Continuing in our series on our Philosophy of Mission, we are acutely aware of the kind of helping that hurts. One of the greatest challenges we have faced in Haiti in the cross-cultural divide has to do with money, and along with that expectations, dependency, and entitlement mentality. Because of this, we are diligently seeking to shape our mission in ways that avoid the potholes that can cripple our efforts in making Christ known in word and deed.
4. Equipping, Not Entitlement
The needs and opportunities are massive. The temptation to jump in and want to fix all the problems is real, and often times we do not think about unintended consequences due to neglecting the “How?” question. The biggest unintended consequence is building an entitlement mentality among the people of Haiti. The more we unilaterally jump into a situation and solve third-world problems with first-world money and expertise, third-world citizens will begin to believe their problems could only be solved by first-world people. As a result, entitlement sets in, and nothing is done by Haitians unless it is paid and accomplished by American missionaries.
Instead, our desire is to leverage our gifts, resources, money, and trips to equip and empower Haitians through training and encouragement. We are cheerleaders, not the star players. When we have clothes to give away, we help them start a street-side store to resell them and start jobs. When we have a construction project to build, we provide training for competent men to learn new ways of building according to higher standards and perhaps provide future business opportunities. In all our efforts, we are evaluating the consequence of our investments so as to safeguard our efforts from entitlement mentality and discouraging Haitians from taking ownership of the ministry God has given them.
The reason we say our goal is to be invisible as possible is because the presence of American missionaries equals riches and luxury. And any Haitian pastor or leader visibly associated with American missionaries means their people will attach wealth, riches, and luxuries to their own leaders. As you can imagine, the people will sadly hold their leaders in contempt or skepticism, unjustifiably so, but still nevertheless. Understanding these realties, we want to alleviate any unnecessary difficulties for our indigenous leaders and at the same empower them to lead their churches to change their communities with integrity and passion.