Monday, May 16, 2011

Wisdom from Indigenous Leaders

If you disagree at all with my last post, you will certainly have a problem with this one. My session at the Summit with indigenous leaders from around the world made me want to jump up and shout "Amen!" just as much as it made me squirm in my seat and want to crawl under the table. To say that I appreciate their honesty would say too little. We all need to hear the truth of how we are perceived when we go into other countries and we all need to know the truth about how the leaders of those countries view us and our efforts. For church and ministry leaders that have never heard any thing like this before, it's a hard pill to swallow, but if we want to help, we have to listen. There is no way to sugar coat this Q&A session.

When asked how we appear to church leaders and the local people before true relationships and partnerships are formed we were told,

"You appear arrogant and unbiblical." (This is the super short version of a rather long explanation of how awful we often appear because even though it is not usually our intent to appear as though we are trying to be saviors, we so often do when we refuse listen to the indigenous people and their ideas and instead go in with our plans to save them.)

When asked what local church leaders would want us to do and not do in their communities we were told,

"Empower us and encourage us. Do not try to fix us. Do not do things for us that we are capable of doing for ourselves if only we had a little help. Do not walk in front of us, but walk with us. Become our friends first. Build trusting relationships that will last. Work with the local churches because after you are gone we are what remains."

The question was asked, are orphans the problem or a symptom of a bigger problem?

"Orphans are a symptom of a bigger problem."

What is the problem and what should be done to solve it?

As much as my heart is in the prevention of orphans, the answers that came for this question were difficult for even me to hear and process.

"Orphans are a symptom of poverty which creates so many other symptoms as well. Sometimes you have to overlook the symptom to get to the causing factor. You cannot solve the problem until you get to the root of it. If you go to a doctor and complain of a toothache, he can give you medicine to make your pain go away for a while, but that doesn't fix the problem that caused the ache. Until the tooth is fixed, the ache will continue to return. It would be best to fix the tooth first so there will be less pain in the present and the future. We do not want to put a band-aid on this. We have to address the causing factor of the symptom."

Ouch! I would love to hear your opinions about that.

Finally, the leaders were asked what they want us to remember.

"Our children are not projects. We are not projects. We are people, human beings, created in the image of God, just as you are. We do not need to fixed, but we do need to be encouraged and supported by you as you help us help our countries."

I wish that I could type word for word every thing that was said in this session because from each leader came such wise advice on how we should and should not handle ourselves in their countries, what we should and should not do. This session will forever be one of those that remains invaluable to me.

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