Regarding Issues of Dependency and Self-Reliance
A Ministry of WMA-UK
IN THE LAST ISSUE I mentioned the possibility that TRANSITION NOTES might be taken over by those in East Africa who are promoting self-reliance as a movement. We are still in negotiation about that, so for the time being I have agreed to continue to edit TN. I appreciate the kind remarks about Transition Notes and the feeling that it should continue if at all possible. We are hoping to develop local distribution points so that it can be copied and sent out in regions (including the USA), thereby sharing the cost of copying and postage. Anyone willing to help with local distribution in your area, please get in touch with me (Glenn Schwartz) at an address below.
WATCH FOR SELF-RELIANCE INFORMATION ON THE WORLD WIDE WEB. We at WMA have been offered free space on the world wide web by a Christian businessman in Pennsylvania. Planning is under way, and it is expected that the service should be ready early in 1997. Our address will appear in the next issue of Transition Notes. We expect to make available articles which are currently on the brigada conference which WMA now moderates. (For those who are interested in the brigada 'conference' (an Internet term) on dependency and self-reliance, send an e-mail message to firstname.lastname@example.org with the following two-line message: subscribe brigada
AT THE SELF-RELIANCE SEMINAR IN LIMURU, KENYA (May 1996) we heard a rather incredible report. A Christian ministry in India was offered a gift of one million U.S. dollars by a large soft drink company. The head of the ministry considered the impact of such a gift on the giving of local donors and said "no thank you" to the gift.
A DEVELOPMENT WORKER in East Africa wanted to purchase a set of the WMA video series on dependency and self-reliance. In order to make the purchase some funds would need to be raised. She decided to raise the funds locally from the women's groups with which she is working. The following is the letter she sent to WMA telling about the launching of her fund raising effort. It shows the alternative to giving an outright gift.
Dear Mr. Schwartz: The women I am ministering to are eager to get the videos. A friend of mine is ready to make her video machine available for us when we succeed in getting the video cassettes. Another woman has taken a brochure and sent it to friends in another group asking them to share the cost. Some others are doing handiwork after their normal hours of work in their field, as a means of meeting the cost of the video cassettes. So far they have told me they have $20. It will take some time before we succeed but there is hope. When I go back to the group I will try to contact some women in other groups and social centers so that we can share the cost as well as the cassettes. I will let you know how we are proceeding. With Love and Prayers, Your sister in the Lord, (signed) Moshi, Tanzania
ONE OF THE FIRST STORIES I CAN REMEMBER READING about preserving the dignity of local believers happened following the Indochina War. When the war ended, missionaries saw the devastation and decided that their first priority was to help rebuild the pastors' houses which had been destroyed during the war. The local people stopped the missionaries saying, "It is our privilege to rebuild the houses of our own pastors."
A NORTH AMERICAN MISSION SOCIETY WENT INTO ONE OF THE REPUBLICS OF THE FORMER SOVIET UNION to do church planting. After the first congregation was started, the local members insisted on being self-reliant from the very beginning and then proceeded to collect money to pay back the missionaries for their efforts in starting their church. That same North American mission society has been receiving gifts from their self-reliant mission-established churches in Papua New Guinea for ministry in other parts of the world. When that church recently invited a North American mission director to celebrations in Papua New Guinea, the invitation included airfare for the director's travel. On one occasion, upon arrival in New Guinea, the American director, along with two Nigerian visitors, were put into a hotel paid for by the local church, and cash was thrust into their hands for meals while they were in the capital city.
THE WMA VIDEO SERIES ON DEPENDENCY AND SELF-RELIANCE FOR MISSION-ESTABLISHED churches is now being used in the following countries: South Africa, Zambia, Tanzania. Uganda, Kenya, Russia, Philippines, Liberia, USA, England, Zaire and Ivory Coast. It can be ordered for US$150 (plus postage) through WMA-USA or WMA-UK at the address below. It is also available at distribution points in Kenya, Zambia and South Africa. Contact WMA for further information about availability in Africa.TRANSITION NOTES - ISSUE 11 PAGE 2
SPECIAL ISSUE SECTION
A MAJOR CHALLENGE FACES THOSE OF US WHO ARE SERIOUSLY PROMOTING SELF-RELIANCE AMONG MISSION-ESTABLISHED INSTITUTIONS. In October 1996 a conference was held in Wheaton, Illinois (USA) specifically to encourage westerners to give money directly to so called "indigenous ministries". (One might ask about how indigenous such ministries are if funding comes from the outside. After all, is "self-support" not one of the three indigenous principles?) They reported having 52 organizations present at the conference representing 100 million dollars a year going to so-called "indigenous ministries". Serious missiologists who have had first-hand experience in cross-cultural church planting do not believe that such promotion of dependency is defensible in this day and age - if, in fact, it ever was. By promoting the "paying of nationals" (their term) they are appealing to what they believe is the economic good sense of westerners who want more from their missions dollar. Little do the promoters - or the donors - realize that they are creating a problem of dependency which someone sometime will need to overcome.
READING THE CURRENT PROMOTIONAL ARTICLES by those who promote this position one gets the impression that they are advocating something new - that we are entering a new wave of missions. Using western money to pay non-western church leaders is a very old idea - not a new one. Most disconcerting is that it reinforces the idea that the non-western world can't do it without western money. Nothing could be farther from the truth and there are many testimonies, especially out of Africa today, to prove the point.
IMAGINE THIS SCENARIO: A missionary goes out to plant churches using valid principles of self-support. He or she works hard to encourage local people to pay their own leaders, build their own buildings and manage their own affairs. After some years along come the so-called "partnership" people who offer to pay salaries with outside funds. This results in good leaders being attracted away from self-supporting churches by the outside funding. That is what one might call "shepherd stealing" - drawing away leaders by offering better salaries which can only be paid by outside funding.
DEVELOPMENT ORGANIZATIONS HAVE FREQUENTLY USED THIS TACTIC. They attract church leaders into development projects with salaries which are sometimes twice or three times what the local church is able to pay. Then the drought ends, overseas funds also dry up, and the development workers no longer have employment. Can they really go back to working for one third the salary (or less) which is what their churches may be able to pay? Probably not, so they look for another agency which pays with foreign funds. Little wonder that some churches lose their best leaders in this way.
THIS IS A PERSONAL PLEA to the people who use the term "partnership" to promote western funding for so-called indigenous ministries. Please do not create or perpetuate the problem of dependency. Do not give the impression that the Gospel is about the benefits that come with outside funding. Do not pay leaders or third-world missionaries and evangelists with outside funding in places where it is the privilege of local people to provide for their own members who are called to evangelism, pastoral work or missionary service. And most importantly, stay away from the areas where local believers are struggling to overcome a long history of dependency and are beginning to experience the benefits of self-reliance. Such believers do not need outsiders offering church leaders money from elsewhere which takes them back into or delays their deliverance from the bondage which they know too well.
THIS PROBLEM HAS ITS ROOT IN HOW THE TERM "PARTNERSHIP" IS DEFINED. (I personally do not use the term "partnership" because of the manner in which it is often used, or rather misused.) For those in the movement described above, partnership most often means "western money and local labor". That is hardly an equal partnership. The responsibility on the part of those receiving the funds is "accurate reporting of how the funds are used". Read through the reports of the partnership promoters, and you will see that they frequently use the term "accountability". One such promoter of outside funding defined partnership this way: "We give the money and you give the reports". This is because outside funding is so often misused - something that is less likely to happen with local funding because it is followed with a more watchful eye. Issues such as these are covered in the WMA video series on dependency.
I alluded to it above - it is worth repeating. We who promote self-reliance must discuss the issues with all who are sincerely interested in breaking the dependency syndrome. Are those promoting outside funding for so-called indigenous ministries willing to do the same?
In the next issue of Transition Notes I will give an example of what I believe true partnership can be.
Editor: Glenn J. Schwartz, Executive Director