While we were in Zimbabwe we overlapped two international ‘mission’ teams who came in contact with the Sandra Jones Memorial Village. No names, nationalities or denominations shall be mentioned in this blog, but I wish to comment on their differing methodology.
We will start with Group A. They are in Zimbabwe for nearly a month, and in that time are spending time with only two places (I think). They spent two weeks with the Sandra Jones Memorial Village. In that time a lot of their contribution was practical service. They painted the babies home, they cleared a fire break around Willow Park and as some of them were in the medical field they spent a lot of time tending to the children’s health needs.
When they weren’t doing the hard yards of work they downed tools and just hung out with the SJMV kids. Over the two weeks they came to know them by name, heard their stories and loved the girls as practically and demonstrably as possible. They played volleyball, soccer, danced with them and just sat around for hours chatting. That was Group A.
Group B were in Zimbabwe for a week. They spent their time traipsing around various orphanages and children’s homes on what looked like a hit and run mission. Turn up, give a slick presentation skewed towards the culture of their home country, conclude with an alter call, count hands and get out.
The Zimbabwean locals will tell you that it is African custom to be polite. So when an alter call goes out there is likely to be a large response to avoid giving offense to the presenters. So perhaps not too much weight should be ascribed to the show of hands at any one place. Even less so when few are there to follow it up.
When Group B went to Sandra Jones Village they came for the afternoon. They parked their bus at the top of the long road in because they thought it too rough. They walked in (took an hour) did their presentation, prayed for an HIV Positive girl and proclaimed her healed, walked out (huffing and puffing up the steep hill).
The clash of methodology became very obvious last night at the celebration party at Hotel Rio. It was a party to celebrate the purchase highlighted by some marimba playing from the girls, brilliant singing and some excruciating testimonies from two girls transformed by SJMV after terrible sexual abuse.
Group A were the life of the party, clearly loved by the girls. Group B sat in a stony faced huddle, not really knowing anyone outside their circle to talk to. When food was called, Group B crowded to the front, loaded their plates with steak, sausages, bread rolls and salad. Behind them were the girls and staff from SJMV who rarely if ever see steak or meat. A lot of the girls HIV Positive (unless healed by Group B’s prayers I guess) and in need of sustenance and good food for the sake of their health. The food had run out long before the SJMV girls had been sufficiently nourished. Tailing at the rear were Group A who largely went without.
If that wasn’t enough, the leader of Group B announced she had a ‘word from the Lord’ to share and what followed was a bizarre rant I couldn’t clearly follow, but was basically a dialogue on dualism, something to do with circles and dots and how we are called to be “separate”. There was something in there about ‘sin’ as well as she cast a sidelong glance at Group A, enjoying their one cider for the night.
Two groups, two vastly different methodologies. Talking to Debbie after the event she talked about how international groups can be a lottery. If they come with a heart to learn and serve they are a blessing. If they turn up with a pre-determined agenda and a superiority complex that the local populace can learn from them, they can, at best, be a nightmare, at worst a damaging presence. As one local minister said – Group B could probably have learned far more from the SJMV girls than the girls could from them.
As I looked at the two groups I could think of only one thing. WWJD?
P.S. We are in Cape Town. Can’t wait for dawn.