Saturday, February 12, 2011

Christians & Fanny Packs

These two nouns can best summarize our time in airports over the last few days. I'll say more in a minute. We started out flying from Seattle to Amsterdam on Thursday afternoon Seattle time. The flight was 10 hours long and incredibly tiring. The entertainment technology on planes today has gotten to be pretty awesome, though, as each seat has their own little tv and you have the choice of watching tons of new movies and tv shows as you fly. So I watched a few movies and did a bunch of reading. A few people's first question for me when they found out I was going to Africa was "Have you read The Poisonwood Bible?" I had heard good things about that book, but had never read it. So I used about half of that first plane ride to start making a dent in the 500-page text. It was morning when we arrived in Amsterdam, which was strange because it felt like midnight to us. Let the jet-lag begin.

The title for this blog post became apparent once we arrived in Amsterdam and made our way to the gate for our flight to Nairobi, Kenya. It seemed that nearly every person in line at our gate was either a Christian on a mission trip to Kenya or wearing a fanny pack en route to going on safari or climbing Kilimanjaro. While initially the site of so many Christians was endearing and brought me back to my time in youth ministry leading similar trips, I also felt a bit embarrassed that there were so many teams. I guess I'm just a bit torn.

On the one hand I can see the beauty of Christ followers wanting to go be a blessing to the world. That is a great desire. At the same time, a lot of abuse has been perpetrated on Africa at the hands of Christians with 'good intentions.' While we may not be colonizing African lands any longer, it seems that we can still try to colonize African culture and religious practices. Plenty of American missionaries to Africa are coming in with 'all the answers,' pedaling a health-and-wealth prosperity gospel that ends up hurting Africans more than helping. I simply found myself hoping that the missionaries I was seeing were actually interested in building long-term relationships with the people they would meet, offering them respect and dignity, trying to converse instead of convert.

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