(Closed) NWR: Missions trips..

posted 6 years ago in The Lounge
Post # 61
Member
1856 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: March 2013

Yeah, I’ve spent the last ten years of my life working in international development and have very strong feelings about this. I cringe every time I go to fly for work and stuck on a plane with a bunch of them in their matching t-shirts, all excited about “saving” people. Your 1 week trip to build an orphanage does nothing for the community, and often ends up causing more difficulties than you realize.

(I can’t resist pointing out, though, that Ethiopians are a bad example to use in this context because the majority are actually Christian, ha)

Post # 62
Member
9057 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper

MichiganGirl24:  My opinion is kind of clouded by what I saw and experienced doing aide work and the history of my own people. The manipulation I saw being used in what I call the salvation for food/medicine/education trade was so disappointing as a human being. Preying on people who are desolate and forcing them to abandon their culture and religion and accept your religion in order to be feed and provide for their children makes me so sad.

I used to tell clients that they should just lie. Tell these people what they want to hear, eat their food, take theor medicine and then continue believing in their own culture and religious practices. Because their culture outdates this religion and is beautiful.

Missionaries desolated my culture, telling my people to cover up, to worship their god and forget about our beliefs, to speak english and forget our mother toungue. Missionaries have been responsible for the lose of so many things in so many cultures.

The thing that really gets me is that these places don’t need your religion so stop peddling it. If you want to build houses, schools, provide medicine, food and eucation then leave the religion out of it.

I also get annoyed when you knock on my door and try and sell me religion. If I want to be part of a religion I will seek it out. 

I have no problem with people being religious but I have a big problem with manipulation and shoving it in peoples faces.

Post # 63
Member
9057 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper

kittyface:  Haha good point but it was still a missionary that start the conversion to Christainity back in the 1st Century AD (Philip the Evangelist).

 

Post # 64
Member
9057 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper

kellyk1214:  The thing is that the people you/they are trying to save don’t believe in your God or heaven. They believe in their religion and cultural practices. Why can some Christains not just accept that and leave them alone? 

Post # 65
Hostess
9693 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper
  • Wedding: March 2014 - Chicago, IL

j_jaye:  Thank you for saying all of this. 

It actually made me think of a documentary, “Heavy Metal Gangs of Wadeye” (pt 1 found here: http://www.vice.com/en_au/music-world/heavy-metal-gangs-of-wadeye-1-of-2). Missionaries destroyed their tribal culture – brought warring tribes together – and eventually lead to the infiltration of MTV and heavy metal. The new generation is completely devoid of their cultural heritage. 

Post # 66
Member
9057 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper

FutureDrAtkins:  Arghh that doco is a perfect example of what has happened in so many cultures. It disappoints me when we do cultural workshop with our young people and they worship rap stars more than the strong and inspirational fighters from their own culture. They can tell me the life story of Tupac but don’t know who Hyllus Maris (A UN Media peace Prize winner) or Harold Blair AM (the first Aboriginal person to achieve a Diploma of Music) are. So sad that we are still allowing the destruction of cutlures just because they don’t fit the McDream.

Post # 67
Member
1472 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: November 2013

I struggle with this. I used to be evangelical Christian, and went on a number of these trips, including 4 international ones. Looking back I am uncomfortable with my naivety, arrogance (although I did not recognise it then) and cultural ignorance (even with significant training each time). The exception is my fourth trip, that I will discuss below. I guess I also have an odd perspective because my grandparents were long-term missionaries while my Dad was growing up, and later were the national directors (in NZ) for one of the world’s larger missions organisations, so it is hard for me to see missionaries as all bad, when my family and many others I know are incredibly loving and generous.

I am more concerned about the development and aid side than the proseletysing. I guess I’m a bit of a minority, where I think that simply turning up in a foreign country and evangelising for a week or 4 is ineffective, but doesn’t cause anywhere near the harm that turning up to do short term aid work with unskilled workers does. Turning up for a couple of weeks to build with no experience or professional training in construction is detrimental (and a couple of days practicing does not count). You do not have the skills to build as efficiently as locals and are pushing them out of potential paid work. Furthermore, if you are trained and/or experienced, but it isn’t pecialised enough that locals can’t do the same, then again you could be taking needed employment from locals and perpetuating a foreign saviour stereotype. There are exceptions, such as highly trained and specialised professionals doing work where there is nobody able to do the same work (or, even better, teaching local people to where appropriate).

Similar with things like orphanages. Imagine being a small child, and people come in, get attached to you, and leave again. That isn’t a way to build security and stability in children, especially vulnerable children. There are countless examples of this sort of thing.

I’m not saying all foreign aid and development work is bad. As I said above, trained/experienced/specifically skilled people coming in to places where those services are lacking, or places of diasater can be a huge help, as can people doing manual labour in some very specific situations (for example, I had friends who went in and cleaned out houses after the Japanese tsunami. Not a specialised job, but one that needed people to do grunt work. My friends actually lived in Japan at the time, and so were used to working and communicating within Japanese culture), but often well-meaning short term projects cause significantly more long term harm than good.

As I mentioned above, the final of the 4 trips I took I felt better about, but still reflect on and question my role. I did some work in a developing country with an English speaking school system. The organisation I worked with did not try and convert to Christianity, but instead worked on religious reconciliation and shared religious experiences/knowledge. I had a teaching degree and a couple of years of teaching experience at this point. I worked with the school, at the principal’s request and invitation, to help train volunteers in reading tutoring, using some basic reading skills. The reason I worked there and not a local teacher is because the principal wanted the students exposed to different methods of teaching reading, because the one’s they used weren’t reaching a portion of their students, and I had taught using one of these. The organisation was almost entirely staffed with and led by local people (with a couple of exceptions).

After I left, there was a woman who had done her teacher training overseas who was able to continue working with the tutors. The tutoring program continued for about 18 months after I left, until the community decided to reprioritise what they wanted their volunteers to do (as they should if they think it best). As I say, I still feel uncomfortable, because I really don’t want to further perpetuate saviour complexes, but I feel this organisation at least, was an example of missions done right.

  • This reply was modified 5 years, 8 months ago by  farawayviolet.
  • This reply was modified 5 years, 8 months ago by  farawayviolet.
Post # 68
Member
4047 posts
Honey bee
  • Wedding: January 2014

farawayviolet:  Excellent post. You’re right – it’s not all bad. You definitely highlighted how some missions can get it right, as well as how they can get it wrong.

I remember my 16 year old friend going to Guatemala to build houses. I highly doubt she was of much help with her complete lack of construction skills.

Then I have another friend who opened a children’s home in South Africa, and he employed locals to cook, clean, garden, drive, teach preschool, and take care of the children. He provided probably 20-30 jobs in a small village with hardly any jobs to begin with, as well as providing a stable life-long home for kids who would be bouncing around in group homes otherwise. He’s an excellent example of doing it right. The kids go to church on Sunday, but that’s the extent of the religion (but that may have just been at the discretion of the director at the time I was there, perhaps they no longer go under the new director). It’s a Christian area anyway. They still eat the food of the culture, speak the language, know the songs, etc.

kittyface:  You have an interesting background. I want to hear more!

Post # 69
Member
2847 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: May 2014

luna_c: Exactly. The most powerful witness a person can have is to serve one’s fellow man, without strings attached. I don’t see how truly loving and serving as the bible teaches can be a bad thing.

Post # 70
Member
1002 posts
Bumble bee

My little sister is an RN, and she went to Uganda for several weeks on an aid mission.  Because of how expensive such trips are, and how limited the opportunities to actually go on them (unless you want to sign up for a much longer time commitment, like with the Peace Corps or Doctors Without Borders), she ended up having to go with a religious group.  However, she’s not interested in proselytizing, so apparently when she got there she told the organizers, “I’m here to provide medical services, not peddle religion.  I paid for my own tickets – I’ll work, but I’m not preaching!”  And then she refused to participate in any of the religious aspects of their progam.  It meant she had more time to work in the clinic, and she was (obviously) more comfortable with the work that she was performing.  The organizers just kind of threw their hands up and accepted it.

Post # 71
Member
5219 posts
Bee Keeper

bowsergirl:  farawayviolet:  I think you two really highlighted a point of this thread that was missing, there is doing it terribly wrong and then there is doing it right. Sadly, a lot of churches, Christians and individual groups go about it all wrong. Maybe they are good intentioned, but still wrong nonetheless.

OP- This is something I have actually been thinking about a lot lately. As a teenager, I participated in mission trips both domestic and abroad. I didn’t think much of it, just did it because some of my friends were going, it was to a new place and the fundraising part was fun. From a 14-16 year old’s perspective, it was “life changing” in a sense that it exposed me to another side of the world that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. From my 27 year old perspective, it was really stupid and arrogant to think that I needed to learn an important life lesson off of someone else’s poverty/circumstances/etc.

Even though I am grateful that my parents felt that, and still feel that, being charitable is a calling and a command– I prefer to be charitable in other ways and do not financially support mission trips. This is something Darling Husband and I talked a lot about as a dear friend of mine went on her 3rd long term mission trip, and even though I know her intentions, her heart and feel like her calling really is sincere… I haven’t yet come to a place where I feel like it is being done right. I’m not sure what “right” even wholly looks like.

I give to my local church, we give to various other organizations and I suppose, in a roundabout way, that by giving to our church does promote mission trips to some extent– I will continue to use that vehicle (in the form of an offering or tithe) than an outright donation to be allocated to one cause or specific person, such as a mission trip.

Post # 72
Member
4521 posts
Honey bee
  • Wedding: September 2012

I think some mission trips are done right – but yes, many are too focused on conversion/saving and not enough on actually helping people with their day-to-day lives. I think it’s fine to invite people in the area to an evening Bible study, but it shouldn’t be forced or overemphasized.

I went on a domestic mission trip as a young teen, and I still think it was done well because (1) we did have Bible Study, but only in the evenings with our group – I don’t remember religion ever coming up with the people we were working with and (2) we were led by people who actually knew what they were doing. We built a house and painted a church, but under the supervision of people who knew how to do such things well. 

I’m not very religious anymore, and I still think that trip was a good experience, but I did a non-religious volunteer trip in college that was much better.

Post # 73
Member
3008 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: October 2011

MichiganGirl24:  I agree. It seems that mission trips are more for the benefit of the person GOING on the trip. It also just seems condescending, culturally insensitive, and ethnocentric. 

Post # 74
Member
519 posts
Busy bee

MrsSparkle10:  High horses? Lol. I think the people who DESPERATELY need to get off their high horses are Christians who run around calling themselves “saved” (thanks for implying the rest of us are what, doomed?) and feel the magical bearded man in the sky bestowed upon them a destiny to travel the world and shove their religion/fairytales down everyones throats. If THATS not self important, I dont know what is.

Whoops, was that harsh?

Post # 75
Member
519 posts
Busy bee

MrsAKSkier:  yep. This big local church in my old town a few years ago ran a missions trip to San Francisco. And they claimed it was a random location choice, then spent their entire time there handing out pamphlets and hand held bibles in the well known LGBT neighborhoods. They also made sure to act like huge martyrs when they decided to cut the trip early because all the local gay and gay alliance people pretty much rioted and forced them to GTFO.

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