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

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