After seven years on staff with Cru, Janel and her husband packed up their family of six to--yup, Go. Serve. Love in Uganda with Engineering Ministries International (EMI). EMI focuses on poverty relief and development, providing structural design and construction management for Christian organizations in the developing world. After 5.5 years there in East Africa, Janel and her family recently schlepped back to the U.S., where they keep working on behalf of the poor. She writes and loves on her family from Colorado. You can find more of her ideas for practical spirituality and loving each other at AGenerousGrace.com.
Back in the day when my husband and I were first considering a financially-supported ministry, I was so stinkin’ geared up to raise my own salary pretty much against it from the get-go. And I’d even seen my parents do it (and do it well). In fact, since I knew what it involved, I was like, reasons not to go: 1) We have to raise financial support. (It may have also been reasons #5 and #8.)
But it’s been 14 years now. Just as God used to sell a certain number of books to keep me employed or bring a certain number of tithing Christians to church to pay my salary, he continues to sustain my family through people who catch the vision for what we’re doing around the world.
And there are a lot of reasons I’d call my old self up on the phone and say, Do this.
I’m writing today with a question. A possibility. As in, no, I haven’t researched the tar out of this. No, I have a very limited number of acronyms behind my name. (Like, one.) I’m just a global worker with a vision that’s bigger than me and wasn’t really mine to start with.
Follow my logic for a moment.
We know that some generation in the future will at last succeed
in reaching every nation, tribe, and tongue with news they can’t live without (and trust me on this: no truer words are spoken).
We know that 40% of the world, to the tune of 3.15 billion people,
live in people groups where they have zero access to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Today Go. Serve. Love is stoked to welcome Rachel Pieh Jones–a marathon runner, a camel rider, a cookbook author of Djiboutilicious, and a general all-out lover of Djibouti. This post originally appeared on her blog, Djibouti Jones.
From Rachel’s blog, Djibouti Jones: I have been wrestling with how to write about this for months. Starts and stops, lots of unfinished first sentences and barely coherent lists. Then I read this essay after the Rick Warren and race conversation flared up. When White People Don’t Know They Are Being White by Jody Louise on Between Worlds. She is humble yet forthright in the piece, a balance which is incredibly challenging to achieve around such a sensitive and potentially volatile topic. She spurred me on, inspired me, and clearly, informed the title of this post.
I’m giving you loads of links here that will lead to other links and I encourage you to take the time to read this stuff. I have been and don’t think I’ll ever be the same. It is hard, challenging, might make you angry. That’s okay, wrestle with it. Join me as I wrestle with it.
I am not surprised by, but continue to be disappointed in, the western attitude toward the developing world. It is an attitude I see often, though not exclusively, among Christians. It is an attitude of superiority, a god-complex. An attitude that communicates an underlying assumption, intentionally or not, that the rich westerner is the one with power and authority and agency. As this is communicated, of course the opposite is communicated as well. The local person is weak, a victim, and helpless. The rich westerner must charge in to fix things, build things, challenge the status quo.
I’d taken my mom out for her birthday: falafel and jasmine rice at this great new Mediterranean place with only a handful of tables. We headed out, Barnes & Noble-bound to spend a birthday gift card for her, chatting and laughing. At a stoplight I glanced at the clock on the bank across the street, marveling at how fast time passed when she and I were together. Green light: my trusty minivan gathered its strength for the uphill left turn.
There are times in cross-cultural work–in those nuanced, complicated relationships–that the differences dividing us seem simply too overwhelming. How can we possibly connect when we can’t even agree on that?
St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226) was born into a wealthy, worldly Italian family under the original name of Giovanni Francesco di Pietro di Berardone. (Try saying that five times fast.) But upon his conversion, his life altered dramatically. He actually took the swanky clothes from his back and handed them to his father, longing to “imitate Christ” in a lifestyle of poverty, chastity, and obedience.
In the midst of his “great agony of doubt”, Francis sent a friend to ask others in the faith to pray for him. They separately replied the following:
“The Lord says you are to tell Brother Francis this: that God has not called him to this state only on his own account, but that he may reap a harvest of souls and that many may be saved through him.”
“He wants you to go about the world preaching, because God did not call you for yourself alone but also for the salvation of others.”*
*As reported by Foster, Richard J. and James Bryan Smith, eds. Devotional Classics: Selected Readings for Individuals and Groups. New York: HarperOne (2005), pp. 295-296. Quotations from The Little Flowers of St. Francis.
This week, we’ve got a few tips on packing. (Don’t worry–there’ll be lots more to come.) When my family went over, I confess my 2 1/2-year-old maaaaaay have fallen over backwards after Mommy made his carry-on backpack a teensy bit full. It was amazing how many prayers of mine were offered on behalf of that poor British Airways attendant who would be checking in (and yes, offering a lot of grace toward) our family of six.
We acknowledge you may feel frustrated by patronizing “help” that actually hurts, or by work that makes us feel better but makes them feel worse, or by global work that continues cycles of poverty, or by missions trips that cannibalize employment.