Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Jazzies Leaving Me Holding the Bag

"WTF" Moments in the Gospels with Brian Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.
So, here I am sitting in an open air coffee shop that faces the Gulf of Thailand, waiting for a groggy gaggle of Jazzy Piggies to get out of bed. One is rather burnt and in pain, the others being from Asian or Mid-eastern decent, have fared better. There are some advantages to being non-white. The tropical shrubs in planters just outside the cafe are all bending toward me, extending their fronds to greet me or to look over my shoulder to get a peek at the content of my post. Nearby shops are preparing for the first customers of the day. Herds of cows lazily nibble grass on the side of the road. The solitude is interrupted by a text coming in: "Can you go out and get us some aloe and some screen? I text back, "Only if you get your sorry butts out of bed and come with me!" No reply. The Jazzy Piggies leave tomorrow. We had a debriefing in my room last night, and I thought, "Gosh, what a fruitful time we all had." They worked incredibly hard teaching their English and Music classes, and made many relationships. Each night when they slept on at the DOVE Drop In Center on the office floor, they hung out with the staff playing UNO into the wee hours of the night. This was an extremely valuable learning experience for me. They taught me how to time hang out with people again. And I like it. It opens so many doors for deep, thoughtful, provoking conversations. I had always been too busy working hard, then running home to the solitude of my house, than to engage in the secular aspect of everyday conversation and hanging out. But, where do we really find God. In church? Our quite time? No,he is found in everyday normal existence and suffering of the mass of humanity. So how spiritual can we be when our lives consist of driving to work, working, coming home,etc? The most spiritual thing we can do is to try to become fully human, and that means hanging out where he hangs out: with tax collectors and prostitutes. Oh you Jazzy Piggies, who are you to teach me? You teach me that although you may be young, you are people of great depth. Oh, to have had what you have when I was in my early 20's (or 30's and even 40's)! Thank you Jazzy Piggies, for looking past your Sunday School Jesus for the real Jesus who is out there in the urban ghettos and the isolated villages. Thank you Jazzy Piggies for not being satisfied with the status-quo, and for your willingness to embrace a Jesus who is not predictable, not reasonable, and not able to be domesticated like too many of us prefer. Maybe I am one of the reasons God brought us to Cambodia together, so that you could teach me, and give me hope that your generation will be the generation that impacts this world for the kingdom, to restore my hope that there are some Jesus followers, somewhere, who will break out of their cultural prison, leave the chains behind and bear witness to the Kingdom of God in the same way Jesus did. This ones for you Jazzies! Peace, out.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Lords of Poverty

Mt. 8:27 “The men were amazed and asked, “WTF? What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”
It has been a huge blessing to watch the interns interact with their students, the staff at Dove, and those in the DP 1 program. These 3 were nicked named, “Traye Ko Kompong Srey bay nek,” after the three girls on the can of fish paste sold in local market. Please note the resemblance.
These girls are having way too much fun. Even their bible class is having too much fun. I already had a formal request from the DOVE management team to send more interns like these back to back for a full year. They have had a very successful two weeks. Because they have chosen to learn Khmer at the Drop in Center, they have showed themselves to be learners, which is huge. The interns are experiencing mutual transformation. They are adding to the quality of young people’s lives, and in turn are being transformed by them through relationship. This is transformational ministry. They have no money to offer, so they cannot buy influence like so many of missionaries here (especially American, Filipino, and Korean) who depend on that power base of material wealth to attract people. Bryant Meyers calls this a ‘god complex.’ I recently watched a Korean pastor from American hand out snacks at an orphanage. All the orphans had to line up one by one to receive each package personally. Each had to bow (sat oh) and thank the Korean pastor in turn. I saw this happen again with a different Korean pastor a few days later. Cameras were flashing in the background. Mission Accomplished at this golden photo op. When, on occasion I have an opportunity to help the poor materially or financially, I give what they need to the national in charge and tell them not to say it came from a foreigner. So many of we missionaries have become “Lords of Poverty.” Some of us have become poverty brokers and consultants on poverty. We find some good projects that serve the poor, post heart wrenching photos in our newsletters or website, raise money, take our cut, and live very comfortably off of the lives of the poor. The poor indeed are served. They may be given clean water, a roof over their heads, and access to a school which is great, but the fact remains that many of us are able to sustain a rather comfortable life style because of the poor. The dissonance in life styles is often too great for us to make a real impression with the gospel. Too many missionaries (at least here in Cambodia) are loose cannons rolling around on the deck of the host countries, and ruling unconsciously as Lords of Poverty. People with international experience are fond of saying; developing countries are full of missionaries, misfits, and mercenaries. I say; "Too many missionaries are misfits and mercenaries. Misfits in that can’t make it back in the real world but with funding they can build an empire here, and mercenary in the way use nationals to build their kingdoms. And what can one do? The Lords of Poverty do not listen to anyone. They are on a mission from God, and God told them to do it-that is until funding runs out, then God calls them to another thing. Last year, I read a book called When Helping Hurts. It was about Christian mission (long and short term) in developing countries. It was very thorough and right on target (mostly). It dove tailed with my 20 years of experience on the field, and with what I learned at Fuller. The author comes from the Chalmers Institute of Development where most of my graduate studies text books on development came from. Anyway, I was a bit surprised that most of the mission people in the US were blown away by the book since I have been telling them pretty much the same thing for years. I guess I have yet to reach expert status. I believe the key is in educating mission pastors and the PIPS (people in the pews) about the efficacy of incarnational and integral/holistic ministry, about relief and about development, and finding missionaries who are willing to live as incarnationally as they can. I know this is a most difficult task with all the demands for commercial spots from pulpit on Sunday mornings, but we must find a way. Brian