I've heard/read a couple quotes in the past week that have impressed me and made me think a little bit. They're totally unrelated but have really had an impact on how I think about my work here in Jamaica and it's work.
The first is somewhat related to my last post concerning the "facts" about Jamaica. Circumstances caused me to write my blog over two different days and caused me to lose some of the focus on what I was writing. But I believe that what I wrote was representative of Jamaica, at least as I've experienced it, and my only regret is that I didn't have the time or the room to fit in everything that I could possibly talk about to try and describe Jamaica with words. In case you're wondering, I don't think it's possible to describe with words. . . just a fleeting attempt. One part that I failed to put in that I had intended to is concerning the religious state of Jamaica. This is one of the areas where I consider the "facts" to be misleading. "Facts" will tell you that Jamaica is 62.5% Protestant Christian. Another of these "facts" is that Jamaica has the most churches per capita than anywhere else in the world. So, if these facts are true than why am I here? I interviewed with a church as a "Living-link" missionary a few months back and these facts came to be sticking issues. This church (understandably) did not want to pay to send a missionary somewhere that was already saturated with Christianity. Let me place a quote from the CIA World Factbook that supplies said information:
Protestant 62.5% (Seventh-Day Adventist 10.8%, Pentecostal 9.5%, Other Church of God 8.3%, Baptist 7.2%, New Testament Church of God 6.3%, Church of God in Jamaica 4.8%, Church of God of Prophecy 4.3%, Anglican 3.6%, other Christian 7.7%)
I can tell you that of these "Protestant" denominations, most are considered by Orthodox Christianity to be cults. And even if they weren't cults I can say from experience that Jamaica is not a "Christian" nation. They talk a lot about God, they mostly believe in God (whatever that may mean), and they allow prayer in schools and government, but I do not believe that people's hearts are truly commited to God. The crime rate and murder rate says otherwise!
I heard a quote that really hit the nail on the head on a documentary on the Travel Channel the other day. They were talking about the wickedness of Port Royal (the city referred to in Pirates of the Caribbean) and how it was referred to in its prime as "the wickedest city on earth". But at the same time it was said that Port Royal had the most churches per capita. The historian said something along the lines of, "When you're out gambling and womanizing all night you need a lot of churches to go pray for your sins the next day." I believe this to be the case of modern day Jamaica as well. Oddly enough Port Royal was destroyed and mostly buried under the sea in a huge earthquake which ended its reign as "wickedest city on earth!"
Another thing I've been thinking about came from a statement a friend made right before I left. Of course I've heard this before and it has been a huge debate in missions for quite a while. It's the age old question of "why not just send money." Why not just funnel all of our money into these underdeveloped countries and let them sort it out for themselves? Why waste our precious, precious time on flying ourselves to these places and using our own sweat and blood to try and help? I've played it up a bit here, but it's a valid question and one that missionaries are facing more and more as they try to find funding to go onto the mission field. Whether that be overseas or in our own inner-cities.
Well, my answer came from a blog from my former youth minister on why the church shouldn't focus PRIMARILY on social help. (I don't believe he is saying that we shouldn't use social help as a ministry tool, but I think he's saying it shouldn't be our end goal) His quote, and I think it applies to my question as well, is:
"It causes American Christians to feel better about all of their great wealth without considering how caught up they are in material stuff. I really wonder if all of our service isn’t just some guilt trip relief because we are so spoiled and rich and want to throw a few shekels to the poor so we can go and watch our HDTV with out remorse."
I think he may be on to something here! Americans (I'm not saying all Americans, or whoever has the money, and I don't believe he is either) would rather send a few dollars than really take the time and effort to immerse themselves in the problem. Granted, missionaries (myself included someday very soon) rely on thse people for their funding. But wouldn't the world be much better if people quit sending money and instead invested in the lives of people? Instead of sending money, invest in a plane ticket and see, smell, hear, and feel what it's like. Share in the tragedy, the pain, the hope, the joy! Leave with a sense of accomplishment and with a new friend or two! Even more so, leave with a better appeciation of what life is like on the other side of the fence. . . wherever that may be!