Here’s a couple of great questions for all my friends who serve in other countries, with other people groups, or work cross culturally.
Why don’t Americans like to live with the people they are serving? Don’t they like us?
I’ve heard a variation of this question a number of times over my years serving here in Mexico. This week I was asked again right after I saw the school where American missionaries send their kids to learn.
I know a fair amount of folks serving in other countries and almost all of them live in secure compounds, send their kids to private schools and generally keep to themselves in their private lives.
I often wonder what Hudson Taylor would think of this phenomena?
Hudson Taylor was the 19th Century British missionary to China who revolutionized cross cultural missions work. He believed it was important to be part of the society that he was serving. In his time in China, he decided to dress like the Chinese, live with them, and learn their languages, becoming proficient enough to even translate the bible into some of the Chinese dialects.
Sadly, his example has been abandoned by a great majority of missionaries serving around the world.
Instead of taking the chance to have coffee with locals, learn their customs, and experience life and the Gospel from a different perspective, many missionaries, both long and short-term have determined that the security of what they know is the better path.
It is amazing to me that many have seemingly forgotten the Apostle Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 9... “...I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.”
I know that what I am proposing is not easy, but who ever said this was easy? I have never done anything harder in my life than try to understand the Mexican situation, learn from some wonderful people, live as Paul called me to live, and share the love of Jesus.
Perhaps those of us who are leaders in the church, in our zeal to give as many people as possible the opportunity to serve the ends of the earth, have compromised our values.
Tim Dearborn quotes a Haitian pastor in his book beyond duty who was asked what makes someone a good missionary in Haiti. His simple response will surprise you... he said a good missionary in Haiti will “Love Haitians.”
Is the reality that many live apart from the very people they believe they are called to serve, evidence that they are not loving the very people God gave to them and involved in their lives?
How do you think Hudson Taylor would answer that question?