believe that the vision and values of missionaries need to align with the organization in which they serve. As it was becoming evident that the number of Westerners involved in Bible translation was in decline, and strategies were being put in place for involving more Africans in more roles, we needed missionaries who wanted to be part of that thrust. Specifically, we did not need missionaries who wanted to go it alone.
With the help of others, we developed a profile of the kind of missionary we needed. I even found an expert interviewer who would do telephone interviews with prospective missionaries in their home countries beforehand to see if they fit the profile. In this way we would avoid having missionaries come and be frustrated because their expectations would be mismatched to the situation.
But my fellow missionaries stopped this plan. They felt that:
- If a missionary felt a call to work with us, we had no right to say no.
- We desperately needed more people, so no one should be turned away.
- We should carve out exceptions to our plans for missionaries who want to work in their unique way.
It seems to me that a mission unit which followed my colleagues’ principles:
- Would not be able to enter into effective partnerships because at any time some of its missionaries could act in ways contradictory to the terms of the partnership, hurting or breaking the partnership.
- Will develop internal conflicts and problematic interpersonal relationships.
- Will probably have leadership swings because each leader (a missionary selected from within the unit) would bring to bear their individual vision for the unit. Changes of leader will could easily result in large changes in vision and strategy. When a missionary leaves, the next leader could even tear down his/her work.
I have seen all of these negative effects actually happen.
I’m not writing this because I find that way of working unpleasant or chaotic, although I do. But rather because of its negative effects and the fact that it does not model kingdom values, but rather projects other values into its context.
Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the Gospel,
I’m interested that I don’t see any comments on this one! I think your plan was good. We’ve watched this change of roles happen in OMF—at least, I think so. They don’t place missionaries in the Philippines any more to do the “real” missionary work, because they now have nationals doing that. The missionaries are on there in support roles (E.g. managing guest house, teaching in schools, offering medical services, etc.) They don’t live in the tribal areas and do what we used to do back in the day. It is working well, as far as I can see. I’m amazed at what the nationals are doing!!
So… I’m thinking… is it possible to do the same? If they really feel called to come to SIL, then they know they won’t be doing translation in local languages; they know they are only support workers; they have to fit in with the overall vision and can’t “work in their unique way”. (i.e. they DO have to be in submission to the authorities over them). Perhaps that last is the crux of the matter? In OMF, at least when we were there, the directors prayed and consulted and they made the assignments. The missionaries were expected to trust that guidance/direction and go where they were placed. I’ve seen that SO MANY times in OMF, missionaries being placed where they hadn’t felt “led”. I can certainly see problems if the mission/missionaries are not willing to work with the national leadership to get the job done in the way that the national leadership discerns is best.
So… does that mean you and Dayle are leaving SIL/Wycliffe? “I now know that I don’t want to part of such a group.” Maybe it’s time? We left our former church in Sayward for the same reason—we felt we were being more of a problem than a help in trying to deal with the many troubles they were having. Not easy, but we sure wouldn’t go back!!!
God bless you as you pray and discern for your future!
We are not leaving Wycliffe. I edited the post to try and eliminate that impression.
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