Monday, August 24, 2009

Dwight,

I have a friend with whom I have difficulty discussing politics. We really see things from opposite perspectives. One of my problems is that she seems so angry. I am uncomfortable in a shouting match or even really heated discussions. The other day, she calmly said to me that the reason she and others get so angry is they think their perspectives are not being heard. I thought about how we seem to take turns in this country. You get to be mad for a presidential term or two while I am relatively happy and then we switch the party in power and we trade places.

My friend’s description of being angry when she doesn’t feel like she is heard made me think of things that occur in our denominational family. The current anger and frustration we are getting surrounding what I see as a shift in values in our system of sending overseas missionaries, represents people feeling unheard. After a long discussion in one church, a person quietly said, “Is there a chance they will hear us and change back?” It seemed like a plaintive cry. How was I supposed to answer? Should I have said, “not a chance?” I surely didn’t think I could say that I was sure people would give it every consideration and make adjustments as possible for the good of everyone.

I agree with your point #9 in your previous entry. We must be willing to change. But, as you wrote, “At some point we must talk about these value differences and determine if we can find a constellation of values with enough gravity to hold us together.”

And your final observation, “Despite what some may think, our polity is bent toward populism, not hierarchy.”

You were surprised that churches in my area were only now speaking their frustration about MPTs (mission partnership teams). The reason is that these are smaller churches that were passed over earlier. We’ve been flying under the radar and only recently ran into letters from missionaries that the plug was about to be pulled on them.

It’s difficult for me to respond to your #7 because it is much too close to me. I understand what home missionaries are, the historical foundation on which they stand, and the nearly insurmountable level of public misunderstanding. I also know that NM at its best has focused on the mission . . . whether that is evangelism, or acting to get children out of poverty, or assisting refugees, rather than on the personality of the missionary. And, for that matter, IM, in the passed, focused on the mission. I grew up hearing about medical missions and agricultural missions and preaching missions more than I heard the names of missionaries.

I’d like to avoid this topic but it does connect to the problems of IM. If the focus is on the personality of the missionary more than the mission, I believe we are in trouble accomplishing the mission. On the other hand, if the focus is on the personality of the missionary more than the mission, it may be easier to raise money.

I’m afraid the focus on missionary personality is a move to the past. I remember years ago at Green Lake during a women’s conference, a group of overseas missionaries came to meet with the women. It was primarily a photo opportunity. The European American missionaries were dressed in the native costumes of the people they served. The women at the conference went crazy taking pictures. One family had a couple of very small children trying to walk on wooden sandals built up on about 3” risers (evidently common in the country they served). The children fell down about every two steps, aggravating their parents. I watched and prayed for the day when the nationals would come to share their story and the missionaries would be dressed in their own casual clothes playing a supportive, encouraging role. The focus would be on the mission.

Is there room for this dream?