The Revd David Rietveld is the Rector of the Anglican Parish of Wellspring and is also the Branch Chairman of CMS Tasmania. Read his reflections on global missions below:
I have just returned from Cambodia, where I had dinner with Wim and Maaike Prins in Siem Reap, and lunch with Rolf and Bonnie Lepelaar in Phnom Penh. It was great to catch up with CMS missionaries on the field, and to encourage them first hand. Cambodia is an exciting place where the church is growing. Training and coaching emerging Khmer church leaders is a strategic ministry.
I also spent two weeks with Abraham, a Khmer national who plants schools and churches among the poor. He has young church leaders whom he struggles to spend sufficient time with to teach them the scriptures and disciple them in ministry. So I encouraged him to make contact with Rolf and Wim. A match made in heaven…or so I thought.
Abraham’s response was that he does not trust Western missionaries. And yet he trusts me? Rolf said this phenomenon is not uncommon. A westerner like me represents a potential patron, someone who does not fully understand the culture, and thus someone with whom there are likely to be only modest levels of accountability.
I have no reason to believe Abraham is misusing funds. On the contrary, I have every confidence in him, and I see fruit and evidence of faithful ministry. But I was reminded that cross-cultural mission is more complex than just sending money and going on short-term mission trips.
CMS has a commitment to long-term missionaries, who learn the local culture and language. In many ways being a long-term missionary is a blessing in that what you have to offer locals in developing countries is skills, training, experience, resources – and, of course, the Gospel – but not cash.
We have a Western notion that I have the capacity and the privilege to direct my donations as I see fit. If I want to buy a village a goat, or a child a textbook, then I can do that. What is more, I can be confident I have made a concrete difference. That is all worthwhile as far as it goes. But CMS does something else. You can support someone who will immerse themselves in another culture, and then express the Christian hope in the most meaningful and relevant way they know how. That’s worth supporting. (August 2012)