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‘The Goal Is to Change Hearts, Not to Change Cultures’: Missionaries on the Loss of life of John Allen Chau


The dying of an American missionary this month has led to an inside reckoning amongst a lot of his fellow missionaries.

After the missionary, John Allen Chau, a 26-year-old Seattle man, was killed by members of a hunter-gatherer tribe on North Sentinel Island when he tried to go to them illegally, we requested missionaries to inform us how they considered Mr. Chau’s actions and the way they had been reacting to his dying. We heard from greater than 300 missionaries, primarily from the USA and Canada, who’ve labored across the globe.

Many stated they had been resolute of their evangelical convictions, however others stated Mr. Chau’s dying brought about them to re-examine what it means to be a missionary. And whereas some sympathized with Mr. Chau’s drive to journey to the island and minister to its inhabitants, others stated they had been disturbed by what they noticed as recklessness.

Right here is an edited and condensed collection of their responses.


Picture
Jamie Arpin-Ricci at dwelling in Winnipeg.

I’ve a deep dedication to addressing the historical past of colonization hooked up to missions and the harm we now have achieved consequently.

The “lone ranger” hero missionary story is VERY standard amongst Christians, whereas being very unhelpful for example. This furthers my resolve that missions should be reformed.

— Jamie Arpin-Ricci, 41, Winnipeg, Canada. Served 25 years as a missionary, primarily in Canadian cities.

The dying of John encourages me to suppose extra about eternity, the decision of God on my life and the way far I’m keen to go to share the love of God.

— Reynold Mainse, 57, Gulu, Uganda. A Canadian, he has served for 4 years as a missionary in Uganda together with his American spouse.

Picture
Amy Peterson, foreground, on her mission in Southeast Asia within the early 2000s.

I labored as an English trainer and an “undercover” missionary in a rustic the place proselytizing was forbidden. Over the past 15 years, I’ve thought rather a lot about whether or not I did good or evil in sharing the Gospel with these ladies.

The “missionary myth” I grew up with initially developed alongside the frontier fable in America — in each, a rugged particular person units off to beat a brand new world. In each, you will discover white supremacy and western cultural imperialism. All of this results in the sort of endeavor undertaken by John Allen Chau — one proper according to the best way that missionary work has usually been mythologized within the white American church.

— Amy Peterson, 37, Upland, Ind. Served as a missionary to ladies in Southeast Asia for 2 years within the early 2000s.

Picture
Grace Laurel Rogers on her mission journey to Romania.

The killing has made me actually take into consideration and outline my opinions on being a missionary. Why I do it, how I do it, learn how to do it proper.

The objective is to alter hearts, to not change cultures.

— Grace Laurel Rogers, 22, Charleston, S.C. Served on mission journeys to Romania and East Asia.

Picture
Mike Wilson in Haiti, the place he lives and works together with his household.

I consider if somebody is actually known as by God to do one thing, they need to do it. Jesus broke with the traditions and taboos of His day to the touch lepers. The world just isn’t going to all the time look out for my security; a lot of that accountability is to me, and with my religion, I need to go and do what I’m known as to do.

— Mike Wilson, 46, Leogone, Haiti. Served a number of short-term mission journeys to Haiti since 2003; has lived there together with his household full time since 2014.

Picture
Andrew Millman, middle, assembly with neighborhood leaders on his mission in Moscow.

As somebody serving a progressive mainline Protestant denomination, I went by means of intensive coaching on cultural competency, postcolonial principle and faith-rooted organizing. I used to be NOT there to “save souls” or to transform people, however was as a substitute despatched to dwell in solidarity with marginalized communities whereas working for holistic, systemic reform.

I feel Chau’s choice was uninformed, boastful and self-serving. He has strengthened the stereotype of all missionaries as brash younger colonizers attempting to tame “primitive” tribes.

— Andrew Millman, 30, Colorado Springs, Colo. Served from 2013-15 as a International Mission Fellow with the United Methodist Church in Moscow, working with the West African diaspora there.

Picture
Harmonie Chapman, in striped shirt, leads a youngsters’s program on a mission to Japan.

If something, I feel this case has begun to make me analyze my very own priorities and decide if I too am keen to threat all the pieces to succeed in those that don’t but know God.

— Harmonie Chapman, 22, Mitchelton, Australia. Has served as a missionary with Youth With a Mission, based mostly in Brisbane, Australia, since 2017.

Being a missionary is difficult, however you depend the price earlier than you go. Even into dying, it’s important to be keen to share the hope that’s all the pieces to you to the world. The considered getting thrown right into a Nepali jail cell didn’t scare me practically as a lot because the considered the entire people in that nation dying with out listening to about Jesus. That’s the reason we do what we do.

This can be a powerful puzzle. On the finish of the day, the killing of one other human being is unsuitable.

However to punish them by, virtually talking, overseas legal guidelines, could be unsuitable for my part. Let justice be left within the arms of an Almighty God right here, for it appears to me that this case is out of the arms of the Indian authorities.

— Blake Dahlin, 21, Calimesa, Calif. Served a nine-month mission, starting in 2017, in Swaziland, Lesotho, India, Nepal, Nicaragua and Guatemala.


There are many different people on the planet who want to listen to about Jesus Christ. Why did he must go to the one place on the planet the place he wasn’t allowed to go?

— Spencer Yamada, 28, Provo, Utah. Served a two-year mission with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in rural Washington State and Oregon.

From the place I stand now, it appears irresponsibly silly. However from his viewpoint — a viewpoint I used to carry — the specter of illness was nothing in comparison with the fact of everlasting perdition.

My objective was to share the Gospel with Muslims, and to finally plant church buildings of Muslim-background believers. I believed that anybody who had not obtained Jesus Christ as their savior was damned, and going to an “unreached” place like Sindh was merely probably the most logical and trustworthy factor I might do.

— Matthew Cook dinner, 36, Toronto. Served from 2005-09 as an evangelical missionary in Sindh, Pakistan.

It’s a real concern to concentrate on the potential of illness spreading, however I do suppose sharing the Gospel is well worth the threat of the potential sharing of illness as effectively.

— Michael Meyerdirk, 25, Bratislava, Slovakia. Lives in Slovakia and serves with a Christian nonprofit group.

Brady Cook dinner, left, met with an area chief in Zimbabwe. “Had to ask his permission to come on his land,” Mr. Cook dinner stated.

I do not know of many different ways in which he might have ready for the place he went, however there’s all the time some threat every time a brand new space is evangelized. Somebody needs to be the primary one by means of the door, and I consider John Chau thought it was his responsibility to be that particular person.

I want he had consulted medical doctors which can be specialised in that space to know the dangers first, and if it posed a considerable hazard, discover different methods to speak the Gospel to them, equivalent to books, paintings or perhaps a Bible that was translated into their language.

— Brady Cook dinner, 32, Greenville, Tex. Spent seven weeks on a mission to Zimbabwe in 2007.



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Updated: November 30, 2018 — 10:28 am

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