A few years ago, I read the book The Poisonwood Bible. This book was fictitious, having little basis on truth, but I found a certain element within it rather interesting. Set in the late 1800s, I believe, a missionary family travels to Africa to minister there. However, once they reach their destination, they make two crucial mistakes.
1: Instead of changing their lifestyles to match those of the locals, they force the locals to conform to the lifestyles of the foreigners.
2: Instead of attempting to learn about this culture, so as to better share Jesus, they make the natives learn about America.
These two key mistakes, while seeming to be quite innocuous, turn out to be very important. Because of their lack of understanding and knowledge about the foreign culture, the missionary family finds themselves struggling to receive even a single convert. This mistake is fatal and is an example of fake missions.
The dilemma of fake missions is quite common. Occasionally, “missionaries” will raise support and move to Uganda, often fully intending to minister to the “heathens”. However, they make the same mistakes discussed earlier. Instead of conforming to the culture of the country they move to, they remain completely in their own habits and traditions, often forcing others to conform to the foreigners’ way of life. The man of the house gets a job, usually a well-paying one, in Kampala, Entebbe, or Jinja- three of Uganda’s biggest cities. They will buy a large house and occupy it completely, importing American furniture and food so as to keep their former lifestyles. The family will attend an American-only church, sing American songs, then go back to their American lifestyle, all while living in Uganda, and claiming to be missionaries. This is not missions.
Now, I have one last example. In reading the book Bruchko, I encountered something very similar. Bruce Olsen, the author of the book, and also its main character, travels to Columbia to evangelize a murderous tribe, named the Motilones. On his way, he stops at a mission station, manned by a team of American “missionaries”. This team, while not having the challenge of a murderous tribe to convert, continued to have problems in converting the locals. Upon arriving, Bruce found the problem: the missionaries were making the same mistakes I have discussed above. They were making the locals attend an American-looking church, sing American songs, and even dress like Americans! This caused the locals to develop a deep-seated hatred for the foreigners, thus creating the problem-none of them would even listen to a single word of the Bible. Once again, I repeat: this is not missions.
Now, take the example of Jay and Vicki Dangers, missionaries in Uganda for over 40 years. They, while still having some elements of their former American lives, drastically changed the way they lived in order to win the hearts of the people they worked amongst. So also did Bruce Olsen, who lived as a Motilone for 40 years. He dressed like a Motilone, talked like a Motilone, lived in a Motilone house, sang Motilone songs, and even found ways to slightly change Bible stories, so as to make them more relevant to Motilone lives. In doing so, he won the hearts of the entire tribe he lived with, along with the hundreds of other people that lived close by. This is true missions. When working in foreign countries, we, as Christians, must remember-if we completely keep our old ways of life, there will be no change in the hearts of those around you.
Also, one more thing: If I have offended anyone in ANY way, I sincerely apologize. It is not my wish to call people out- I only used these examples because they were relevant to the topic. If you felt offended, please notify me and I will do my absolute best to make amends.
Alright, that’s it. Thank you so much for reading, guys! I greatly appreciate your support. As always, if you haven’t clicked that “Follow” button, then be sure to smack it so hard Thor loses weight! The “E-Squad”, (the name of the Africa Boy followers) is a growing community, and I wouldn’t want you to miss out! Anyway, thank you again for reading, and I wish you a wonderful day.