Three weeks are what I’ve got left, and I’ll give them all I’ve got. I consider much of my “success” from this trip not to be based on what I was able to accomplish while I’m here, but what I am able to pass on in a way that locals are able to sustain once I leave. Development is something short of just that if the society must lean on an outsider to sustain it. If I don’t pass these projects on, I’ve hardly offered development but merely relief—temporary relief that I nor anyone else can sustain. This requires meticulous design, intention, and strategy which I’ve been trying my best to implement since my arrival.
But I left that word up there, success, in quotation marks in order to sardonically criticize my own set of priorities which were recently put in check once again.
We had a team of three visiting leaders from my church back home come in just this past week to prepare for all that we’re doing with a team of short term missionaries in August. We were all scamper-brained together, synchronized chaos, but I feel I might have been so even more as I was playing host. We got a lot of good work done, a lot that could very well set us up for some success and positive results.
But as our final minutes in the village drew near, a mother in the community handed us a written request for some type of aid and gave us a generalization explaining that for which she was asking. I simply didn’t make room in my head for it; I kept it full with the requirements to complete the task ahead. I don’t even remember reading it, only responding when someone in the car had asked what it was that I get them all the time from different people who are asking for different forms of assistance.
That was Thursday. Sunday evening after church, one of the youths, Brayan, came over to remind me that the assistance for the petition I had received on Thursday was due the next day, Monday, if something were to be done about it. I wracked my brain.
Crap. What was that about again? Something about her son… How much money was it they were asking for?
“Ah, yes. How much money do they need again?” I asked.
“They said I shouldn’t take your money,” Brayan replied, simply. Booyakasha! Forget blogs! That’s an entire dissertation’s worth on post-development and stopping for the one right there! “They want you to come talk to them.”
But that would reveal that I haven’t the slightest as to what they’re requesting.
And more from lack of choice than a grand epiphany concerning the value of humility I retreated back with Brayan to the mother’s house. As she recounted the needs, the family’s request began to come back to me as if I were remembering a dream. Edwin, the son, recently had an operation on his eyes. He needed to go to a special vision center to have something removed from his eyes. They needed someone to accompany him and to pay for his trip and his appointment; otherwise, he would be stuck with these temporary medical objects in his eyes indefinitely. The entire day (including breakfast) would cost me a whopping $22. I obliged.
I walked home and started to think about all the work that I was supposed to be doing, and how we would need to take the first bus at 5 a.m. Thankfully, Something interrupted my thoughts.
This is what I’m here for. If I’m not attentive enough to stop for the one, what is this trip about?
My objective is not results nor success. My objective is to maintain a capacity and mentality that is perpetually open to stopping for the one. Abroad or when i return home. Kinda funny how a few weeks into this adventure, I was abruptly reminded of this concept, and that now, with but a few weeks left to it, I’m reminded of it again. As this chapter approaches its conclusion, I find myself right where I started.
Here’s a Chinese poem I read online this week. It was posted by a friend of mine, Don, with whom I attended missions school in Mozambique in 2007. To me, it captures everything that missions should be about. And if you’re not a missionary—or even if you’re not a Christian—I challenge you to adapt this, especially in the manners you interact interculturally with another.
Go to the people
Live among them
Learn from them
Start with what they know
Build on what they have:
But with the best leaders
When their work is done
The people will remark
“We have done it ourselves.”
As Don also included in the post as originally articulated by Heidi Baker, “There is only one direction in ministry: lower still.”
And that’s why we stop for the one.