does it make it any better that I'm ashamed of myself? Will it help if I read something to set me straight? Will God set me on my roof and tell me to kill and eat? If that happens, I'm more likely to get a fresh prescription of a psychotropic and go to bed, hoping it all to be a wild hallucination. And if someone comes to the door, I'm sending my wife to answer it! No, I'm not sure that much of any of this will help ME. Who or what, then, will help ME?

Two things come to mind. The first is that I must again remind myself to live in tension...rest in the gray areas...play in the fog. And I'm happy to do this, but I fear for the "other" b/c I'm likely to do a lot of damage if I go playing "save the world" in the fog. Secondly, I'm trusting that the experience itself will provide some teachable moments...some fodder for sanctification...even some brokenness. Perhaps this is one of the answers to the question, "Wouldn't it be better just to send the money over there?" Without having the experience, won't I remain stuck in the same prideful and shallow mudhole?

Deliver us from the west...from the deception of our prominence...from our arrogance...

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just...

Lord Have Mercy

10 Comments:

At 6:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, Greg, for your comments. Seth quoted a pastor from Nairobi on that same subject, which you can check out via the link on Trina's blog. I'm part of the team from Good Shepherd CC in Oregon that will be going to Buj in July, so we'll be watching your blog and keeping you in our prayers. Ken (off2burundi@yahoo.com)

 
At 7:04 PM, Blogger Greg said...

Ken, thanks for making the connection. where in oregon is good shepherd CC? I'll be in Grants Pass OR July 17-20. Will your trip to Burundi be of a similar nature to ours?

 
At 10:27 PM, Blogger Jason said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 10:42 PM, Blogger jglerum said...

I think to some degree the hubris of the West has to do with our ethnocentric value system, though whether cause or effect I don't know; in practical application, it doesn't really matter because the result is the same.

We (here used as an overgeneralization of Westerners) place a premium on financial/material success. We tend to value the individual above the community, material wealth above spiritual wealth, security above happiness... In concise circular reasoning, we base the evaluation of success on our own strengths; that is, we have material success so we define success as material. From what I understand, though at the risk of overgeneralizing again, the inverse tendencies exist in other cultures.

What happens when two opposing value systems collide? For us, as we journey to a materially poor country, the temptation is to use our own value system as the benchmark. Using that frame of reference, we are indeed the benefactors giving the "gift" of financial/intellectual/material wealth to a poor nation. However, Westerners are deficient in many of the strengths of other cultures which, if substituted as a frame of reference, have the potential to reverse the flow of wealth. If we are frank and honest enough about our deficiencies and can learn to step outside of our traditional value system, we may be able to open ourselves to receive the gifts of that wealth.

Somewhere between is balance, where we bring our strengths to the table, they bring theirs, and we enter a symbiotic relationship. Perhaps it is not so much that we lack humility, but that we lack perspective – an inability to see the world without the distortion of our own society. How do we gain that perspective? I think, perhaps, only through direct experience. Part of our purpose for going to Burundi is exactly that – the establishment of relationships to learn our weaknesses, celebrate our strengths, and derive mutual benefit. If we simply sent a giant check, we would remain comfortable and unchallenged in our role of benefactor. By putting ourselves out there and stepping outside of our Western bubbles, by meeting people on their ground, are we acting out the very humility that we fear we lack?

 
At 5:19 PM, Blogger oregonfatts said...

greg, try this link to the video. Again this is a low quality version and google video uploaded the aspect ration wrong. So I can get you a higher quality version when you come out:
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=4542734760300714281&hl=en

 
At 2:47 PM, Blogger Cajun Tiger said...

Read Rom 1:10-12, especially the last line...it was our team verse.

 
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