In a pandemic, should missionaries leave or stay?

Een artikel van Kirst Rievan in de Lausanne Global Analysis (juli 2020). Opnieuw nadenken over een missiologie van risico. Over kwetsbaarheid en het gebruik van modellen om een afweging te maken. Het artikel verscheen in het Engels.

While under lock-down in Asia, far from our family, but in a country we love, my wife and I are pondering questions around staying or leaving in the light of the worldwide COVID-19 crisis. We are not alone. Never in history has this question come to the minds of so many cross-cultural workers at the same time.

We are noticing that the rhetoric is a lot about risk. Is COVID-19, and the likelihood of the appearance of other coronaviruses, an opportunity to rethink our missiology with regard to risk? In this article, we use the concepts of ‘polarity management’ and ‘mental models’ to explore if our present missiology of risk still holds true.

As we explore the staying-or-leaving question, we need to keep the seemingly opposing values behind the biblical principles in a healthy tension. To do that, we can use the Polarity Management model developed by Barry Johnson. The model helps to manage the values tension in such a way that potentially negative outcomes are reduced and potentially positive outcomes are pursued while keeping both values alive.

The issue of vulnerability or risk seems to be at the centre of most conversations. On the one hand, we and our sending constituency want to be responsible and protect ourselves and our team-mates from becoming sick or hurt in a situation where there are limited care and medical facilities. On the other hand, our passion for the people around us and our loyalty to the local partners press us to be present in vulnerable situations, especially when life is tough. Even if there is not much we can do to help, at least we can suffer together with the people. We find ourselves wanting to find the ‘sweet spot’ in the continuum between risk-avoidance and risk-taking.

The COVID-19 crisis might reset the mental models we presently use for overseas missions with regard to risk. It might move us away from the tendency to avoid risk, toward embracing risk in a responsible way. It might also expedite the rethinking that has been taking place in the last few decades about the role of outsiders; the trend to place the work from the start into the hands of brothers and sisters from the country itself. The late great missiologist David Bosch said about the vulnerability of mission: ‘… Christianity is “unique” because of the cross of Jesus Christ. But then the cross must be seen for what it is: not a sign of strength, but as proof of weakness and vulnerability. The cross confronts us not with the power of God, but with God’s weakness.

Klik hier voor het gehele artikel.