What if they were there?
As I mentioned yesterday, Ive been reflecting on Chris Heuertz and Christine Pohls new book Friendship at the Margins: Discovering Mutuality in Service and Mission, which is centered around the question: If we put friendship at the center of our concern for the poor, what might change? Chris speaks out of his experience as the international director of Word Made Flesh, a community Serving Jesus among the poorest of the poor across the globe. I have high respect for Word Made Flesh and for my friends who serve with them.
One of the issues they raise is particularly poignant for those of us leading short-term mission trips this summer. The authors note, Our friends are not projects or personal embodiments of a cause, but partners in community (p 38). As such, we have to take care to evaluate our own practices. To what extent do we tend to turn people we meet on trips into projects or representatives of causes?
One test they propose is to ask what our friends on the margins would think if they read our support letters or saw our presentation to the church back home? Sometimes we write or share in ways that are shockingly transparentabout other peoples lives. Recounting our tendency toward travel voyeurism, Heuertz and Pohl challenge:
Imagine how you would feel if your worst moment (a day when bad hair, no sleep and difficult circumstances combined to make you look terrible) was photographed and then displayed during Sunday morning worship (p 39).
In contrast, what if we put together our follow-up letters as if our new friends were reading along? What if we shared in the congregation imagining they were guests in our audience? Better yet, if its feasible, what about inviting some of those folks to actually come and be present for that sharing?
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