16 May 2016

Shrinking World and Exploding Ideologies Redefines Mission

"Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can." -John Wesley

Recently, I noted that a medical mission conference used the above quote in their on-line promotional material, attributing the author to "anonymous".  Those of us who have frequented Methodist circles, realize that this timeless saying by John Wesley is the informal motto describing a component of United Methodist DNA.  It is our mission.

Although Wesley's words are still relevant today, it has become challenging to define "ways to do good",  especially in the new, multicultural world that places us closer than ever  to disasters,  diseases of poverty and unfamiliar religions and cultures. 

I suggest that we dispose of the term, "Medical Teams", which seems to narrowly define medical skills delivery without the interaction or participation of the recipients (patients).  If the goal is to promote lasting health of communities, then the process must move from a model of what volunteers are doing to a target group to how the community and its leaders are defining health needs and collaborating with mission volunteers to provide planning, materials, resources for long-term prevention and change.  Perhaps a better term for these endeavors would be,  "Community Health Project: Maternal/Child Health"  or "Community Health Project: Clean Water Focus", etc.

Anyone who has volunteered in a mission experience cannot deny the sense of gratification it gives.  However, it is important that the concentration is on the "doing good" outcome and not on the "feel good" for ourselves.  Collaborative programs with long-term goals, where locals are defining the needs and given skills for long-term involvement, is how we can best reach out lovingly as Christ's hands in the world.

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