Friday, October 14, 2011


Kizuna Bridge. Kampong Cham, Cambodia (Greg's Photo)

No one is born perfect and no one lives without a mistake. Although, it is one thing to commit a mistake, it is quite another to keep repeating the same mistake. Learning from your own mistake is good, but learning from others' mistake is better. 

Sometime in the past, one missionary lamented on the attitude of nationals towards missionaries in Cambodia. Speaking about his denomination, he said, “Cambodia spit more missionaries out than any other countries in the world.” The focus of the comment, however, was the nationals' negative attitude and action towards missionaries. “Cambodia is really a different field,” others grieved. What struck me though with the comment was if Cambodia spit out lots of missionaries, the blame should not be put on them entirely. I wonder if we, missionaries, and I am including myself, should take the blame as well. Something never changes: we never seem to learn our lesson-we kept repeating the same mistakes our predecessors or contemporaries made. When will we ever learn? When it comes to cross-cultural ministry, we are supposed to build bridges not walls. 

Not long ago, I came across with an article about Western Missionary Mistakes. I had been wanting to write a similar one from Cambodian perspective but writing an article is no longer necessary after reading what Evangelical Romanians think about American Missionaries. Although the survey was done in Romania, my eight years of missionary presence in Cambodia convinced me that the Romanian-survey resembled the animosity among some Cambodian nationals towards missionaries. This is not to say that all nationals think the same towards missionaries nor all missionaries are the same. Many missionaries are love lavishly by Cambodian nationals. In fact, I know several missionaries in Cambodia who are here for more than a decade or two. They have been here for years, yet still loved and needed.   

Because the article was so true, I am posting almost the entire article in this blog to remind other missionaries serving in Cambodia. Please, fasten your seat belt, but I promise, you won’t be offended and bothered if you are not one of them. If it resembles your attitude, change it.

The one in bold letters resembled what I personally saw in Cambodia.

The article begins here:

After a confidential survey done by an “outsider” this is what was said about American missionaries.

What the Evangelical Romanians think about American Missionaries
§  First Missionaries brought the gospel but then others came bringing their denominationalism and extreme doctrines.
§  Either intentionally or unintentionally missionaries left us with the impression that Foreigners are superior to Romanians.
§  Saying many times that they came to serve but actually only functioning in the role of a supervisor, i.e. many missionaries become employers of nationals.
§  Passing on materialistic values through the example of the missionaries own life.
§  Missionaries coming with unbending ideas and philosophies. Not listening to Nationals (this response came up everytime)
§  Superior attitude toward nationals
§  Isolating themselves from Nationals. Having their own churches and attempting to remain exclusive
§  Sensationalizing the ministry. Throwing bibles and other materials out to people in church while taking pictures of people scrambling to catch something.
§  Coming with very strong and unrealistic ambitions and trying to force things to happen for the sake of “results”
§  Manipulating Romanian partners with the threat of loosing their salaries
§  Seeing all nationals as unskilled in the Bible and not knowing Jesus. Speaking in such a way that they actually insulted those they were trying to teach. (Not knowing personally the people they were trying to minister to)
§  Coming with personal agenda’s rather than spiritual goals
§  Staying ignorant of cultural norms and values
§  Not learning the Language
§  Forming partnerships with nationals to quickly has led to many good missionaries working with and being represented by Romanians that have long had bad reputations.  This has lead to their own ministry being tarnished and many times, missionaries forming very bad opinions of Romanians church leaders.
§  Not being wise with money, being seen as wasteful.
§  Throwing money at problems rather than asking is there something else that needs to happen here.
§  Missionaries start with blind trust for everybody (pendulum on the left side), they get burnt a few times and then finish with total mistrust for everybody, (pendulum on the right side).
§  The corruption that missionaries have experienced in the church has lead them to becoming  very untrusting of nationals.  This has caused a lot of ill feeling where the nationals feel looked down upon and seen as stupid people who can’t be trusted.
§  Presenting a “know-it-all” attitude when it comes to teachings and opinions
§  Being unwilling to listen to so called “Romanian Partners
§  Not following up financial investments with personal accountability has inadvertently promoted even more corruption. Missionary organizations that dump money and leave with no real relationship has proved to be more harmful then helpful.
§  Coming with outside pressure to perform on the mission field, leading some missionaries to push things in the ministry and even become controlling. This causes resentment and resistance.
§  Exaggerating reports to back home leaving people with a wrong impression of the work here in Romania
§  Many missionaries never consider adjusting their own lifestyles a little to more resemble that of the people they are trying living among.

I wanted NOT to post this because it is so convicting but so true. MAY GOD in heaven show us a better way to work with our national brothers and sisters.   This sword unfortunately cuts both ways as we could begin talking about what we see wrong with the culture also but that is just not the point of this post!  Let us look in the mirror and do our best to ask God to take from our hearts and show us a different way to reach the lost orthodox without making so many mistakes.  May our National Brothers continue to show us grace and mercy in these areas.   Please forgive us…..