In the previous two posts, I’ve raised some issues to do with dependence. In an attempt to avoid fostering dependence, we may too easily become task focused, treating people as projects rather than, well, people. But avoiding dependence is motivated by recognising the full dignity of other believers. So where does that leave us?
I’d compare the process to parenting, in that by the time a child is an adult, if they’ve been parented well, they’re not forced to become independent – they want to be! Except, that still sounds condescending, with missionaries as ‘parents’ and nationals as ‘children’, albeit adult children. And for all the west’s supposed theological wealth, our churches are shrinking – depending on your perspective, we’re either ‘mature’ or ‘dying’.
Arthur and I have said we’ll commit for 10 years, though that’s a bit arbitrary – give or take a few years! But we want there to be a possible endpoint so that we’re forced to think beyond our own selves and giftings, to be aware of what it is we can’t do because we’re not Tanzanians.
At the same time, we abhor the idea of treating people as a task to be accomplished. It seems so cold and unrelational. And so we’re keen to link in with what is already going on, so that partnership is not tied to us.
This is one of the reasons we find IFES so exciting. There is already a network of global student ministry groups learning from and contributing to each other. Not only does that have more potential for healthy interdependence, it also means that future partnership need not rest with us, because we’re part of something bigger.
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.