The book, When Helping Hurts, is an excellent description of what happens when good intentioned Western aid can actually hurt more than it helps if it is administered without a good understanding of the cultural context. This past week while attending a leadership team meeting of MANI (Movement of African National Initiatives,) in Nairobi, Kenya, I've been impressed by how the legacy of some old well-intentioned help is still hurting.
MANI is all about catalyzing a mission movement in every country of Africa. For the past fifteen years, since the AD2000 & Beyond Movement, MANI has been working hard at inspiring efforts to reach the remaining unreached people groups across the continent as well as preparing Africans for ministry in global missions.
But today, MANI is recognizing that the greatest stumbling block to success is the lack of commitment on the part of local African churches to support mission outreach. The problem is not that they don’t think it should happen, but that church leaders continue to see mission work as something led and funded by Westerners. It all has to do with the way churches were originally planted in Africa 50 to 100 years ago. Most expat mission organizations modeled church-planting as something independent of mission outreach, especially to other tribes, nations or people groups. So today, the idea that a national church should prepare and financially support young missionaries for cross-cultural outreach simply doesn’t exit. Most churches still think the West will provide resources for that.
Reuben Ezemadu, continental coordinator for MANI, stated during one of our sessions that unfortunately, the vestiges of old “evangelical imperialism” still lives on in Africa, especially as we see current church leaders following patterns of their Western missionary forefathers.
This is why MANI is attempting to connect with top heads of African churches to cast new vision that Africans can and should be mobilizing and resourcing mission efforts. A major summit is being planned for a year from now in Accra, Ghana in hopes that several hundred presidents of church denominations will come together for that purpose.
I’m praying this event will be a watershed moment and begin shaping a new African paradigm that will see national churches shedding old hurtful attitudes and truly begin helping to spawn a new generation of mission outreach across the continent and around the globe.