In my world, anyway, it’s easier to give than to receive. Do other ministry people feel this way?
We spend so much of our lives extending the hand of friendship; proffering hospitality; sitting down listening to others; advocating on their behalf. And I don’t consider that an imposition – it’s a joy to be involved in others’ lives and a privilege that they allow me to do so! That’s not just platitudes, that’s how I genuinely feel!
But when I’m the one who needs help, now that’s an entirely different matter! Obviously that’s an imposition on others. I ask for help when I want to model it to others; or when I think they’ll benefit from being involved in my life. But when I’m genuinely weak, actually down for the count, really unable to meet my responsibilities, then I just push on. I go it alone.
Which is just pride, of course: ‘I don’t need others!’ That’s probably married to a feeling of superiority: ‘I’m strong enough on my own!’ And a desire not to be shown to be vulnerable: ‘I am superwoman!’
Not only are those beliefs untrue and sinful, but they’re also deeply counter-productive to ministry, especially in an intercultural context.
Because overseas mission is about being in debt. In the early years, you need people to teach you the local lingo and customs and show you around. As you go on, you need people to forgive you when you inevitably offend them. At any time, in many cultures around the world, accepting hospitality from someone is an important way to honour them. And theologically, allowing others to give to you can acknowledge their dignity as a co-image bearer.
Sometimes servanthood is about allowing others to serve you, rather than doing stuff for them. It takes great humility to accept that, to allow yourself to be in debt to another.
A while ago, I started praying, ‘God give me the courage to be real with people.’ I’m going to add to that ‘… and the humility to receive their help.’
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.