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Challenges African American Missionaries Face

Apr. 26, 2016By: David Crabb

Recently, I had the opportunity to talk about African Americans and Missions with Timothy Byrd,a missionary with Campus Outreach in Johannesburg, South Africa. Our conversation will be posted in five parts.

Part 1: Why don’t we see many African American missionaries?

David Crabb: What particular challenges do African American missionaries face both pre-field and on the field?

Timothy Byrd: In my personal experience, and in the experience of several of my African American contemporaries, the pre-field challenges are (1) finding long-term financial partners or support, (2) skepticism and (3) opportunities to be a missionary.

For example, many people in my church community loved the idea that I wanted to do crossmoney-sign-300x300 cultural missions, but there were only a few who had a clear category to put me in. These were godly people who loved the Lord yet had never met a missionary who wanted to live in another country just to share the gospel for a lengthy period of time (3 years or more). Therefore, getting people excited was easy. Finding partners and churches to send me was the challenge. I have met very few African American churches that have mission committees or a missionary selection process. This makes it hard for the church to find out about you, encourage you or challenge you regarding your potential calling. 

The second challenge which is skepticism. There are so many scams people try to pull on churches that some churches are very guarded.  Therefore, when someone you know (and especially someone you don’t know) comes with a new or foreign concept, in many black churches it can feel like you must prove over time that you are a legitimate missionary. If a number of churches operate like this, the missionary may waver in hope and give up, or never get enough support to even go overseas.

The last thing that I would mention is the biggest pre-field and on the field challenge for African American missionaries: money! The bottom line is many long-term African American missionaries battle with raising support from African American churches. Love offerings and one time gifts do go a long way, but if missionaries are going to live in a foreign country with their only source of income coming from sending churches and individuals, there has to be significant partnership.  I have had several friends who have full-time support raising jobs in the U.S. who have had to get jobs because they couldn’t pay every day bills.  In some instances “tent-making ministry” is encouraged, but we can’t expect full-time ministry workers working part-time jobs to give the same time and energy as their counterparts who are doing ministry full-time with full support.  When support does not come in for a cross cultural missionary this typically means you go home.  Some requirements for work permits or visas are so restricted to special gifts sets it is nearly impossible to get a job. It is even more complicated when locals may feel like you are taking their jobs. I have heard it said money follows ministry, and I agree. But if the money does not follow soon enough, many agencies (and missionaries!) begin to wonder, “Is this what I should be doing?”

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How the Red Cross Raised Half a Billion Dollars for Haiti ­and Built Six Homes

Apr. 19, 2016By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

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While this happens all the time, one would not believe that $500M in donations to the Red Cross would yield 6 homes. The type of thorough research in this article shines the light again on our well-intented donations gone awry:

In late 2011, the Red Cross launched a multimillion-dollar project to transform the desperately poor area, which was hit hard by the earthquake that struck Haiti the year before. The main focus of the project — called LAMIKA, an acronym in Creole for “A Better Life in My Neighborhood” — was building hundreds of permanent homes.

Today, not one home has been built in Campeche. Many residents live in shacks made of rusty sheet metal, without access to drinkable water, electricity or basic sanitation. When it rains, their homes flood and residents bail out mud and water.

Read the whole thing here.

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Second-Hand Clothing Undermines Africa's Economy

Nov. 16, 2015By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

Anthony Bradley at the Acton Institute Blog writes:

The second-hand clothing industry in parts of Africa is big business. In fact, many charities receive substantial revenue from the sale of this clothes. Why buy a t-shirt for 10 dollars when you can buy one for 32 cents? These trends should come as no surprise to Americans because consignment shops and thrift stores are plentiful. However, the difference is that in many parts of Africa second-hand clothing is the primary means of buying clothes and is, therefore, inadvertently stifling the growth of local African economies. Sadly, charities are playing a role in killing this growth.

Read the rest of the article here.

If you are interested in more articles, Philemon Yong has written a post on hurting the church in Romania.

Here are some interesting statistics from chapter 1 of Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help (And How to Reverse It)

  • Africa has recieved $1 trillion in benevolent aid in the last 50 year and per-capita income is now lower, life expectancy has stagnated and adult literacy is lower.
  • 85% of aid money flowing to African countries never reaches the targeted areas of need.
  • U.S. missions teams who rushed to Honduras to help rebuild homes destroyed by Hurricane Mitch spent on average $30K per home - homes locals could have built for $3K each.
  • The money spent by one campus ministry to cover the costs of their Central American mission trip to repaint an orphanage would have been enough to hire two local painters and two new full-time teachers and purchase new uniforms for every student in the school.
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Using Your Poor Kid to Teach My Rich Kid a Lesson

Nov. 12, 2015By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

Jamie Wright writes:

 

If a short-term mission has any value at all, it is undeniably found in its ability to educate the participant. It will stretch your kid's physical and spiritual boundaries by making them truly uncomfortable. It will teach them about a new culture. It will force them to engage with the world in a new way. It will make them appreciate the hot shower, cushy mattress, and abundantly full fridge they enjoy at home. This new found appreciation will last for at least one week. Sometimes more.
But.
As we send throngs of suburban teenagers on short-term missions every year to “learn a lesson”, we have a responsibility to ask ourselves; What are the poor kids learning from all of this?

 

You can read the whole article here.

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Would You Pay People to Go to Church - Part 2

Jul. 29, 2015By: Jeff AtherstoneAuthor Bio

Yesterday, we asked the question “would you pay people to go to church?” After a few quick thoughts the answer was obvious “no way!”

Then we turned the tables and asked, “Would you pay pastors in Africa to attend the conference your STM team is hosting?”

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Here is why I  (as a missionary) would discourage you not to:

1) African’s are relational. They want to meet you, ask about your family, share about their family and get an individual picture with you. This doesn’t happen for them in a crowd of thousands. This type of experience might be satisfying for our western individualistic culture but for a relational society it leads the crowds feeling empty. Ultimately, the only national the STM teams connect with are their drivers – who are also there just to be paid!

2) As leaders go – so goes the church. If the leaders are only motivated to learn, study and worship because they are getting paid they will produce the same type of churches. Sadly, church growth in Africa has become “whoever gives out the most wins!” This means that churches are growing because they sponsor children, provide free medical care, and pass out free clothes and bibles not because the gospel is preached, discipleship is taking place and the body is functioning according to the gifts. This pulls many people away from Bible-teaching churches and into prosperity gospel churches simply because the prosperity church has money.

3) It harms the ministries that last longer than a STM trip! Passing out things for free while receiving high-fives, hugs, smiles, cheers, testimonies and praise for a week or two is an amazing rush which motivates tens of thousands of STM teams to come to Uganda and surrounding East African countries every year. It’s a rush that has become a yearly “must –do” for churches around the US. Then when the money runs out everyone feels great because it is time to board the plane.  But for the churches that meet every Sunday, Child Development centers that open every day and Bible Colleges that meet year round there just aren’t enough resources to pass out free gifts and provide transport every day – so when the visitors leave so do the crowds. This forces many ministries to host teams year round which leads to the same types of visitors, the same messages and the same activities year after year, which African's fully show appreciation for – because it’s their job – there are getting paid!

4) What would you do? Ultimately as a pastor in the US you don’t go to every conference. You pick conference(s) based on what you can afford and when you pay for that conference you know that your elders, deacons committee or whoever else paid for the conference are counting on you to use that time to get what you need most to satisfy your soul and prepare you to lead your church. Treat your brothers in Africa the same way – let them come because it is what they need most not because you are picking up the tab!

At our University we host 5-8 conferences a year and charge anywhere from $5 – 50 per participant and it works. The pastors that need it come and those who don’t are free to stay and faithfully serve in their churches. Our conferences are well attended and I have never heard from anyone that wanted to attend and couldn’t because of the money. We’ve yet to have 10,000 attendees but then again we never had to pay anyone to come…

There is a cost to discipleship – let’s make sure we aren’t changing the gospel call by making everything free!

Jeff Atherstone is the President of African Renewal University and has served as a missionary in Uganda since January 2006.

 

 

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