The weeks before Easter saw me back in Iquitos,
Peru. As usual the bulk
of my time was spent teaching in Iquitos
and at a training centre for church leaders in Nauta (100kms from Iquitos).
Iquitos has an impact on me each
time I go, not least because it poses all sorts of questions to me. Questions I
suspect those experienced in trans-cultural mission have long since sorted out
but keep bugging me.
1. Is it possible to teach and train people in a foreign
country, whose culture is very different from mine, without some form of
cultural imperialism? Blogs like Vinoth
Ramachandra (here) keep reminding me this is not easy. Yet I hope being aware of the
problem, encouraging people to develop Amazonian ways of living it out and trying
to work in a team mitigate this.
2. Does the training make a difference? I’m sure people
leave knowing information they didn’t know before, and I try hard to help them
apply it, but I have a nagging concern about understanding. Most people in the area
have learned things through repetition and rote learning which is a very
different method to the one I’m used to. The legacy of this approach is people
assume what you say is right and few argue with you or question ‘why’.
3. Is it more important to help with front line church stuff
or build background capacity? I’ve come from the background that says it is not
for outsiders to do the front line stuff but if we have something to offer it
is in building the capacity of church leaders and groups to take the work forward.
But that largely depends on whose capacity you are wanting to build up; and
Jesus never seemed too worried about capacity building he just did what was in
front of him.
4. Is it worth it? My going to Peru
is costly; not just in terms of flight costs but in time and my environmental
footprint. I’ve asked myself loads of times if this is right or if there isn’t
a better way of doing this. I’m sure there are better ways and in time they
will be the ones used. But the kingdom
of God is not about
cost-effectiveness it is about doing what we can to witness to the grace and
goodness of God.
5. What do I gain from it? Going to Iquitos
keeps sharpening my own thinking, making me more aware of UK
culture and church thinking; which I hope has a positive impact on what I do
here. Teaching in Iquitos uses my skills
and experience for the benefit of others, but I hope also increases them; which
might in time bless others too.