just the other day, i had a meeting with a group of american women. if you've read this blog for long enough, you'll know i've tried this experiment before. and usually it fails because the lifestyle of most expats is over our heads - and not something i aspire to. ever.
but, i go through phases where i need to surround myself with people similar to me - raised with similar values and wanting similar things from life. i (am pretty sure) that i have found some americans who fit the bill.
there's always a catch. always. and the catch here is that they're missionaries.
i know, i was a missionary. but i really did hate 90% of the missionary stuff (and cherish deeply the 10% remaining) and in the six years that have passed since then, i've seen things that make me want to throw up.
you see. i love jesus. deeply, immensely. i want to be like jesus and i want my children to love him and for all of my friends to know him. and i've read the bible.
and i don't find the place in there at all where it says that we should run around telling people how to live and how not to. in fact, it tells us just the opposite. can't tell someone about the splinter in their eye if i've got a log in mine... and well, i might as well have a whole tree in mine!
my life should radiate god's love so much that it rubs off on other people. they should see jesus in me and want to be like him, too, right? nothing wrong with that. but how does that affect my view of missions?
there are some amazing missionaries in this country (and around the world) who are doing what they need to do. and there are some who make me want to never step foot in a church again. when i was in the church, i was surrounded by people who had created a culture of "give me." whenever an american came to the church, children lined up waiting for presents. it took me a year to break that. why did it happen?
because that's what they were taught by the missionaries. god loves you, so we're going to give you stuff! i'm not against presents, but really? you can't just spend time with these kids, love them and show them jesus' love and have that be enough? do they really need all that candy, hairclips, baby erasers and junk that you have to give them? probably not.
but it's not the stuff that is the problem. it's the idea that material good represent jesus' love for us. the children had gotten it into their heads that if people loved them, they'd give them stuff. and remember in the bible where it says that? oh, wait, it doesn't. in fact, it tells us to GIVE UP everything we have to follow jesus.
this might sound like a rant. but it's a solid observation and something i've always felt was not quite right. we live in a third world country. the situation here is dismal for most very poor people. the cost of living is rising. sex trafficking in the DR is high - and the amount of women who will "sell" themselves to the first seedy american looking for a "wife" is shocking. young girls are sold to the highest bidder - who can provide the family with the highest quality of life. what man can pull them from poverty and continue the cycle of unnecessary dependence? it's what we're teaching our children here.
so, here i am, with a little (well...) tightening in my chest when i think of the damage caused by some. and here i am, meeting with a group of missionaries. i was reluctant at first. but then i met them.
and i see something different. starting with how they actually live in the poor areas they serve, don't live in mansions and send their kids to the same schools they sponsor as a ministry. instead of giving material, i think they are sharing love.
will this lead to life long friendships and dismissal of my poor impressions? maybe. but if not, it'll probably chip off some of that sadness. and give me hope that jesus' word can be spread without material goods - without teaching kids that following jesus means presents every time they see a foreigner. and teaching them that they have value and are worth far, far more than a candy bar or a nice house on the hill.
i have hope.