Thursday, December 10, 2009

a rant(ito)

i have many thoughts and opinions that have sprouted up from being in the unique position of living in a foreign country and acculturating(think salad bowl ESL metaphor) into that foreign country but being witness to my native country`s deeds within said foreign country.and i have something to say.

i think its important to ask why and how a person comes into an impoverished country. many people have already formed this answer and often have the general how answered as well. and it usually sounds really good, polished and able to bring in donations. most of the time it is well thought out and usually focused on the people..but i have a few more questions i`d like to ask, specifically for the missionaries in, or coming to, Nicaragua.

am i positive that my mission or project i am coming to complete is not already being done by local people that i might support instead?

how can i hope to meet needs of people i cant communicate with nor understand where they come from?

why, knowing that the country i work in has high unemployment, would i not include several salaries for native people in my budget?

why do i choose to enforce my cultural norms and ideals upon the people i work with rather than try to learn and understand and work within theirs?

do i really think i have all the ability to make a difference, and that i don`t need and cherish the input and support of my native counterparts?

am i doing this project honestly and for the people`s benefit, or because it makes me look good with my various groups at home?

are my motives pure in the application of my project? is it something the people really need and want and will support?

can this project survive without me? and if the answer is no, how will i change that?

is the underlying attitude and nuances of every action Love?

i`m realizing as i write this out, im a bit bitter. i am frustrated by the uncomfortable situation we find ourselves in when good people want to do a good thing...but haven`t thought it out completely. im tired of getting angry over culture clashes and attitudes about money and work ethic and education, and im sad at seeing all the loose ends and not knowing how to fix them. im burdened by the lack of vibrant Christian local men and women ready to serve and bearing the burden with the few that do and are always called on to do all of the service/projects/quehaceres. im curious about my own culture, and how we let it so easily shape our Christianity into something that isn`t necessarily Truth.

i certainly do not have all the answers, and recognize that many of those aforementioned questions are uncomfortable and slightly accusing (hence the first person form, its always better to ask yourself the tough questions first before you go slinging them at someone else). Being of my own culture, I understand it and can imagine every angle of defense one might have in response...and I just say, we have to be Christians (little Christs), not American or Nicaraguan or Republican or Socialist or Rich or Poor or Good or Bad....He is the only thing that defines us, being that in His image and for His good purpose we were made, and I can`t make excuses for not living as He calls...not for my culture, nor my economic status, nor my project goals and objectives.

disclaimer: this is a GENERAL rant, and not directed at a specific group or person...just a stream of thought gathered from being part of and observing many different ministries here in Nicaragua...most of which are making a positive impact.


kimberly said...

these are such great thoughts sarah. I remember asking myself a lot of these same questions when I went to honduras. it is so easy for us to get stuck in our american rut...and so hard to forget that it's not all about us.

Mike Furches and The Virtual Pew said...

Your mom sent this to me after we did the downtown homeless event last week, and again this week. I couldn't agree more, there has to be more and the understanding of the culture is critical. If I had the money I'd have a job for you for sure when you come home, a job for you to help set up the effort to do exactly what you are saying in our area for the homeless, poor and mentally ill that roam our streets.

We need people to ask questions, those questions help us establish programs not just for programs sake, but for the best programs possible to really help people. Keep up the good work.

Orangehouse said...

I would recommend the book "When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor... and Yourself". I have been leading short term teams of engineering students to do infrastructure projects in developing countries for the last six years. This book really helped me to do them better.