End of day six and as with any trip with this level of intensity and pace, it is hard to believe that it is almost over. Today we had our last round of site visits, tomorrow we worship with a local congregation and then Monday we begin our journey back home.
What to say, what to say? There really is so much that has happened over the past few days from going back through Port-Au-Prince, traveling to Cap Haitien on the norther side of Haiti and seeing a few more partner sites.
It seems that the overwhelming topic of conversation for us has been "what does it really mean to be good partners in mission?". It really is an old drum song, but it is true, sometimes in our compassion and eagerness to show love and healing, we do much more long-term harm than we could ever have imagined.
Without giving too much details about our conversations with locals, it is clear that we – THE US (Church and non-church) still find ourselves acting in very colonial ways oblivious to some of the cultural realities of Haiti. Again, well-intentioned, but often our actions have been short-sighted and harmful in the long run.
But, as all know especially post-earthquake, many people want come to Haiti to help. When we see images of some of the areas of Haiti and level of poverty, what person would NOT want to feed and clothe those who are in need? And indeed, relief work is sometimes needed, but eventually if we are truly interested in becoming partners that work together we must move the conversations and our actions to development and sustainability.
So how do we make sure to the best of our ability to be here in helpful ways. The folks I have been hanging out with are so well versed in the nuances of mission experiences that a I have gleaned a little from them by articulating for myself, some of the questions that I would pose for any community that I was working with who want to engage in short term mission
- Why do you want to go?
- What do you hope to gain?
- Who is this trip REALLY for?
- Is what we offer really needed and best done by us?
- Is our involvement going to be WITH people or FOR people?
- What kind of critial analysis before and afterward are you commit to: issues, culture, history, etc.?
- How will we connect with our partners that have been working with our church, in our case the PC(USA) in order to understand the nuances of out historic church relationships.
Now the answers to these questions seem obvious, but they are only helpful if, and only if, we truly embrace the challenge and discipline that is required. Now I would I NEVER say there is never a time to engage in this kind of activity, but according to When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor . . . and Ourselves, by Brian Fikkert and Steve Corbet, in 2006 alone it is estimated that 1.6 BILLION dollars was spent by US church on short-term mission.
Let that sink in.
My next post will be a final reflection and thanks you, so until then, peace.