A ministry leader from South East Asia shared today his and his compatriots’ frustration with the NGO’s – Christian and non-Christian alike – at a gathering in Singapore I am attending this week. The problem seems to be that these ‘comers’ are present in the country only until there is money in the project account. Once the money is gone the workers leave. Locals call this ‘one Land-cruiser come, one Land-cruiser go.’ They see this type of situation being repeated time after time, with no change in sight.
Another, similar situation occurred when (some) missionaries came with their projects. Instead of researching the prevailing worldview and then developing materials that will speak and relate to the local population, they ultimately offer their funds only if the locals take their materials/approach and work with them. This is quite detrimental for the national workers and not really helpful to anyone. But, this is what (some) Christian missionaries apparently do.
On the other hand, locals do not take ownership of the things they have been given, and sometimes given with love and sincere heart. When a church building is being built from abroad (whether donors, volunteers or else), local believers are doing nothing to keep it in good shape. Several years would pass and once the original missionaries come again – they would be greeted with: “Where were you? We are waiting for you to repair the building, it is in a poor condition, and we have no money to repair it!”
Clearly, this local church did not take ownership of the building that had been built for them. A similar situation is with wells and other community projects, I am told – in SE Asia. Yes, in many parts of the world people need help. Food is scarce, civil unrest and wars, corrupt government, low or weak education, no health system are daily realities of our world, and all that combined with the natural disasters, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis.
When will various aid groups and organizations, and also Christian missions leave behind their pre-designed programs and projects, stop playing hide-seek games with their giving government agencies and foundations and start to act responsibly – developing self-reliance and not dependency among the recipients? When will the true interest of the needy people come up on the fundraising priority lists? When will our various organizations forget about project funding and turn their work into empowering nationals to do the work, taking pride and ownership in what they do?
Unless we hear reports from the field that the above is happening, we will continue to hear only about how many more millions is needed for this or that. Unhealthy financial dependency (a new missionary colonial era actually) is creating a vicious circle of never having enough (on the receiving side) and giving for the Lord’s work out of wrong motives and guilt (on the donor side). We must break from that ‘remnant of the past’ practice into building self-reliance for growth and development (sustainable – a very modern terminology). Making false and inflated reports, satisfying administrative needs of some boards in some foundations or institutions, closely following the ‘dollar per convert ratio’ missionary model of the West is not good anymore.
Good Lord has better things for us to do – and this is why I like what TWR Cambodia team is doing for their people and their country. Interested? Visit http://www.facebook.com/TWRCambodia