by Bruce R. Reichenbach
Are the consequences of the inpouring of money, material and personnel ultimately beneficial to the Third World churches.
It has been claimed that the relation of the Western church to the churches of the Third World is permeated with deep feelings of guilt. It is charged that missionaries have done both too much and too little. In doing too much they imposed Western culture and Western values onto the Third World churches, and in the process obliterated all traces of local culture. The liturgy is Western, the hymns translated and tunes transposed from European /American hymnals, the buildings constructed in Western style, the theology European.
In doing too little they failed to appreciate local cultural contributions and adapt their message to them, to train adequately local leaders, and to facilitate nationals’ assuming ecclesiastical and administrative responsibilities.
Consequently, the Western church seeks to pay the debt that supposedly it has accrued to the Third World churches. Personnel, both of the traditional missionaryand technical-type, material, and, most importantly, money are poured into these developing countries in a frantic effort to assuage its hurting conscience. Special mission envoys are dispatched, charged with the task of finding ever new ways to flood in financial support for various and sundry projects. What evolves from this guiltladen relationship is what I choose to call the Third World captivity of the Western church.
I will not consider here whether or not these guilt feelings are legitimate. Whatever be the case, a relationship fostered primarily or partly upon such is unhealthy indeed. Rather, I want to raise the question whether the consequences of this attitude-viz., the inpouring of money, material and personnel-are ultimately beneficial to the Third World churches. Are the long-term results consonant with properly conceived goals of Christian charity (agape) and concern for the well-being of the church?
In recent years it has been questioned whether there should be a moratorium on sending foreign personnel to the Third World. But the question of continued financial and material aid has not been raised, especially by the receiving countries. More and more financial assistance is being sought from any number of quarters. Monies are requested, for buildings, books, schools, salaries, agricultural and development projects, training courses, tuition grants and so on. In what follows I intend to raise questions regarding the serious social and attitudinal consequences that arise from the continued, seemingly unlimited donation of personnel, material and money.
I will proceed by noting particular cases that either I experienced or others recounted to me during the time I spent as a teacher at a Third World seminary. The danger of this is that these might be isolated cases found only in one developing country, or that the conditions they describe are unique to this country. While I accept the risks of hasty generalization, from conversations with individuals working in other Third World countries I believe that neither the problems and consequences nor the instances cited are atypical. In any case, the reader should not lose sight of the fact that it is the principle, not the particular illustrating case, which is of importance.
The first consequence of the Third World captivity of the Western church is people greed.
Third World churches (and governments) eagerly welcome the seemingly endless line of personnel offered to them gratis from abroad. In and of itself this might seem harmless enough. But it leads to the situation where they will openly seek and readily accept personnel, even if such are not really needed or there is no particular slot for them to fill.
Two cases will illustrate my point. The seminary at which I was teaching had been understaffed the previous year. However, in the particular year in which I served, the opposite obtained: there were seven staff (several of these part-time) for ten students. Unaware of the current situation, a Western church offered to send another fulltime member for the seminary. The reply to this Western church, immediately telegrammed by the church executive and supported by the seminary principal, requested that he be sent immediately because of their desperate staffing need. Had he in fact come, there would have been no teaching work for him to perform, the seminary students already having more than 20 class hours of work per week.1 Only intervention by one of the seminary missionary staff altered the mind of the sending church.
The national church contacted a missionary-sending agency, requesting the services of a director for its youth center. Such a person was found and sent for a three-year term. However, upon his arrival he discovered that in the meantime the youth center had acquired a full-time national director, and that there was no job for him. Despite his attempts to plug into other areas of the church life, he was thwarted at every turn. His time in that country resulted in a very unhappy experience, both for himself and the national church.
Both instances reveal the greed for personnel without any real evaluation of the existing needs. So long as the personnel came gratis, the requests were made and the offerings accepted. The national church apparently felt under no obligation to consider realistically its true needs-as it undoubtedly would have done had it been responsible for the funding of this person-or to conduct an adequate assessment of its present resources. Acquisition of personnel seemed almost an end in itself.2
The second consequence of the Third World captivity of the Western church is personnel dependency. Instead of seeking solutions for problems among its own personnel, the national church immediately turns to those from abroad. The strengthening that comes from internal reliance is replaced by the lethargic dependence on others, leading to a no-growth context. Therefore, the growth potential present in the utilization of their own personnel goes unrecognized or, when pointed out, unheeded. It becomes easier to rely on others to do the work.
This leads to the third consequence, a lack of personal commitment on the part of the nationals themselves toward the improvement of their own situation or the meeting of their own needs. Whereas the initiative and spirit of sacrificial commitment should begin with the local Christians, the first response is to look to foreigners to resolve the needy situation.
When the national church became independent, it also acquired responsibility for the vocational /technical institution begun by the missionaries. Since the missionary previously in charge would be leaving, he took the best of his students and trained him to take over the task of training the students at the school in auto mechanics. When the missionary left, so did the local-to take a better paying job in a nearby country. Commitment to the ongoing ministry of the church and the financial sacrifice needed to sustain it were absent.
Concerned that the faculty of the seminary was almost totally expatriate, one missionary, with the help of a Western church,, sent a young man abroad to receive theological training, so that he could return to his country and join the seminary faculty. When the student returned he instead found employment in the local high school. When I inquired why he was not teaching at the seminary, he replied that "he could not live on a minister’s salary." It was still largely left to foreign missionaries to fill the seminary teaching posts.
It is certainly true that church positions in Third World countries are poorly paid, and that secular employment provides extremely attractive alternatives for the educated. However, I believe that for these churches to grow and mature, their educated people must be willing to make appropriate sacrifices for the work of the church. One cannot even conceive of these churches having been originally founded had the spirit of sacrifice and commitment not filled the pioneer missionaries. This is not to say that educated Christians should not seek employment elsewhere-in government, education or business, but it is to say that the spirit of sacrifice dictates that the church have its significant share of educated people functioning in its administration, pastorate and schools, even at the low salaries necessitated by the financial condition of the church.
In sum, the guilt complex of the Western church compels it to continue to supply personnel gratis to the Third World churches. But has it counted the cost of its actions? Are the consequences what it really desires? Are the resulting attitudes of "people greed," dependence on foreign personnel, and lack of their own sacrificial commitment what it really wants to foster in these churches?
Though some individuals in Third World churches have questioned sending more personnel (though the kind of personnel questioned are usually evangelistic," not "technical"), rarely does one hear a call for a moratorium on continued financial and material assistance. And consistent with their guilt-complex, the Western churches continually search for new ways to infuse financial and material aid into the Third World churches. But what are the present consequences of this seemingly. unlimited generosity?
First, parallel to the spoils of personnel, it creates a money greed. That these churches have significant financial needs goes without saying. But the desire to acquire foreign monies can lead to their taking positions that border on dishonesty. For example, the national Christian council had developed a project for the raising of poultry. However, from their previous experience they realized that it would be difficult to get sponsors for the project if it did not include a package for training local people. Accordingly, to get the money they included such an aspect, though in point of fact they made no plans for realizing this part of the project. Indeed, the projected budget, when realistically analyzed, would not have been large enough even to begin to undertake such a training program, let along sustain it, since it contained inadequate provision for the support of the trainees. The inclusion of this was merely a front proffered to acquire approval and funding from the Western church for the original project.
This same effect can be seen when the drive for foreign funds deprives them of concern for dealing with problematic situations, other than the need for continued outside funding. Obtaining foreign funding becomes so central that they are blinded to problems equally as serious. For example, in the particular seminary in which I taught there were serious problems of administration. I mentioned these conditions in a report to my mission board, and items from my report eventually found their way back to the executive committee of the national church and to my principal. In confronting me with my criticisms (which, incidentally, I had already conveyed to him in other contexts), the principal asked in effect, "Why did you say these things about us? Because of this it will make it more difficult to get money from your church."’ The gist of the conversation and of his (and the executive committee’s) complaint was not with the veracity of the report concerning the academic and administrative shortcomings of the institution; he was not concerned to hear or discuss my evaluation of the state of the seminary. What was uppermost in his mind was that such reports (true or not) could cost them dollars in contributions from Western churches.
Again, it is not the needs of these churches that should be in doubt. Rather, what is at issue is whether Western contributions and, more importantly, the way they are handled are creating the kind of attitude in the recipients that we want to foster. As one U.S. diplomat termed it, have we fostered an "aid-recipient mentality"?
The second consequence, also parallel to the previous section, is financial dependency. Does the infusion of Western money and material eventually become the life blood of the church, such that without it it could not operate? What percentage of its annual budget comes from outside resources? Does the church develop an attitude of dependency, such that it fails to develop the internal commitment and local resources to meet the challenge of its own needs? In the country in which I worked, it was to the credit of the church with whom I was associated that, after it was nationalized, it had achieved financial independence for its operating budget. The Catholic Church, however, had not acquired such independence, such that it remained the case that the major percentage (over 60%) of its operating budget continued to come from abroad. It was a cripple, depending, both for its direction and ability to survive, upon money and personnel continually sent from abroad.
This leads to the third issue, namely, to the question concerning the self-commitment of the national church to the resolution of its problems through the utilization of its own resources. Serious questions can be raised about the degree to which the national church body and local churches support projects heavily funded by the Western churches. Do the local groups contribute enough to show their own commitment to the projects? For example, in the country in which I worked several large denominations, including both Protestants and Roman Catholics, are of the Christian council. Yet 95 % of its operating budget comes from the Western church. Indeed, the particular church I was associated with, which was the largest Protestant denomination in the country, contributed only .1% of its total budget to the Christian council.
To obtain funding for its projects, the Christian council was sometimes asked to put up 25 % of the cost to match the 75 % contributed by the Western churches. Yet, as it turned out, the 25 % contributed by the national churches in the council frequently was money, or more often, facilities gleaned from a previous donation. Thus, in the poultry-raising project mentioned above, they used the buildings on the proposed site as their matching funds for the project. Yet those very buildings had been built with funds acquired from Western churches during a previous project. In point of fact, all things considered, they had not contributed anything from their own resources to the project.
In short, some churches of the Third World have adopted what has been called elsewhere the alms-race. But is this open-handed or open-pocketed generosity of the Western church building self-reliance and selfcommitment? Is it teaching the churches of the Third World how to solve their own problems by utilizing their own resources? Is it forcing them to develop their own resources to meet their own needs?
Indeed,, what frequently happens is that once the project has been introduced and paid for from abroad, there is little concern for the continued maintenance of the project from local resources. Buildings fail to be maintained properly (no one was concerned with the leak in the classroom-paid for from abroad-roof until the entire ceiling collapsed); projects peter out to an early death (no attempt was made to acquire funds to continue the scholarship program that allowed seminary students to undertake a year of university training); indeed projects are even sabotaged (as was the case of a water system constructed for a village, that was sabotaged and left in disrepair). Local initiative and commitment were absent, for the projects had been funded from abroad.
In sum, are the results of the guilt-occasioned generosity of the Western churches really beneficial to the churches of the Third World? Should there be a moratorium, not only on personnel, but also on the sending of material and funds to these developing churches, at least until these churches take concrete steps to develop commitments from their own people in personnel and fiscal resources to make the projects socially beneficial and likely to succeed? Should there be a moratorium until some basic attitudes are changed and internal problems faced and resolved?
What are some of these basic problems that must be met internally before there can be adequate use of funds and personnel? Let me list four such problems that I consider of sufficient magnitude seriously to prevent responsible and committed growth of the Third World churches. This list is not meant to be exclusive or exhaustive, but suggestive of one perspective from which one might realistically view the situation.
First is the pressing problem of poor administration. There appears to be an inability to perform the basic but necessary administrative functions of assessing situations,, organizing and maintaining proper data,, processing the information intelligibly to the proper channels, responsibly delegating responsibility and authority, and overseeing and evaluating results.
I will present one example, but it hardly suffices to suggest the scope of the problem. The principal of the seminary at which I taught kept no records of the grades or courses taken by the students, he had no curriculum or set yearly calendar, he called no planning or staff meetings. One student came in the middle, of the year because he was misinformed that that was when the school year commenced. Instead of delegating another, the principal spent several days each week, traveling a hundred kilometers to purchase vegetables for the students.
The reason behind this deficient administration is not always clear. At times it is a case of simple ineptness, at others it stems from the serious problem of the abuse of alcohol, at others it arises from the fear of losing position to others, which in turn creates a refusal to delegate authority to potential rivals. It does not seem to correlate directly with degree of training, for this malady is found among those who have as well as those who have not received special training. Perhaps there stands a cultural block against administrating. Whatever the reason, until affairs are properly administered locally, there cannot be adequate accounting for personnel and financial needs, proper utilization of local resources, or reckoning of the benefits that foreign assistance brings.
Secondly, and closely related to the first, is the absence of long-range planning. Long-range objectives are not established, potential problems and difficulties are not envisioned, nor is realistic calculation made of steps needed for satisfactory resolution of the problem or achievement of the project.
The principal of the girls’ school gave a two-year notification that she would be retiring and returning to her home in Europe on a certain date. Yet it was not until three months before she was to leave that the position was (unsuccessfully, as it turned out) advertised for. As a consequence, the assistant principal, who under no circumstances wanted the job, was compelled to assume the position.
The Christian council applied for and received an overseas grant for a domestic project that involved teaching women to knit. However, their proposal included no study of the potential impact of this project on the society or economy. After the foreign funds terminated, could it be self-supporting 7 Was there a market for this kind of product? Was this product consistent with cultural demands?
The missionary organization which fathered the church was to hold a conference in another country in October, and invited the national church to send delegates to the conference. Though the invitation came in January and the reply was due shortly thereafter, it was not until the end of August that the executives suddenly decided that they in fact did want to attend the conference. However, to acquire visas to enter the country where the conference was being held required a minimum of three months. The result was many man hours lost in a last minute scramble for visas and the delegates flying to the country without their visas, hoping to obtain them enroute.
Here again, the reasons for this lack of planning might be complex. One possible explanation is social. Years of subsistence living have so structured thought patterns that to think and plan for anything beyond the immediate is foreign to the culturally-patterned behavior. Another suggestion is that the problem is the fundamental philosophical structures of thinking. For example, with respect to African culture, if J.S. Mbiti is correct in his analysis of the African view of time,3 the very conceptual apparatus of the African precludes the possibility of planning for any event that will occur at some time (6 months, 2 years) in the future. Whatever be the reason, lack of planning for the future is significantly detrimental to adequate implementation of structured programming and to the achievement of the results that are initially projected.
Thirdly, again related to the first, is the problem of authoritarian bureaucracy. Independent initiative from below tends to be discouraged, since it is looked upon by those already in positions of authority as a challenge to their own authority. For any item to be acted upon, it must proceed up through the multiplicity of channels. Any attempt to skirt these channels is quickly squelched. As with any bureaucracy, it is not long before what is supposedly moving up through the channels -requests, ideas, suggestions, criticisms-is lost in the paper shuffle or conveniently ignored. Eventually the only input into the situation comes from those who are already in authority, or from what they allow to penetrate the discussion.
For example, someone not in a position of authority had made contact with a Western church concerning the possibility of their donating monies for the purchase of books for the seminary library and for the reconditioning of the present seminary building and construction of new housing. A letter was received from the Western church, offering money for the library and suggesting that monies for the buildings might be possible. When this letter was taken to the executive committee, it was properly shelved, since the contact had been originally made by someone other than a member of the committee.
Fear by those in authority of those not in authority constitutes a very real and active determining force in interpersonal relations. Fear of losing position, power and prestige leads to authoritarianism. Arbitrary decisions replace reasoned ones, favoritism replaces judgments based on achievement. Petitions go unanswered because they are seen as provocative. This authoritarianism in turn hampers the work of the church, for self-criticism is shunned or half-hearted at best, the circle of ideas becomes narrowed, and competent people are isolated in places or parishes where their talents are greatly wasted.
The fourth debilitating condition is lack of appropriate communication between the various bodies constituting the national church, and also between the national church and the Western church. Lack of internal communication creates a situation where each administrator possesses a "tunnel-vision" view of the work of the church and his particular role in it. Coordination of projects fails to occur, bringing about wastefulness of resources.
The annual pastors’ conference was to be held at the youth center. In the course of a conversation with the convener of the conference about a possible conflict of scheduled events there, it came out that he had not yet contacted the director of the youth center to inform him that the conference would be held there, though only two weeks remained before the conference. He said he would not notify him until two days before, since "the youth director’s purpose is to serve the church."
The problem of inadequate external communication looms just as serious. Answers to requests for information, etc., from abroad go unanswered, or the reply is so garbled and unintelligible that it is impossible to decipher what the situation is like. As such, it is extremely difficult for sending agencies truly to determine the needs, to discover what needs are genuine, and at times to place personnel.
For example, the communications from the executive secretary to the American church seeking to place someone at the national church’s request were so unintelligible that they eventually had to send someone out to investigate what the situation really was like. On his arrival the representative told me that he discovered that the muddled messages truly reflected a muddled administrative situation. In another case,, letters and telegrams from the Western church requesting specification of need went unanswered, so that the sending agency eventually placed the individual in another country.
There are both positive aspects and other problems that make the situation more complex. However, I have focused on these administrative problems because if there is to be meaningful Western involvement in the Third World churches, involvement that is not paternalistic or dependency-creating, but involvement that is for the benefit and growth of the national church, these basic administrative difficulties must be seriously dealt with.
To recommend a total moratorium on the sending of both personnel and financial assistance is neither realistic nor possible. It is not realistic because of the tremendous needs that still exist in the developing nations, both for qualified personnel who can assist and train others and for financial resources that the local and national churches do not possess but which are necessary for the sustained growth of the church. Seminary and hospital buildings need to be constructed or repaired, salaries and school fees paid, trainees supported, books and other materials supplied-items that frequently extend far beyond the financial capabilities of the national church.
Further, a total moratorium is not possible, for it would mean a radical change in our concept of the church as the one body of Christ. To cut off completely personnel and material would mean that the body of Christ is the bodies of Christ, and that there is no unity or solidarity of the Western churches with those churches which to a large extent they have fathered. We cannot abandon one another; we need these churches as much as they need us. Neither will the Christian charity of the individual church members in the West ever countenance such a total moratorium.
My call is not to a total moratorium, but to a partial moratorium accompanied by renewed assessment of the impact of our contributions. For too long the Western church has been pouring men and women, material and money into the churches of the Third World without making realistic assessment of the impact of this influx. It is true that there is verbal assent given to evaluation; missionaries, both returning and on the field, are told that their evaluations are welcome. But are these evaluations made, or really welcome, or actually heeded? Can charitable organizations countenance reports that suggest that they should not send more money or personnel? Could they hear of that which would drain their very lifeblood and raison d’etre? Would such reports be viewed as the untouchable red button which promises only "self-destruct"?
It might be replied, in defense of missionary- and aid-sending of charitable organizations, that they do make indepth assessments of the impact of their projects. "Because we sent so many dollars or so much food, so many children did not go hungry today or starve this year. Our dentists pulled n number of teeth; our well-diggers dug m number of wells and temporarily employed o number of laborers; we built p number of hospitals and schools; our funds provided for the raising of r thousands of chickens; our missionaries preached s number of radio sermons and had t number of converts; our pilots flew x number of miles and carried y number of patients."
Fine, but evaluation must go beyond mere objective statistics that report physical occurrences. The evaluation must be a social evaluation. What impact has our giving of personnel and money had on the attitudes of the recipients? Have these encouraged a desire for self-improvement, a commitment to self-sufficiency, a willingness to commit themselves, i. e., their own persons and resources, more fully to the work of Christ and the projects of the church? Has it created more awareness of, attempt to increase, and hence greater utilization of their own resources? Has it upgraded their own consciousnesses and consciences regarding what faces them? Has it brought them to the place where they want to be given less and less, and they themselves want to (and do) contribute more and more? Has it made the church less dependent on the Western church? Has it encouraged them to improve their own administrative structures and skills? Or, on the other hand, has Western largesse led to the kinds of attitudes I documented earlier?
It is to this deeper level, the level of attitudes and the responses that stem from these attitudes, that evaluation must extend. That attitudes are difficult to discern and accurately measure provides no excuse. Though measuring bags of wheat delivered, or poultry raised, or numbers enrolled in Bible correspondence courses is easier, these activities should not be our goals, but rather means to achieve significant attitudinal change. The plea then is for this deeper, social evaluation.
Further, a strong case might be made out for the view that evaluation as presently conducted comes too late. Prior to the donation of monies or personnel, socially-evaluatable conditions should be laid out. A minimum condition is that the receivers should be required not only to thoroughly specify the use to be made of the personnel or funds offered, but to perform themselves certain tasks and supply a substantial contribution to the project from their own (and not simply previously acquired) resources. But even further, they should be involved in setting up ways to measure the social consequences of the largesse, the attitudinal impact that it will make on the Christians in the church and on the community at large. Continued monitoring of the project and its progressive impact is then necessary.
It is indeed this lack of an on-going program of realistic social evaluation of the impact of donated money, material, and personnel that has led to the deplorable conditions mentioned above. Termination of the Third World captivity of the Western church and its replacement by a realistic program of mutual cooperation is essential to the healthy growth of the one church, no matter where it is located.4 For the sake of those we seek to aid, let us stop and evaluate our position, progress and direction, lest the hand of Christian charity (agape) produce a work that is directly contrary to what is intended.
1. Interestingly enough, a similar scenario was repeated the following year.
2. The explanation given to me by the principal in the first case, viz., that in effect the request for the additional teacher was a hedge against the possibility of future understaffing as had occurred in the past, bears out the same point.
3. "Time is a two-dimensional phenomenon, with a long past, a present and virtually no future …. The future is virtually absent because events which lie in it have not taken place, they have not been realized and cannot, therefore, constitute time …. What would be ‘future’ is extremely brief. Therefore, if the event is remote, say beyond two years from now, then it cannot be conceived, A cannot be spoken of and the languages themselves have no verb tenses to cover that distant ‘future’ dim