7.28.2011

Mmm... No, it's not "all good."

So, remember when I was all, “Hey guys, let's talk through some of this Short-term missions junk!” and then, like 4 minutes later, I lost interest?.. Yeah... Well, I was thinking that maybe we oughta go ahead and pick up where we left off. Sorry if you're over it. But I really think this is a conversation worth having.... and I think that what we were gonna hash out today is WAY bigger than just missions and really, really worth discussing. Ok? So here we go, again....again.

A few weeks back when I suggested that in some cases the church may be doing more harm than good when it comes to short term missions, a whole bunch of people got really pissed and YELLED this:

If any good comes of it, even if it’s just for one person, then it’s all good!”

Ok. Maybe they didn't yell, exactly....but some of them were pretty emphatic.


So I'm just gonna come right out and say this in response, even though it might make some of you mad: I emphatically disagree with that sentiment.

A great many atrocities have occurred under the guise of “doing good” in the name of Jesus ...the Crusades come to mind. Not sure, but I don't think God was pleased by all that burning and beheading on His behalf, and yet, some may have earnestly come to Faith at the tip of a sword. But you don't hear anyone saying, “Well, the Crusades did some good, so let's go do that again.” (And if you do hang out with someone who is saying stuff like that, then you should find new friends. Like, immediately.)


Or - in the tradition of the extreme, over-the-top examples that we're used to around hereHow about the pedophile priest? It's entirely likely that over the course of his career he will do
some good, that at least one good thing will come from his time shepherding others toward Jesus.... But we're not about to put the value of the old lady he leads to Christ above the horrors he commits against children. That would be ridiculous. It would be criminal. In fact, he could lead a thousand people to Faith, but if we find out that he has molested just one child, we're gonna demand that somebody get his creepy ass out from behind the pulpit.

And what about the lazy long-term missionary who happily takes the churches money in the name of ministry but spends his days surfing and his nights smoking pot... Yeesh! Are we pleased to keep supporting him as long as just “one good thing” comes out of his years in the field?

I'm sorry, I know this is going to sound kinda harsh... but isn't the “just one good thing” defense of our actions kind of a ridiculous standard by which to decide the value of what we're doing in the world? Isn't it kind of crazy to pat ourselves on the back for a job well done without ever considering the actual outcome of what we've invested in?


My point is that it's not unreasonable to set standards, to ask questions, and to come to conclusions about what we're doing. In fact, we do that all the time.

We expect our doctors to “First, do no harm.”

We expect our police to “Protect and Serve.”

We expect our Church to.... um.... “Do at least some good, hopefully, but really, who can say....”

Mmmkay???

So, if you're a doctor and you do harm, we'll take away your license. And if you're a cop who fails to protect, we will riot in the streets against your actions. But, apparently, if you're a Christian with “good intentions”, you can do whatever you want because, if just one good thing comes from it, it's all good. Seriously?!

We have given ourselves a free pass to do whatever we want, however we want, whenever and wherever we want with absolutely zero accountability, because we're Christian. I mean, ultimately, who are we to judge whether or not “some good” has actually taken place? So why bother evaluating ourselves at all... *shrugs*

Look. I'm not asking anyone to see into the future, or peer into somebody's heart looking for evidence of Jesus. I'm merely suggesting that we not heap the desires of our own hearts onto the other inhabitants of this planet without considering the consequences - both good and bad. I'm suggesting that before we run into a community with Bible's blazing, we consider how we are perceived, and how our (even very well-intentioned) gifts will be received.

I'm suggesting that we have a responsibility, as the followers and proclaimers of Jesus, to, first do no harm, to protect as we serve, and to bring the Good News in really good ways. Oh, and while we're at it, let's ditch the corny platitudes – they're really not helping us.

And remember? I am seriously PRO short-term missions. Me? All for short-term teams! I just want to see more conscious thought go toward how the Church is engaging with the world, that's all.

.... ..... ....


Have you heard the "any good = all good" philosophy applied to other areas of Church conduct/spending/community interaction? If so, are you cool with that?

Is "any good" no matter how small (or completely unseen) enough by which to measure the value against the cost of the things we do?

Other thoughts?

7.26.2011

This is not the end of the world....right?

In case you weren't privy to my whining elsewhere (Twitter/Facebook/Etc), my MacBookPro died...like, dead dead.... like, forever.

So this is just a heads up that it may be kind of quiet around here. :(

El Chupacabra
is kind enough to share his tiny notebook thingy with me, and I totally want to hate it, but that would be pretty unreasonable, all things considered. So, instead, I'll count my many, many, many blessings and I'll write when I can (meaning when El Chupacabra doesn't need this itty-bitty-shitty computer to do home work, or work work, or... um... other stuff). So that's cool.

If you need me, I'll be on Pinterest....

.... or in the corner, rocking myself, muttering, "It's ok. I'm alright. Everything's gonna be ok..."

This is not the end of the world, right?....
Right?!....RIGHT?!?!

7.22.2011

The Very Worst _____________ .

Today, through the magic of the interwebz, I bring you a guest post from Matt Appling, who writes The Church of No People, and who is in Mexico on a short term missions trip, at this very moment, because he's just cool like that! I hope you enjoy Matt's post as much as I did:
.... .... ....

Hey there. I’m really excited to be guest posting on Jamie’s blog because people who read her blog are obviously very smart people. As I thought about what I’d write for the Very Worst Missionary’s blog, one question kept coming back to me…

What’s it like to be the very worst at something?

No one ever sets out to be the very worst.

We all want to the best at whatever we try to do. And if we can’t be the best, then we want to at least be decent. And if not decent, then at least not embarrassing. And even if we embarrass ourselves, we hope there’s still someone even worse than us, so we aren’t the very worst. Everyone needs some poor sap nearby so we can say, “At least I’m not as bad / uncoordinated / stupid / ugly as that guy.”

Our parents didn’t really give us fair warning that we’d be the worst at anything…unless they were the worst parents. It wasn’t until we got out in the real world, in front of strangers, fueled by parental encouragement and misguided self-confidence that we really humiliated ourselves at countless ball games and dance recitals.

I’ve realized that my life has been spent trying hundreds, maybe thousands of things that I did turn out to be the very worst at, embarrassing myself all along the way, in an attempt to find the two or three things I’m really good at.

Here’s a few of the highlights, the times when I was the very worst…

The Very Worst Athlete

On the ill-advised encouragement of my parents, I joined a little league basketball team. Although I was a natural child artist, it was decided that I needed to branch out.

As I chased the ball around the court like an idiot, I quickly found that my natural eye-hand skills that I used in art class in no way translated to athletics. Although I could draw a perfect picture of a basketball, that was the extent of my skills with a basketball, or any other kind of ball.

The Very Worst Singer

At our pro-league baseball stadium, each game has an interlude where everyone inexplicably sings Garth Brooks’ “Friends in Low Places,” (because people in Missouri like to pretend they are hicks and cowboys instead of just generic Midwesterners.) At one game, my friends and I were selected to start the song by being filmed on the Jumbo-tron.

We were doing a great job swaying and singing along, until one of the stadium girls (whose job description includes such duties as wearing a tank top and shooting hot dogs from a cannon) told us we were the worst singers she had ever heard. Not to take that kind of smack talk from an overly tan 19 year old, I informed her that she had not shot one t-shirt or hot dog at my face all day, and that made her the worst stadium girl ever.

Still, knowing that my singing is bad enough that a stranger would brazenly insult me me, I try to keep my singing in church to myself.

The Very Worst Pastor

I got into ministry because I care about people. I thought that would be enough to make me a good pastor. But I realized soon enough that being a “good” pastor in the modern sense includes much more than compassion for people. The expectations include a lot of things that I just don’t care about. That’s why I suspect I’m a strong contender for being the very worst pastor.

I just do not care about engaging in the rat race that has become so much of the modern church. I don’t care about competing with the church down the street for members. I cannot make myself care about putting on a great show, or having slick marketing, or creating “brand identity.” I loathe treating church like a business and the idea of calling myself an “executive pastor.” I don’t even know what an “executive pastor” does but I don’t like the sound of it. I just don’t care about any of the things that make pastors “good,” or “successful.”

I’ve been the very worst at a lot more things. Most of the time, being the worst at something feels pretty crappy. I wish I were a better singer and athlete. But given today’s standards for greatness in ministry, I think I’m cool with being the very worst pastor.

Sometimes, being the worst at something isn’t all bad. So let’s hear it: what are you the very worst at?

7.18.2011

The Church of No People let me guest post. No... I'm serious.

Today I have the privilege of guest posting over at the Church of No People.

Matt is on a short-term mission trip
to Mexico (gasp!). So I'm helping him out on his blog by writing about.... Short-Term Missions (gasp!!).

He left yesterday, so I wrote a post telling him all about how
I'm praying that his trip turns into a complete disaster. Heheheh...

Actually... It was Matt who got me started thinking and writing about all that short-term missions stuff, and you'll see when you read the guest post I wrote for him that it shares the same cranky undertones as the
"win-win" post. You may even figure out, with your heroic intuition, that I wrote them on the same day. But I actually like today's post much better.

Like always,
guest posting gives me a fur ball - it makes me nervous and antsy because I'm taking my abrasive personality to someone else domain to rub a whole different group of people the wrong way.... and they just don't know me like you do. They don't know that I'm only a total bitch sometimes. Ya know?

So I really hope you'll
go read it and be super-duper generous with your intelligent, clever, funny comments.

And I really am praying for you, Matt...
watch your back...

.... ..... ....

Wanna pray mean but awesome prayers for short-term trippers with me? Cool.

7.15.2011

Effort.

Taking a break from the short-term missions convo for a sec, because *ugh*, and also, because I posted this pic on Facebook and Twitter last weekend with the caption:

"Where there's smoke there's GAH! WHAT DO I DO?! WHAT DO I DO?!"
And a bunch of people were like, "Um. Seriously, lady?! You had a fire emergency and you took a picture?"

So I just wanted to explain that it wasn't like I left the fire to burn freely while I ran upstairs to get my camera or something. I was standing right there, waiting for a pitcher to fill with water to throw on the fire after blowing on it and whacking it with a towel proved to be really bad ideas, so I pulled my ipod out of my back pocket and snapped a pic. No big deal. See what a reasonable/non-idiotic explanation that is?...Whew. Glad we cleared that up.

Surprisingly, only one person asked why the hell was there was a card board box in the oven. Which happens to be the exact same thing I was thinking when I realized that the 5th circle of Dante's Inferno lay smoldering just behind my stove door.

Turns out that El Chupacabra had some friends over for pizza after football practice and when he went to put the leftovers in the fridge they were all like "No, no, no! Put it in the OVEN!" So, not wanting to break some cultural taboo, or call his friends reckless for lacking a healthy fear of botulism, he did what they suggested (totally what I would've done). Then he left, forgetting to tell me that there was a box of pizza in the oven (also what I would've done), so I turned it on to make dinner and.... well, you saw what happened - pizza-flambe!

Anyway. It turned out fine. I mean, the pizza wasn't fine, but everything else was. After a moment of WTF-panic, the fire was out. No worries. But man! Talk about a mess. There was an impressive layer of smoke in the air, black embers all over the kitchen floor, a sprinkling of ash on every surface in the house, and a pool of dark murky water growing at the base of the stove. I didn't even know where to start cleaning it all up.

The mess was more intimidating than the fire.

I've been feeling that way a lot lately. Like I have a few little...situations, little fires, burning here and there, problems that clearly need to be addressed. Some are my fault entirely, some are not. But I find myself too scared to face these things head-on because I know it will be messy. And I know it will take a whole lot of effort to clean up afterward.

So I'll let it burn a little longer, grow a little bigger, while I grit my teeth against the heat and promise myself I'll deal with it.... later. Always later.

But, eventually, I won't be able to ignore it. Just like the pizza fire - which burned my eyes and my lungs with smoke, demanding that I DO something or run - Eventually, I'll have to deal with this stuff, too, because if I don't the whole dang house will go up with it.

Yes, I have a few fires in need of putting out. Effed-up relationships, broken promises, unfinished projects, a crappy attitude accompanied by shitty behavior, and the gazillion and 1 ways I've come up with to ignore, offend, or disobey the God that I claim to love.

But I'm scared of what will happen, of the mess I'll make when I finally douse the flames. I'm intimidated by the effort it will take to put things right.

And then I look around my post pizza-fire kitchen, and I can clearly see that it's better than it was before. All that scraping and wiping and mopping, all that effort to restore what the fire had junked up, was.... well.... worth it, I guess.

I think I needed to be reminded that I am worth the effort.

And, probably, so are you...
.... .... ....

We all have fires burning. Such is life. Can we (speaking for the whole VWM community, here!) pray for each other about this? I'd love to put in the effort to pray for you.

7.12.2011

Sorry, poor people, it’s not about you.

Today, we’re carrying on our conversation from the last few posts. If you’re new here and you came because you heard the Very Worst Missionary is funny or crazy or foul-mouthed or whatever, you might want to check out something more fun/less churchy, like this, or this, or this.

If you’re here to talk about the impact of short-term missions, then let’s do this thing. Some of you said:

#1. The purpose of a short-term mission is to change the “heart/life/perspective/values” of the person going and isn’t really about the ones being served.

I totally agreeexcept for the parts where I don’t.

Undoubtedly, a short-term missions trip can change its participants. There are tons of stories in previous comments from people who were changed because of their experience on a short-term team. There is certainly a lot to be gained from pushing ourselves past our comfort-zones, learning about a new culture, and even from coming face-to-face with poverty.

A short-term missions trip changed my life. But, honestly? So did FoodNetwork.

I’m not kidding. FoodNetwork introduced me to a whole new world of cooking and new ways of feeding my family. Some of the things I’ve seen on FoodNetwork have challenged me to make changes that have made our lives better, improved our state of wellbeing, and even given us a boost financially. But what I find really cool is that others (I’m thinking of my sisters, but perhaps there are other others) have observed how and what I cook and they’ve been inspired to make changes of their own, so that in the end, FoodNetwork has changed, like, a lot of lives.

If you’re wondering what my point is... so am I... no wait, it’s this: If we are indeed being changed by short-term missions, if STM’s are having a real, lasting impact on our heart, life, perspective and values, then those changes should be evident in our everyday stuff, and the ripple effect of change should be apparent within our homes, churches and communities. (Um. Ok. This is the part where you yell at me for “judging someone’s heart”, so I’ll just say, I’m not suggesting that we judge each other’s spirit, but that we be on the lookout for the fruit of the spirit in our own lives, homes, and churches. …. And? For what it’s worth, I felt entirely too convicted by my own hypocrisy when I typed that. Ick!)

But you can see the fruit of Foodnetwork in my life. It’s there. It’s apparent. It’s obvious to those who know me that I have been transformed by FoodNetwork. So there.

Anyway.

The frustration of the short-term experience is that it often does change your life… for a minute. But it can change your life for forever!

The challenge for pastors, leaders and participants of a short-term team, is to take all of that experience, and all of that passion, and all of those stories that are walking off the plane at the end of two weeks and guide them into real, tangible, Spirit-filled change. That’s when Missions stops being something that your church does and starts being something that your Church is. That’s when the value of a short-term team reaches beyond the scope of the individual and into the DNA of your community. That’s when short-term missions turn into the long-term Faith.

But that’s not all.

And this is where it get’s ugly…

When you carry the above statement through to it’s finale, you read “It’s about me and it’s gonna change me and blah, blah, blah and then you get to “it’s not really about the people being served”, and…

…*blink blink*…. Really?!

It’s not?!

No.

Just no.

You don’t get to meddle in any person’s life, in any way, at any time ~especially in the name of Jesus~ and then say “Sorry, this is not about you.”

The people who’s paths you cross in this life deserve to be treated with care and respect no matter their circumstance, no matter their lifestyle, no matter their level of education, no matter the color of their skin, no matter their language, and no matter their need.

It is the responsibility of the sending church, the participants, and the long-term missionaries on the ground, to work-together to make sure that while they’re busily transforming their inner-selves, they aren’t doing so to the detriment of the rest of God’s awesome and beloved creation.

We need to stop rationalizing the things we’re doing with statements like “it’s not about them” (please, never say that again) and start analyzing what we’re doing and its real impact on the people we’re doing it to… I mean, for.

Just my thoughts.

…. …. ….

Does your church work with short-term teams to help facilitate real life change after a trip?

Oh, and how about that FoodNetwork? ;)

7.10.2011

Jeez, you guys.

I had no idea that a satirical post about short-term missions could stir up so much, um, passion. It was really cool. But then the “passion” turned into bickering and got super annoying so I shut it down. Sorry ‘bout that, but it had to be done.
Anyway.
As much as my attention deficit heart would like to show you a picture of a unicorn in a spacesuit or a kitten wearing a scarf with the caption “Moving on…” I know that everybody has a lot more to say on the subject of Poverty Tourism via short-term missions. So, let’s do this thing… again…
*deep breath* Oookay.
First. For the record? I’m PRO short-term missions. I believe that with education, humility, reason, and Jesus, a short-term mission trip is a vital part of the discipleship process. Seriously - I am so totally PRO short-term stuff it’s, like, ridiculous. So remember that. Because I’m about to piss you off again bring up some of the more contentious parts of this discussion.
To be clear, I wrote that little parable from the last post as a bit of ridiculous, over-the-top satire to highlight the potentially ugly side of short term teams. Granted, satire can be hard to nail – to some, the story felt like a mockery of short-term teams in general. I’m sorry for that. But I stand by the post as food for thought. I really love (most of) the conversation that the story instigated.
There’s so much good stuff in the comments that I thought it might be cool to break down the different themes and talk about them individually. Here are summaries of a few commonly shared sentiments that stuck out to me. I’ll share my thoughts and invite you to do the same.
#4. Grace. Duh! God is big and awesome and we suck. He can redeem our valiant but misguided efforts.
Anything else you think is worth addressing? Add it in comments.
So, over the next week or so, depending on how the conversation leads us, I’ll post my response to each of these statements, because it totally matters what I think. *shakes head “no, no it does not”*
And remember? I am not anti short-term missions.
I’m ANTI exploitation/dehumanization/demoralization for the sake of short-term missions…or long-term missions (blech! don’t get me started)… or any kind of pseudo-humanitarian effort.
My sincerest hope for this discussion is that it will make it off the interwebz and into the office of your missions pastors and onto the couch of your small group leader, and that it might, eventually, even wiggle its way into the philosophy of your church.
This is important because people are important.
…. …. …
Dear commenter,
I love you.
Also?
Comments are better read when they are kind, funny, intelligent and concise. But mostly concise. However, this is a BIG subject, so if you have A LOT to say – which is totally understandable – I might suggest that you write a reply on your blog and link it in comments with a brief summary. This will be good for the people who like to read comments and it will be good for your blog. It’s like a win-win. (Ha! See what I did there?)
Ok. Sound good? Anything I should add to the “Must Discuss Further” list?
ps. To clear up any confusion, I only reply to comments as "jamietheveryworstmissionary". So if that's what it says, it's me. :)

7.03.2011

Are we calling this a "win-win"?


You know what I really want to do?

I want to fill a rental van marked “Tourist” with unbelievably rich people and then I want to bring them to your middle-class neighborhood to take pictures of you and your kids and your house and your cars.

I’ll act as the unofficial tour guide to their trip, walking them slowly down the street, pointing out the shocking differences between their lifestyle and yours. “This man,” I will say with a gesture of my upturned palm, “cuts his own lawn.”

“These kids share a bedroom.”

“Many of these families require two incomes… just to survive.”

I’ll tell them bluntly, “Most of these people will never ride in a helicopter, meet the president, or own a show horse.” And they will glance at each other with looks of angst and sadness, they’ll shake their heads at the injustice of it all.

And then I’ll let the details of your simple life sink in as they snap pictures of your no-thrills mid size SUV and your quarter acre lot. I’ll stand aside so they can get pictures of each other, smiling, with their arms around your kids in hand-me-downs. Ooh, and maybe they can take turns helping you cut your hedge or clean your bathroom, and then you could show some of them how to make a sandwich - That would be so great for the video they’re gonna take back to show at the Super Elite Rich People Church.

But don’t worry. There will totally be something in it for you. The rich people are going to paint all of the houses on your block. For real. They’re going to pay for it and do all the work and everything.

Also? They’re gonna do a puppet show for your kids, and give them candy and crap.

It’s a win-win.

Even if you’re extremely uncomfortable while all of this is going on, in the end, you will look at your freshly painted house and it will make you feel good about what just happened. And when the rich people go home, they’ll get to tell their people about how they painted your house and learned to make a sandwich, which, of course, will make them feel good, too.

So, like I said, win-win.

....       ....       ....

Aaaaand...that's as far as I got.

Sorry.

I wrote this about a week ago and it has just been sitting there on my desktop, open, waiting for a conclusion. Then, all of a sudden, my Google reader, Twitter feed, and Facebook timeline (can you say social media overkill?) were brimming with debate over the issue of "Poverty Tourism". And I was like "Whoa! I was just thinking about that." So I thought I'd throw it out here, unfinished, as is - a ridiculous revamping of the modern short-term missions experience - and see what your thoughts are...

Are short-term missions teams sent to impoverished communities helpful...? or harmful...? or maybe neither...? Whadayathink? 

Are we calling this a win-win? Speak freely.

7.01.2011

I just...

...don't have anything to say.

:\


You know what I mean?