Moved Mountains

Banner - Mt Trio, Stirling Range National Park, Western Australia - (c) 2007

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

White Fellas Bad Attitudes

My mind is very much on Rwanda at the moment as I am preparing for a visit in May. This time I am heading off on my own for a week in Uganda at the Amahoro Africa conference with Brian McLaren from the US and other local (i.e. African) contributors. John Mihigo, my friend and co-conspirator in the CUF-Day 4 Rwanda Mission Partnership will also be joining me in Kampala for the week, before we fly back to Kigali together to meet a team of 6 flying in from Australia for a couple of weeks work.

So you can expect more Africa/Rwanda related posts over the coming weeks and months.

That brings me to the topic of this post - Bad Attitudes!

This is a personal story related to me by a Rwandan friend, and even though I would very much like to name names, to spare my friend the embarrassment, I won't.

My friend is employed (but receives no regular pay) in a church ministry position, he is also a linguist. From memory he speaks at least 4 languages, and is a talented interpreter. He is often sought out by visiting film and TV crews and Christian speakers and teachers to provide an interpreter service, which can mean long days away from the community he serves and at times, from his family.

As he doesn't earn a regular wage from his church work it is his work as an interpreter that provides a means of earning an income and feeding his family. So when I was told that on occasion, while interpreting for visiting "Christians" he is not paid, I had to find out more.

One time he spent a couple of weeks interpreting for a visiting American Christian "leader". The days were long and travel was involved. I spoke to him after this guy had returned to the States and he told me how tired and rundown he was following his time as an interpreter, including a loss of weight, which can be extremely serious for these guys who get by on so little food at the best of times. It turns out that the whole time he was "working" for this guy he was not paid a single cent. To make matters worse, he wasn't even provided with a single meal for the entire time he was away. He also had to cover his own transport costs in getting to and from the venue each day.

Now my friend is very gracious, his view of all this was that at least he had an opportunity to hear what this "great American teacher" had to say.

Now I am happy to give this guy the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he thought someone else was taking care of it, someone else was organising meals or payment or both. But, at the very least he surely owed it to my friend to find out.

I know how seriously my friend and many Christians like him in Rwanda take their faith and their opportunities to serve and be obedient to God. Since then I have heard other similar stories of (usually American) Christians coming and taking advantage of local Rwandans.

I was, to say the least, astounded. It is stories like this that make me embarrassed to be a westerner.

While the guys who bare the brunt of this kind of disgusting behaviour are not likely to speak out against it, I think that we can certainly bring it to the attention of the world and encourage those who travel to and are involved in any sort of ministry in these developing nations to take every opportunity they are given to generously and lovingly look after those locals who give of themselves to ensure their "missions" are successful.

Maybe you have heard some similar stories - If so, I'm interested to hear of your experiences.


David said...

That's terrible, what a sickening story.

Andrew, we look forward to hearing more from Rwanda as you visit.

Shannon said...


Can't say that I have heard of such stories firsthand but reading the story you share is disheartening. The upside is that God holds the ultimate reward for work done in his name and is able to reward both now and eternally!

Looking forward to hearing what God does through you in Rwanda!

The Creature said...

Thanks Shannon - I hope the cases I am aware of are isolated. It made me mad when I heard it, and I know from first hand experience how difficult it can be for some people to get their heads around the whole cross cultural side of things. I have had problems within my own team in this area so it doesn't surprise me that others also, whether innocently or otherwise, end up putting their feet in it!