Fundagelicals love them some mission trips. Every summer, as a youth pastor, I took teens on youth mission trips to the Mexicali Valley. We would set up a week-long series of children’s Bible studies, women’s Bible studies, and evening church services in small villages. We worked with the local missionaries to preach the word of God and evangelize the locals. Every time we went, it was like the American circus had arrived. The local kids loved our games, arts and crafts, and gospel sales pitches. At the end of the week, we packed up and went back to our comfortable homes in Huntington Beach California knowing we had done God’s work. We would present our report in an evening service showing all the pictures we had taken and triumphantly announce the number of souls saved. The adults would oh and ah appropriately and give praise to God that the people of Mexico had been successfully evangelized.
There are a lot of teen organizations that put together teen mission trips. I worked with Youth Unlimited Gospel Outreach for the Mexico mission trips. Many of my High School friends would go with Teen Mission International for their summer mission trips. Next Step Ministries, International Projects, Joshua Project, The Traveling Team all provide mission experiences to the 10/40 window.
For those who weren’t raised Fundagelical, the 10/40 window is a term used to describe all the countries in the Eastern hemisphere, the European and African parts of the Western hemisphere between 10˚ and 40˚ north of the equator. It includes countries like Cambodia, India, Iran, Iraq, the Philippines, Portugal, and Greece. These areas were chosen because they had the highest levels of socioeconomic challenges and the lowest access to Christian resources. The countries in the 10/40 window tend to be Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, animist, and Jewish.
There has been criticism about the 10/40 window because some of the countries like Portugal and the Philippines are included and they are predominantly Roman Catholic. Fundagelicals, of course, reject Catholicism as Christian. Greece is included in the 10/40 window even though it is predominately Orthodox Christian, but Fundagelicals reject that form of Christianity as well.
My problem with these mission trips is three-fold. First, the mission teams use the locals as props in photo opportunities to create their evangelism narrative. When we returned to our church, slide shows of the “cute kids” and broken down cardboard shacks were shown. Do you know what wasn’t shown? The Nintendo’s inside the nicer homes or the average looking kid. There were no pictures of public facilities like modern schools or public swimming pools. We photographed very selectively. We showed picture after picture of big smiling white Americans posed next to some doe-eyed toddler that had been staged to melt the hearts of adults congregants so we could fund next year’s Summer trip. We dehumanized the locals, and they became nothing more than props in our narrative designed to elicit funds. To this day I regret so many of those pictures.
My second problem is the idea that we are bringing Jesus to them. Mexico already has Jesus. Many of the countries already have Jesus. What we were bringing them was American Fundamentalism. We taught our teens that Roman Catholicism, the Orthodox Church and any form of Christianity that wasn’t Fundagelical wasn’t real Christianity. We taught our teens how to discriminate against people who were not like them.
Third, I find it absurd that all these organizations give impassioned please to come and help these poor Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhist, but we need to go there to do it. I mean God forbid we should let those people into our country. The message is clear, we Americans will come to you, offer you an American style Evangelical circus, but you stay put. Fundagelical missions say: here’s a tract and a few coloring books, thanks for being props in our photos but you are not welcome in my country. When the people of the 10/40 people show up seeking help at America’s door, Fundagelicals slam that door in their face. We are no longer members of the Kingdom of God’s grace; we are suddenly citizens of a country of Laws.
Fundagelicals will pray for you and send our kids to you, but stay where you are, remember you aren’t God’s beloved – – – you’re one of them, dehumanized props, narrative story accessories, terrorist, and undesirables. Fundagelicals are trying to implement bans on the very people they were supposedly praying for and sending missionaries to. What happened?
Isn’t it strange that as a kid I was told to pray for the people of the 10/40 window, but now Fundagelicals tell me not to welcome them in my country? By the way, Jesus was from a 10/40 window country. I wonder if he knows he’s not welcome?
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