After our lighthearted look at deputation yesterday, today I want to ask about the flip side of one of the mistakes I mentioned: is there a place for missionaries to be prophetic?
Mistake #4 was: Guilting people about the good gifts God has given them. e.g. about their large home, iPad, multiple cars, etc.
Obviously guilting people is not appropriate in the Christian community: we have been set free from guilt! However, the missionary may not think they are doing this. They may feel that they are speaking prophetically into a context obsessed with mammon. Of course, it may not be perceived that way at all. For example, the missionary may come across as:
- OUT OF TOUCH. Just because they don’t understand a touch screen doesn’t make it inherently materialistic. It might seem flashy to them, but it also might be cheaper than they think.
- JEALOUS. They could have had this sort of wealth too, and it hurts that they don’t.
- FRUSTRATED. Their fundraising might not be going well, and they feel that people are selfish and ungenerous in what they spend their money on.
- SUPERIOR. They may have given up many comforts to serve elsewhere and they want everyone to know it.
- INSECURE. They don’t know where they will live in their retirement or feel inadequate because their child doesn’t have an iPad/piano lessons/soccer club.
- JUDGEMENTAL. Without listening, they have spouted forth on a country they haven’t seen for some years and perhaps don’t adequately understand.
Whether or not this is the case, it’s still possible that a missionary’s experience of life in a different country may help them to see things that those living within the Australian context gloss over. They potentially have a more accurate perspective of wealth and poverty because they see the discrepancy between their home and host countries. What may only be statistics to your average Australian may be lived experience to them.
But here’s my question, is there any way for a missionary to do this without it sounding either like sour grapes or superiority? Are you more likely to listen to someone from within your own culture or a missionary who lives outside it on this issue? Do you feel resentful when missionaries give commentary on Australians’ lifestyles? How have you seen it done well?
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.