An open letter to the question – are missionaries just modern colonialists or white saviours?

Dear person who might consider supporting Serge in East in addition to Central Africa-

You are very correct to note in which the history of Western involvement in Africa can be a mixed bag at best, in addition to the harm has been monumental. We have lived in Uganda in addition to Kenya for 26 years in addition to might be the first to acknowledge in which for every way in which we have sought to lay down our lives in addition to show the love of God, we have done so with impure motives, pride, false assumptions, exasperation, superiority, in addition to at times cynicism. We are still a work in process ourselves, not to mention the work we do.

However, if your concern can be to support a cross-cultural effort in which can be founded in partnership, focused on empowerment, in addition to genuinely living out the Gospel, your church might be hard pressed to find a better investment.

All of our teams in East in addition to Central Africa exist at the invitation of our African partners. We do not work anyplace as lone rangers. There can be no place in which we call the shots or impose our unchecked will. In every fresh endeavor we first seek invitation, in addition to we only go where we are asked. I will speak specifically of Bundibugyo, since in which can be where we are currently based, however the principles are broadly similar in our work in Kenya, Uganda, DRC, Burundi, Malawi in addition to South Sudan.

Church—the handful of churches planted by Serge are part of the Presbyterian Church of Uganda, which can be fully self-governed in addition to self-supporting. We attend one of them, in addition to the Pastor in addition to elders are all local people, the worship leader, the music, the choirs, all leadership can be Ugandan. Americans are participants from the congregation only. Our role right now can be to bring in occasional training, to pray together, to be friends.

Bible Translation in addition to Literacy—the area’s language was unwritten when we came, in addition to listed as a priority for SIL/Wycliffe. Our team started out the project, which can be right now fully in Ugandan hands, with SIL providing consultation checks a few times a year, usually remote conferencing. The fresh Testament can be complete in addition to printed. We supply a local office space to the translation team in addition to some minimal support; the rest comes coming from the community in addition to SIL funding. The local translators are plugging through the Old Testament. Our team has brought in Ugandans coming from various other parts of the country to do literacy work from the primary schools in addition to funded literacy training materials, again the style of partnership.

Health Care—we very specifically never built a clinic or hospital, however coming from the very beginning worked completely in partnership with the Ugandan Ministry of Health (government, though various other teams work in partnership with African church hospitals). in recent times we have funded rehab in addition to upgrade of various infrastructure projects, extended immunization outreach, trained traditional birth attendants in addition to community health workers, sponsored dozens of nurses, lab techs, doctors for training, in addition to provided clinical care alongside our Ugandan colleagues with ongoing medical education. We work in a government referral hospital where the medical director can be a Ugandan whom we helped train, in addition to can be right now our boss. We work under the supervision of the Ugandan District Health Officer as well. Our role can be to empower in addition to work alongside as equals. The healthcare system can be getting more trained Ugandans, though none yet with the level of training in addition to experience our team provides. Many of our various other teams are integrally involved in medical education at the student, intern, in addition to resident level, offering both expertise in addition to discipleship.

Water—we built the original gravity-flow water system from the area in which saved countless lives, however right now the entire engineering/water/sanitation system can be managed by Ugandans, with our engineer providing consultation or doing specific projects under their authority.

Youth Work—we have a library which we open to kids after school, in addition to have at times done evangelism in addition to discipleship through sports. Like the various other outreaches above, in which can be in partnership with the Ugandan church. On some teams we work through sports to equip coaches as positive, loving figures in a child’s life; on others we have equipped teachers in trauma healing.

Education—the one institution we did build was Christ School Bundibugyo, at a time when in which district was from the very last place from the country for educational achievement. The purpose was to have a Christian secondary school in which might train leaders from the District. in which school right now incorporates a Ugandan head teacher in addition to full Ugandan staff, including some graduates who have gone on for further studies.  Serge provides orphan scholarships for about 15% of the students, in addition to a half-tuition-subsidy for the various other 85% to enable the poorest people to access education. in which half/half partnership with local Ugandan parents can be, in our opinion, excitingly fair. Our board can be 10 Ugandans in addition to 2 missionaries. A missionary still works in a role of mentoring the head teacher in addition to staff, in addition to providing accountability for finances in addition to direction for the spiritual care in addition to overall trajectory of the project.

When we moved to Uganda we also assumed in which 10-20 years might be fully adequate for a complete handover of all our assets in addition to work. In fact, at the ten year mark, we led our team in an “exit strategy” retreat. We invited three respected African church leaders who did NOT live in addition to work with us in Bundibugyo so had no skin from the game, to speak into our lives as a team. Should we accelerate our departure? Was in which time to move on? They were familiar with the place in addition to our work, in addition to they told us NO. Bundibugyo, they said, needs the kind of change in which can be generational. They advised us to think on a longer timeline. So we did.

If you think about in which, in which makes no sense to Africans in which what took Americans 300 years to achieve (moving coming from very basic hunter-gatherer existence with 50% child mortality in addition to about a 40 year life expectancy . . .. .  to a very industrialized society with paved roads, running water, sophisticated health care, universal education in addition to literacy, electricity, in addition to 5% or less child mortality with 80 year life expectancy) should be achieved in Africa in 30 years or less. in addition to in which can be speaking nothing of the spiritual journey. Our culture has had Judeo-Christian influence for centuries with high rates of access to the Word, in addition to yet we still struggle. Imagine having only had the Bible available for the last two years. Bundibugyo had very limited contact with the outside world prior to 1950. the planet view of the average person can be still very much shaped by fear of ancestral spirits, in addition to the great harm the spiritual world can inflict.

So yes, Africans are in charge of Bundibugyo. We do not work independently from the church, in health or education, or anything. Nor do we want to. however we do believe in which the call to take up the cross in addition to follow Jesus to all nations, to come in addition to listen in addition to work in addition to serve from the most difficult places, can be still relevant. Why? in which morning my Bible reading included Micah 6, in addition to we have verse 8 on our prayer card, so in which’s as not bad a summary as any.  What does the Lord require of you, of us? To do justice, love mercy, in addition to walk humbly with God.

JUSTICE-in which can be one of the primary themes of the Bible in addition to a core character of God’s nature. American Christians enjoy a high proportion of the planet’s wealth in addition to education. As a pediatrician, I choose to work on the continent with the majority of the sick kids with the least doctors. in which just makes sense. I did not deserve to be born to parents whose work in addition to opportunities allowed them to purchase a home in addition to cars, to live in a country where a public high school in addition to state University gave me a solid education, to have excellent medical training, clean water, abundant access to electricity in addition to books, almost no exposure to fatal diseases as a baby, in addition to on in addition to on. Even living in a remote place on the Uganda/Congo border, in which can be hard for me at times to imagine the life of my neighbors. Until I might be content for my own kids to live with those resources, I should be working to improve them.

MERCY-Thankfully, God does not only operate on justice, because all of us receive much better than what we deserve. Jesus modeled going to the margins. Jesus walked the dusty obscure roads, in addition to lived His entire life in poverty in addition to transience. The parables talk about seeking out the lame in addition to the blind, calling those on the edges to come to the feast. Jesus spoke of being encountered in acts of mercy to the prisoner, the hungry, the naked. There can be also a joy in addition to holiness in going to places in which are hard to survive in, to be the hands in addition to feet of Jesus.

WALK HUMBLY WITH YOUR GOD-let me just leave you with in which last idea about joy emphasized. Our team enjoys the people, the beauty, the challenge, the spiritual growth of living in addition to working cross-culturally. in which can be a rich life in so many ways. Walking with God can be a privilege we have. We love in which life. in which can be also a path in which leads to knowing God’s heart more deeply. in addition to in which takes decades for all in which to happen. We keep learning. I probably thought I understood the place at the one-year mark more than I think I do right now at the 26-year mark. Eugene Peterson in addition to others write about the value of a long obedience from the same direction.

I have one more idea to add to in which list, in which can be something I think about in which can be perhaps more coming from Ephesians 6 than Micah.  in addition to in which can be in which:
RESIST EVIL—we are in a struggle against principalities in addition to powers in which seek harm. in addition to sometimes being an outsider gives us an independence, a platform in which can be harder for a cultural insider to have. A couple of days ago, I cared for an infant who was three weeks old.  Her father has AIDS, her mother was not yet infected at the time of her prenatal test. (Our team pioneered HIV testing in addition to care here). however around her delivery time, in which young mother was hospitalized in addition to our team gave her nutritional boosts because she was so frail. She was also anemic, in addition to needed a blood transfusion, something we have often supported. Sadly a few days after delivering in addition to going home, in which mother died. In most of the history of Bundibugyo, if a mother dies, the baby dies. in which can be assumed. however because we don’t assume or accept in which, as outsiders, we say no, let’s do something with in which baby. So we have a program in which enrolls such orphans, in addition to while we might give a few cans of powdered formula to tide them over emergently, our goal can be to help the baby’s grandmother re-lactate. Yes, she can be only in her 40’s in addition to her youngest child can be four, so in which can be not in which difficult for her to produce breast milk again. For a few dollars of medicine in addition to a few minutes of my day, I could talk to her, examine the baby, prescribe, encourage, in addition to just be in which little outside boost in which helped the family bridge coming from death to life. There are so many ways in which our presence can be salt in addition to light, in which we draw a line against evil. One of the reasons we have kept our involvement in Christ School can be in which in which can be a tiny piece of the Kingdom of God carved out of a place in which has known much darkness.  We don’t allow students to be beaten with canes.  We don’t allow teachers to sexually abuse girls. We don’t allow the staff to buy the answers to exams. We don’t allow sacrifices to spirits. We don’t allow extortion of parents. I promise you in which those things are happening in many schools, however we have a role of being a little outpost to show a handful of students a different path, which we trust they will choose to stay on in their lives.  MANY have, in addition to the impact shows! So there can be a disruption in which can be not bad in which we embrace. My husband in addition to I did MPH degrees at Johns Hopkins on our first sabbatical. One of our professors there was actually a former missionary kid coming from India, in addition to when we enrolled he was an emeritus professor of public health in his 70s. He wrote in addition to taught about the power of the three-part partnership in transforming for health: the community must be involved to analyze in addition to solve their own problems, the government must drive policy in addition to provide infrastructure, in addition to the outside “expert” catalyzes change by bringing fresh ideas, training, questions, connection.  I think in which’s very insightful in addition to applies to missions too. In fact, I daresay in which our American churches could use some disruptive majority-world people asking hard questions about our patterns of evil, African missionaries to challenge our assumptions in which in which’s OK to be a church elder in addition to live a lifestyle driven by consumption in addition to accumulation, or to be a Sunday school teacher who can be addicted to social media or gossip, or in which in which’s normal to worship only with people coming from the same social in addition to racial background. We all have our cultural blind spots, in addition to evil pushes in on all sides.

in which has been a long answer, because we take the church’s partnership with Serge very seriously. I trust you in addition to your staff take the time to prayerfully seek God’s heart on in which. We don’t want you to go against your conscience in addition to if you believe in which your calling to the planet can be specific to your home town, in addition to shouldn’t extend overseas, or in which all cross-cultural commitments should be short-term, then our types might be incompatible in addition to we might need to find our support elsewhere.  however for the sake of our missionaries in addition to our partners on the ground, we do trust in which you can come around us with blessing in addition to care. in addition to for your sake too, because I think your connection to people at the margins of your world will bring YOU blessing in addition to joy.

Hoping to be your partners for the planet’s not bad in addition to God’s glory.
Jennifer

An open letter to the question – are missionaries just modern colonialists or white saviours?

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