Sunday, November 05, 2006

An African Theologian Advise to Western Missionaries

After finishing my academic year I opted to get out from the seminary and responded to go to mission work here in Thailand. I really didn't have a choice. I wanted to finish my dissertation badly but I could no longer do it inside the campus for some reasons. One was that my bill was filing up, my scholarship grant was good only for my academic tuition fees and no more. So the longer I stayed in the campus the more I will be buried in debt. Some people could live with that and hope that someday somebody would pay their seminary debts, I could not live with that. Although I still owe the seminary some money, it is something manageable and if one day I got enough money I will pay it in cash.

Anyway, we are now in the mission field. And before I left with my family for mission works my Professor (visiting) gave me a book entitled, Contemporary Gospel Accents: Doing Theology in Africa, Asia, Southeast Asia, and Latin America. This book were edited by our good professor and Daniel Carro. The book is about contextualizing theology and I found it very useful in mission works. I go back to it from time to time.

Here I would like to cite Hary G. Olan'g recommendations to western missionaries regarding theological education in Africa. Theological education in Africa could help those preaching the gospel to be more contextual and relevant in three ways.
First, our theological education programs should include in their curricula courses that affirm the dignity of and worth of every African. The "bulldozer mentality" of western missionaries, which seeks to uproot everything African in order to make clean room for reconstructions by using western design and materials, should be rejected.

Secondly, new missionaries from the West coming to Africa need to attend orientation programs conducted in a local seminary setting to give them the opportunity to reshape their mission perceptions and to be able to contextualize the gospel. Such programs should be conducted by Africans.

Thirdly, theological training programs in Africa need to prepare Africans for missions both inside and outside of Africa. This will help to neutralize cultural infiltration caused by one culture dominating mission enterprise, by providing qualified nationals who can preach the gospel in a more contextual way with less risk of acculturation.
These are indeed good recommendations and these are applicable also to missionary enterprise in other regions like here in Southeast Asia. We thought that these criticisms of the Western missionaries are things of the past, evidently these are still prevailing. In my own observation, unless we as missionaries are willing to learn theology in local seminaries we will never be effective in our work. However, I never heard of any Western missionaries who are willing to be theologically taught by the locals in mentor-student setting.


Lazarus said...

There was once a missionary who lived with us when I was a kid. He was from Minnesota and he told us that many from his home church don't know much about the Philippines. They even thought that people here were cannibals. We just laughed at it.

My dad used to listen to a missionary handling VBS in their barrio when he was still a kid sometime in the 60's. Years later, he met the same missionary and they became good friends.

Joey said...

Hi lazarus,

I laughed with you when you told that people from the west thought that people from Asia and Africa are still living a primitive life. I can uderstand that if we were still living in the 60's. But today it is incomprehensible that in the period of globalization that this kind of perspective still exists.

I really appreciate missionaries. They have given up a lot of things to be where they are right now. My faith journey had been guided by a missionary though he was not exactly my mentor. I could only pray that i could follow his steps.

Thanks for a visit. Blessings