Has the BLM movement diminished good done by missionaries?
Disclaimers: a) I don’t for one second think that we should dismiss the BLM movement, b) what I’m indicating is that we could be in danger of dismissing something just as incredible if we don’t realise how wonderful mission is, c) I want to challenge people, not condemn, d) I know there are deep rooted issues with some missionaries and the BAME community. I don’t mean to ignore these. If you’d like to discuss this, please do comment below or contact.
Recently so many eyes have been opened to injustices, racial blindspots and inequality. But have we forgotten sustainable mission?
I have been so excited to see so many people use this strange season of pandemic to educate themselves. Suddenly the church is reading books on racism, discovering how slavery is more complex than the coffee they drink and responding to the needs of their local communities. I genuinely can’t quite explain how AMAZING this is.
However, in the frenzy of exposure there have been disappointments too. There are still shortcomings. For example, I 100% support the BLM movement and have spent time reading, advocating and also attending conference meetings where I can listen to BAME students challenge systems. But I also know that (like in all campaigns and movements) anger can work it’s way in. I know that fast learning over gradual committed research developments can not always be sustainable.
I am passionate about social justice. I am driven to advocate for victims of fast fashion or modern day slavery. I desire to see an inclusive society. I believe the church too has to look at it’s history and be challenged to address failures or unsustainabilities, yes. However I am also passionate about overseas missions and it has been a shame to see how this important ministry has begun to dwindle even more.
On a side note, I have found myself sitting in this disappointment a lot longer than ‘as of 2020.’ My purpose for this post is not to discourage or dwell on the bad but I must express how more and more churches are forgetting about the nations. We have become more focused on our individual salvation which is not necessarily a bad thing. But, the bible is clear on our faith being both personal, and communal. Our calling to love others is both a radical, local calling, and also a worldwide prayerful love.
Sustainable missionaries have been at the forefront of relational cross-cultural exchange for years. They have done a lot of good in bringing light and sustainable development to the world. Yet they have over the years come under scrutiny as colonial, faith-pushing, ‘west is best’ crusaders.
Yes there have been (and still are) failing, imperfect missionaries. In the past the church did proclaim God in a harmful way that is now being criticised. Historic missionaries did get tied up in colonialism and slavery. I fully believe the church does have to own up to this and sincerely apologise for the massive damage it has caused to many nations. There is still a lot of work to be done.
However, many missionaries and charities all over the world today have already walked through the blindspots. Most missionaries today live out their faith in a graceful, empathetic, sustainable way and it’s a beautiful thing.
I believe God tells us in the bible to go to all nations and proclaim our faith, not because we are superior or want control, but because cultural exchange is powerful for both accounts. There are skills that we have and can use to impart to others, and skills we can also gain from others. We have differing perspectives which are vital for challenging, refining and also encouraging.
The bible is not just for white westerners. The bible is God’s word given to all races and black lives matter to God. I wholeheartedly believe that God also wants to use POC missionaries and bless the UK with diverse culture, anti-racism and leaders who participate in healthy, sustainable exchange.
It’s not just all about Brits going to develop other nations. We should be empowering our BAME British nationals to empower us and change us. We should embrace immigration and welcome people from both minority groups and other nations all the more. They have a voice and God-given gifts that we are to embrace. Sustainable mission works both ways.
Who’s Doing It?
‘Good missionaries,’ are doing incredible work all over the world. They are training those without skills to live, work and prosper. They are providing good education to equip children to achieve their potential and then one day become the teachers. Some are meeting with leaders and praying for them. In dangerous places, missionaries are providing mental health support or releasing prisoners. These organisations are employing locals and we are seeing a decrease in the number of White British missionaries – they are moving in the right direction!
We still need to reawaken to the fact that the world is broken. There are developing nations. There are places where girls are forced into FGM. Others are deprived of the hope and freedom that Jesus offers, because they live in a community where ‘Jesus’ isn’t known or allowed to be spoken without a death sentence.
Using our privilege to support – not self-impose
As a church we need to allow God to stir us to have respect for our sustainable missionaries. We need to be stirred to pray for them, encourage them, share financially with them if need be. This doesn’t mean we take our eyes off the UK needs around us, or all suddenly jump at a ‘2 week short-term white saviour trip’ which should never be encouraged and only serves ourselves. It means we partner with the people already doing it. We start talking about and exchanging more than our own self-healing. We learn from their community, share with them and if called, go with them in a culturally appropriate manner.
Missionaries are not on a pedestal. They are ordinary people, living ordinary mundane lives in another country. They simply live every day as we would, led to love and see gradual change. Missionaries are there to empower locals, not override them.
Are you aware of overseas missions? Are you praying for sustainable mission work?
Let’s start loving mission again. Take a look at these good, sustainable, faith-based mission organisations who are leading in bringing more than just faith, but abundant life to all nations. Sign up to their newsletters. Watch their appeal videos. Pray for their workers. Give financially. Let them inspire you to live as a missionary where you are.
Organisations to Follow:
BMS World Mission – I recommend their ‘Engage’ Magazine and ‘Operation Chad’ appeal. They have been working to sustainably transform 1 million lives by 2020, and lots of their work involves training and empowering local churches to themselves serve in their own cultural context.
Mercy Ships – these provide incredible healthcare and also train locals in healthcare professions too.
Open Doors – offering aid to persecuted believers and advocating for them.
IJM – this organisation works to free those enslaved all over the world