Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A lesson from Victor.

One of the most striking things I heard at the CCDA conference, came not from one of the amazing speakers, and wasn't, believe it or not, about the fabulousness of other people's hair. Instead it came from a gentle brother named Victor, from the Congo, who is living in the United States with his wife and children.

He spoke about dignity. And about how we, in our efforts to help, to bring aide, to transform a community, often rob the recipients of dignity.

We do this by refusing to come alongside in humility and by assuming that we know the "fix" regardless of the culture or opinions of the ones we are ministering to.

An example he gave was of a church that came into his village to build a latrine where there had previously been none. Their efforts were efficient, their design flawless. Flawless except for the fact that they had failed to consult with the villagers about their culture and their desires on the placement of the latrine and more importantly, the door.

The latrine, built with skilled hands and professional tools, was placed adjacent to the playground and common area where all the village gathered - the door facing all the people.

For this village, for there culture, it was extremely undignified to be seen walking in and out of a latrine so, after the workers left, feeling satisfied that they had been a blessing, the villagers simply continued to go into the bush to use the restroom.
Being paternalistic means to treat someone in a fatherly manner, instead of a peer, especially in providing for their needs.

It's SO EASY to do this.  To come in to a community or a situation and think we have the answers and ours are inherantly right.  We're efficient, we're educated, we're seasoned, and we've read lots and lots of books. 

But, without humility, we can strip away the dignity from those we come to serve, to uphold, to encourage.

Thank you, Victor, for this gentle reminder - and for coming alongside all those within earshot of you that afternoon, and in humility, asking that we become humble.

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.
Philippians 2:1-3

14 comments:

Deidra said...

Oh wow. I see my paternalistic self in this post. Thanks to Victor for setting me straight

Becca said...

oh I love this reminder. Why is it so easy to feel like we have all the answers? I mean clearly we do judging by our spotless homes and flawless children, but still . . .

no but seriously - thanks for the wise words!

These Three Kings said...

AMen and Amen!

Traci said...

Oooooh this is good. What a great reminder.

Kim said...

So true.
Since my hubby is an MK (from S. America) he's always been sensitive to the concept of cultural awareness. That came in handy the year we spent in Africa, when this girl didn't have a clue :-)

Henley on the Horn said...

Thank you. We all need to be reminded of this!

Kelley said...

Funny....a dear friend and I had a similar conversation just last week. She shared with me how she once was working (through her church) with the homeless people through "Room in the Inn". The job that she'd been assigned was to go and mingle with the people and write down their prayer requests. She parked herself near a lady and asked (cute pen and pad in hand), "Do you have any prayer requests?"....to which the woman replied, "Well, I'm homeless.....". We talked of how we often fall into the trap of patting ourselves on the back for serving others through programs and the like when, all along, we're missing it.

hannahgarippa said...

Victor was my favorite...

Anonymous said...

Thanks Victor....what a reminder of what come alongside is. Not above or below but side by side.

Tracie

Jen said...

Excellent reminder!

happygeek said...

ITts amazing how the self-centeredness of my nature shows up when I am serving as I have to serve "my way."
Excellent reminder Victor.

Jennifer said...

I love it, and wish I had heard Victor's story before I moved to Botswana! It would have saved me a few foot-in-my-mouth moments. This is a hard lesson to learn.

Lea said...

I love this! So true!! We experienced much of this type of thing while living in Bangkok years ago--thinking our ways were better. We learned MUCH.

And our church here now is heavily involved with helping rebuild Rwanda...by going in with businessmen and women, skilled workers, etc., to teach them how to do it there--not to go and do it our way for them and then leave. The president has rejected foreign aide, even, so that his people can learn how to build businesses, start banks, and expand the economy rather than simply receiving it and never changing. God is doing amazing things there!!

Thanks for sharing Victor's words. No doubt you can say the same thing about your own life in W Dallas. I'm pretty sure Mercy St wouldn't be MS if you and Trey moved in, trying to establish your ways there. Not so much....

Many thanks to Brian, as well, for his blood, sweat, and tears on my behalf.

Amy Beth @ Ministry So Fabulous! said...

I'm always amazed by your ability to interweave the funny and the serious.

You do Him proud, you know.