Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Group Effect

Ah Thursdays. The day when I usually have to be up early in order to go out to camp and see what sort of things are available for me to do out there. Thankfully, this week did not involve my heading out to camp, so I was able to sleep a little and get some other work done this morning.

The afternoon, however, was spent fishing! Very different experience when you are shipping on the open ocean. One of the helicopter pilots out here has a boat, so myself, Sebastien and him (Adrian) went out on the boat for a few hours to see if we could catch any fish. Rather than using rods, we just used lines with the bait on the end. It allows you to feel the nibbles and quickly respond when you finally do get a bite on the line. I had two bites, but wasn’t able to pull either of them in. The second one almost got to the boat, but he must have ripped himself free before he got to the surface. Too bad, because it felt like a big one!

This evening, we had young adults at Melissa and Serevi’s. Melissa originally came over through YWAM and met Serevi while she was here, and they ended up getting married. There is a YWAM team in the country for a few months, so they took the devotions for tonight, and I got the week off.

You know... I have always been sceptical about the benefits of a YWAM mission, and tonight didn’t really do a whole lot to appease that doubt. The problem is that you bring in people with a lot of enthusiasm and passion, which is beneficial and good, but they lack knowledge. Imagine moving to France, and with all the passion and fervour in the world standing up and preaching to them in English. Despite your eloquent words and sentence structure, your compelling arguments, and your heartfelt faith, your words mean nothing to them: they don’t understand.

While that is a drastic example, I view these short term missions much the same way. If you don’t learn the local customs, if you don’t stop to get to know how they communicate and what spiritual level they are at, and what is really going on in their lives, how can you speak to them? When Paul moved into a new city, he would spend months with them preaching and teaching, sometimes staying for years before he moved on. This allowed him to perceive their specific needs and directly address them.

The team tonight had the best of intentions, and that is admirable at any time. However, in quite a few different areas they were actually quite rude while speaking (without intending to be). In Fiji, it is rude to stand in an informal setting when you are talking with anyone while they sit. Places such as church change this rule, since they are formal... but a small gathering is not. Guess how they presented their various testimonies? Standing up!

Quite a few of them seemed to be going on and on about the flood this past weekend. Obviously, in North America, to have your house flooded would be a huge deal. It doesn’t happen that often. But when you live in Fiji and live in a low-lying area, it happens once every couple of months. It is not the end of the world, it is an expected consequence. Had you listened to these devotions, however, it would seem that it was causing a massive spiritual crisis in the lives of the Fijian people. Small... but significant things that aren’t understood.

Finally, when the devotions were finished, and everyone was mingling... guess what happened? The Fijians sat together, and the YWAM team sat together. There were two or three members of the team who went out of their comfort zone and engaged the Fijian people, but the rest sat in their team and chatted amongst themselves. It’s sad to see, because at the end of the trip they will leave believing that they have made a significant impact on all the lives that they encountered, when the truth may be that they will be remembered as a ‘change of pace.’

All of this could be remedied with a little cultural integration education. Small things that make a big difference. Oh... and team leaders that don’t let the group form their own clusters. That group effect is a nasty thing, because it allows us to stay in our comfort zones in the most alien of places. Why come all this way to talk to people from the US of A? Time to get out and meet new people, and change some lives!

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