So finals are done and now I have time to do some blogging and various things I’ve pent up in myself for the past couple weeks. So here it is:
Recently I saw a post on a pastor’s wall of a blog titled “Voluntourism more harm than good” (I don’t know if the person spelled it like that on purpose or not but regardless).
If you haven’t read it, here’s the link https://aswwu.com/collegian/voluntourism-more-harm-than-good/
I’d suggest you read it so you know the various things I write about on this blog.
I honestly don’t know what to think of this article. Some of the things she writes at the end I agree with but some of the things she writes I don’t. Of course maybe since she was in Africa for 9 months maybe I don’t understand as much (hahaha) but I’d say in my 7 months I’ve learned more than I ever have before.
This person worked for ADRA for 9 months in West Africa. Already there my biased opinions came up. In the 7 months I was in Bere, Tchad I didn’t see ANY ADRA work. Apparently they had an office in Ndjamena, the capital of Tchad but never did they come to help us nor when we were in the capital city did they help us. They seemed pretty much nonexistent when the missionaries talked about other organizations in Tchad. But that could just be the amount I only saw and heard, who knows, maybe they’re doing massive work.
From the beginning of the article, she describes what seems like an African city. Well obviously, because they had taxis. And I completely resonate on the situation with her because I’ve been there and experienced that kind of environment first hand. But her next descriptions seem more biased than anything. Seeming to put words in to other people’s mouths, unless the hosts there are literally that ignorant to respond with sentences like “Terrible families. No food. So poor, you know.” I’d like to state that EVEN if it’s an African city environment, a LOT of better well off people live in cities. I know this because I was lived in a small village and a lot of them looked up to people in the cities. A lot of the city folk are more educated and have better jobs. But maybe this was just in Tchad. Who knows.
She also describes other college students taking selfies with the natives, saying that it’ll probably be their next profile pictures. You see, I have a problem with someone seeming self righteous on blogs because I was with another girl missionary in Tchad who put others down and seemed self righteous in her blogs, saying how she was the only one doing things there and that all of us were helping Satan win (I don’t know if you read my blog about that, probably went over with a couple stuff but my stance stands). So maybe I’m biased but also WHY is there a reason to put others who went with you down? What does that accomplish? Other than maybe showing others back in America (or wherever you’re from) and people in your home church that you’re the “best” missionary compared to the others that you were with and that you went through hell?
Also, about taking pictures. People in Africa (except Arabs), especially kids, LOVE to take pictures. They think it’s the coolest thing, and I believe that it’s one of the best to get the native kids to like you and to come to you. It’s more about relationship building than having your next profile picture. Especially if you’re working with the natives closely (I don’t know if this person did), it’s so important to build a lasting relationship.
Then she goes on this whole conversation she had with a shoe seller. This I agree with because the natives DO expect volunteers to give them things because others before them have. When in Tchad, our native “families” would expect us to leave a bunch of stuff for them. Walking down trails, kids would yell out two things. “NASARA!” which means foreigner and “BON BON” which means candy. Some would see even your water bottle and say “don moi” which means give me in French. Obviously some volunteers have given the natives stuff before. I noticed this especially when the Maranatha group came to where we were to do some construction work. They were there for like 7 days, your typical short term mission work. They’d give the native kids candy and all sorts of things, taking pictures and enjoying their time. But the thing is, they only had to stay for 7 days. Their mentality as a short-term missionary was work hard as hell for 7 days and then to go home. They didn’t have to worry about building a relationship with the natives. OH and did I mention that before the maranatha group came to our village they requested a BUNCH of stuff for their convenience? They would stay at the hospital compound with new buildings and also with bottles on bottles of bottled clean water and numerous amounts of various fruits and vegetables. They wouldn’t even eat the village rice. Some of the stuff that as student missionaries WE didn’t even get in our host families for our whole time there THEY got it constantly throughout the 7 days. Some of the things we ate they wouldn’t even eat or drink. As the people who were staying in the village, we had to prepare everything for them. Drive to the city which is like 3 hours away and get the clean bottled waters, fruits, vegetables, to clean the housing places and put lights and bedding and mosquito nets. Now THAT is something to write about in an article on how volunteerism can do more harm than good. But regardless.
She makes a point in saying how the mission field where she was doesn’t hire local natives for the jobs and instead gets the volunteers to do it. If this place was anything like the environment I was in, and I’m sure in a majority of societies, the natives can be very corrupt. Hell even in the SDA clinic in my village, where everyone working were natives, there’s corruption. The hospital administrator took around 100,000 dollars from the hospital fund and that had a bunch of people involved. Some workers are also very lazy (not being stereotypical, but literal) and don’t work hard enough so nothing gets done. HELL EVEN IN THE SDA CHURCH THAT IS SET UP THERE AND RUN BY NATIVES THERES CORRUPTION. In the level of corruption that is in Africa, in the government and in the smaller places, it is a necessity for outside help to get things rolling again… and again.
But next she makes a good point on it being necessary for collegiate volunteers to re-prioritize their approach. I’m sure many go to mission trips just for the experience, or for resume perks. But regardless of the fact, there are things to learn and everyone has a different experience and reason to go. Only they themselves can really know what they need and what they will learn. Every man/woman to himself, no judgement.
She writes other things, in which I’m too lazy to type out anymore. But she seemed to be undermining the amount of work that can be done by sending in untrained young volunteers. This I definitely disagree with. Why does everything have to be mechanical and trained? That is the problem with Christianity that pisses me off. So often “spiritual” people say that to minister they have to be able to spit Bible verses, to be able to go door to door, to not abide in sin. Those are the type of people that are labeled as SPIRITUAL or GODLY. But people NEVER appreciate and encourage the amount of love needed in a person. To be able to form an actual damn relationship with another person before shoving a doctrine in their heads. Not being a socially awkward sheltered “Christian” and to be spontaneous and go out to eat, mingle, play with your friends. THEN you wont even have to chuck bible verses at them, shove books in their hands, and drag them to church. They will come to YOU with heartfelt struggles. Or maybe they’ll just want a discussion. Or just a friend to be there for them. THIS is how you show others a Christian life, its not about just being able to read the Bible in front of a congregation, to pray in front on a stage, to preach in a camp meeting, to lead a praise group, or to lead a conference.
Well I guess I just went off course a little. Back to the point.
WHY NOT send untrained volunteers, WHY NOT send twenty something year old students. Sometimes as students we can be the most influential to others. Some of us have common goals as the natives in a mission field. Same schooling. Same family dynamics. WHO KNOWS. YOU don’t know that’s for sure.
ESPECIALLY in countries like Africa, the 20 somethings and younger are the FUTURE of the continent. Why NOT be able to go there, show them how some of their culture can be detrimental to their health or anything else? Natives where I was had a strong patriarchal society. The man had all the power and the woman is treated like nothing. Like they would flat out just state that. Some people, especially the Arabic community had more than one wife. Why NOT go there, show the risks of sleeping around, why NOT show that woman are equal to men?
She says, “By sending out untrained volunteers, we are essentially saying that development work is “easy,” that our skills as middle-class twenty-somethings are so valuable that they can save a village, and that just because we are from the U.S., we are superior to the third-world countries that we aim to serve.”
Of course some people do think that. But regardless, it’s not about what we have that’s important. The important fact is what we do with the things we have. Most of us at the early 20s are not doctors, not professionals at all. But regardless we CAN make a difference. Whether it’s to help the other professional missionaries, to start a project on your own that you can do, or to just teach local groups of natives something that you know. Maybe that won’t be SAVING a village physically, but it starts by planting a seed. It always starts as a seed; something doesn’t change drastically like being able to save a village straight up. Especially when it comes to cultures different from others, change is the most difficult.
I know this because I had the same exact struggle when in Tchad. We’d go to different places teaching health and one of the topics was the importance of clean water. One time, someone asked how they are able to achieve clean water when they only have 3-4 wells in the whole village that are covered and have pumps (most wells are uncovered and shallow, allowing mosquitoes and viruses and bacteria to thrive). To build one covered well deep enough and with a pump would have cost a couple thousand dollars. Of course we didn’t have the funds or manpower to do such thing, which got me to really feel discouraged. But one reminder that got me through the whole mission trip was that you never know the impact that you can have, only God knows. NO ONE knows the influence you had until God reveals it to you, no matter how small of a task. So to state that someone did useless work or is not helpful in any situation is an uninformed, useless account.
She goes more into other things but I feel like I should stop hating. I do agree on some things and disagree with some things of what she said. But in the end you don’t go to a mission and have the expectation of doing everything. It does take time and yes a lot of the mission field does need improvement. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that someone who is 1 year old to a person of a 100 years might have an impact on a native. For a pastor to post up something like this really made me frustrated because it could be discouraging for other potential future missionaries and also current or past student missionaries. It is imperative not only for the natives in the mission field to keep learning but also for us as part of the 1st world population to learn how to serve and to keep a Christ-ministry minded thinking. I think ill coin that term, Christ-ministry minded hahaha. He did not spend the majority of His life handing out the Bible nor did He go to church to pray and preach all the time. A majority of his time was traveling, having conversations with various types of sinners, to heal and to teach, to have “menial” conversations with others.