The Impact of Dependency on the Home Front
Everyone who desires to do good and/or share truth is a creator of dependency and is dependent themselves.1 This is especially true for Westerners, or those with more resources than those they are working among. It doesn’t matter if we raise personal support, start a company or work for an employer. The question we should be asking ourselves is: how aware are we of the kinds of dependency which we create and in which we live?
In everyone’s everyday world, to accomplish anything we depend on relationships, good will and truthfulness in communication and understanding. When those interactions are weak or are clouded by cross-cultural, language differences or prejudice, it is even easier to create more dependency and it is hard to see ourselves.
For those of us from the West, just “walking in the room” brings reactions and challenges to open and honest communication. If we bring resources—human (like you!) or financial—people treat us differently.
Position brings pressure of a similar sort. When I was General Director of the USCWM, I knew that opened doors of both opportunity and danger. Without even saying or doing anything, I put pressure on people to treat me a certain way—even if they didn’t want to.
You see this when you travel internationally. When I arrive in a non-Western country and need a taxi, they assume I want to pay for the best taxi, so they take me to the “official” taxi stand, when I’d be happy with using a cheaper Grab ride (which is like Uber in parts of Asia). Several years ago while in Hong Kong, several of us from the U.S. and Korea went to a traditional Chinese dim sum restaurant on a busy street. The first five or six floors were all one restaurant. When we arrived, they took us, via escalator, past the floors of packed tables, full of people who didn’t know each other—all stuffed tightly together. Every level brought fewer tables and people! Finally, on the top floor there was plenty of room. It was a bit of a relief from the intensity of the first floor, but the prices also increased at each level! They simply expected (forced?) us to pay more because of who we were.
These issues impact the typical office or business situation as well. Dependence on a paycheck may mean you don’t honestly tell those above you about problems you can see clearly. Good leaders have learned to work hard at being sure those around them are able to speak the truth about what is happening. We’ve all seen situations where the opposite was true and no one was willing to confront a short-sighted leader who was unaware of the real need(s).
That kind of leadership exports the “American hero” mentality. We come across as though “we have come to solve your problems” or even the world’s problems. I believe we know the spiritual solution. But we must guard ourselves, and those around us, from the “get-er-done” and “finish the task for Jesus” mentality—since it often morphs into triumphalism or colonialism.
These kinds of issues impact how we mobilize. In the early days of the USCWM, we were convinced that we needed to share encouraging stories about what God was doing around the world. The thinking was that people need to see progress in order to get a bunch of them to get involved.
What we didn’t think about that much was: how does my approach to mobilizing shape the work of those who go? What happens when the “just do it” or “get ‘er done” mentality hits the reality of a place like India, or in the contemplative world of Buddhism? I would guess that we have not thought deeply enough about the impact of our mobilization.
I heard a story from an older Norwegian missionary to Japan. He was gracious and said that he did not know a lot of missionaries that were the typical ugly-American stereotype, but he did meet a few who were “American salespeople.” Interesting phrase!
While Jesus has a “time frame” for the end of history and His return, He has chosen not to reveal that to us. While He is patient, “not wanting any to perish” He doesn’t seem to be in a hurry. I can’t explain that, but I’m trying to be in less of a hurry, yet still with purpose, passion and vision. Somehow, we need to express our heart for the lost—especially among the least reached, without linking it to what we can accomplish. Otherwise it becomes about us and takes away from the focus of the biblical story: Jesus.