13 November 2008

Mission as aid... a Ugandan Perspective...

Interview by Ugandan-born theologian Emmanuel Katagole, who teaches at Duke Divinity School, comment about missions:

"Mission as aid often draws from the story of the Good Samaritan, and mission as partnership invokes Paul's image of the Body, which has many parts. It is only that these models do not go far enough in bridging neat divisions or tribalism between 'us' and 'them'. That is why we need to learn another model – mission as pilgrimage, which is based on a vision of the Christian life as a journey. This model grows out of the sense of being pilgrims together, pilgrims who feel the dust under their feet and come to know the places where they sojourn. The problem with the world is not that we do not see others. We do. We know the needs of the world. But to feel the gifts and needs of the world – that means learning to journey with different people in different parts of the world. This kind of journey is slower than mission done as delivery of aid, slower than partnership … But when we take time for that, it begins to transform the pilgrim. You have learned the names of the people and places, these far-flung places with names very difficult to pronounce. Mission as pilgrimage is about that transformation. It's not about fixing northern Uganda. You're not going to fix Northern Uganda… Where do you begin? Instead, the pilgrim begins to know, to feel, that Northern Uganda, with all its tragedy and terror, is a Christian story. It is not just their story, but that is our story. I doubt whether many people from my village will be able to afford to come here [to America]. But when American Christians go to a village in Africa, it may not only allow them to see Africa differently but also allow Africa to see America afresh. Most Africans see America through Hollywood or through the news about the war in Iraq. These Americans, people think, are war-loving people. But they are able to connect with real individuals and to eat and drink with them, a new journey of mutual transformation might begin. There is a Rwandan proverb, 'Unless you hear the mouth eating, you cannot hear the mouth crying.' You have to begin by eating together. Then you begin to realize that the dividing wall has been broken down, and we are no longer strangers… Many short-term trips from America are based on a misleading sense of mission. They are sensed on a base of power – that American Christians are going to do something for Africa, save Africa. Maybe it is America that needs saving, and this is a truth that can only be learned through a sense of pilgrimage… You see, not every trip to a foreign land can be called a pilgrimage. Pilgrimage is a particular form of journeying that involves a number of elements, including encounter, reflection, transformation, and the readiness to be drawn into a sense of community with those different from us. It is pilgrimage that gives rise to the church as a unique fellowship of people drawn from different nations, tribes, languages, and races."

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