So we have all heard about the prominent “white savior,” rescuer of the poor colored people of the world. This portrayal of the white savior is seen almost daily in television commercials, the news and other media reporting mechanisms, and not surprisingly, the church. During the era of slavery, white Christians twisted the beliefs in the Bible to justify their horrid and brutal treatment towards Africans. With Bible verses telling slaves to “obey [their] earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as [they] would obey Christ,” how could it not have been twisted? Today however, white Christians have turned from those verses and are focusing more on the ones telling us to serve others. Missionary work is now an essential part of the church and all church members are encouraged to engage in it whether overseas or domestically.
And what could be wrong with volunteering one’s time to serve, donate, and build? Well, a couple things. A prime example of missionary work is travelling to “Africa” to help the “Africans.” Once, a friend of mine told me she was travelling to Africa with her church missionary group to help in the building of a new school. When I asked her which country she was going to, she had no response. The problem with this was that Africa, a continent, was being characterized as a country. “That place over there.” My friend was about to travel over 5,000 miles to a country she didn’t know, to help a number of people whose nationality she could not care to know about. How sad is that?!
These days it often appears that the objective of a lot of missionaries from the West is self-glory and validation of their good character. Often missionaries come back with pictures depicting excited children amazed with whatever good the people have brought. Other times, you see Western adults and teenagers struggling to complete tasks that are part of the daily routine of the natives. I have heard many missionaries come back and tell stories of what a pity it was to have endured the weeks in such heat, without electricity, or in an impoverished environment. For many missionaries, it appears they look down upon the people they claim to want to help.