Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Mission Field to Mission Force (part 2) Ethnocentrism

I am not a statistician. I am not a missiologist either. But I am involved in missions in various ways, as a missionary who has worked with Latin American missionaries, and as a member of a Latin American mission agency. I am very much in favor of the idea of Latin America becoming a mission force, and invest a significant amount of my time in promoting that concept.

The term "ethnocentric" means that we believe that our culture is the best culture in the whole wide world. The way our family relates to one another is the best. Our food is the best. Our country is benevolent, humble, altruistic and seeks only the best for mankind. Our countryside is quaint, our cities are spectacular, or lifestyle is, well, second-to-none, our climate is perfect.

You may think I'm describing the Ugly American. Of course I am, but I'm also describing the Ugly Brazilian, the Ugly Italian, the Ugly Costa Rican, the Ugly Cambodian.

The fact doesn't matter where you're from, you think your culture is the best. If you deny this, well, then you are more self-deceived than you think you are!

I remember a Guatemalan missionary, at an appreciation dinner a decade ago, telling a whole room for of Mexicans how his friends in Guatemala reacted when he told his friends that he felt called to Mexico. Oh, no, not Mexico! Anywhere but Mexico! You can imagine how that went over...especially in a culture that looks down their nose at Central America. Nearly every country hates their neighbor, the world over. Alas, we live in a fallen world.

When you go to another country, and another culture, you have to die to yourself in many subtle and often emotional ways.  You are a follower of Jesus. Your citizenship is celestial. You don't do anyone any favors by declaring the virtues of your earthy home country.

Latin Americans need to learn this. They need to learn to love and appreciate the culture of their host country. They need to learn to swallow the insistent desire to compare (and to criticize). To my dear Latin American missionary brothers, I would encourage you to die. It's not easy, but it is essential if you want to be effective in this Great Commission enterprise.

If you missed part 1 of this series, click HERE.

1 comment:

Jim said...

Actually, I'm curious about the appreciation dinner thing - how did it go over? Laughter? Nervous silence? Public stoning?