reflecting on context: well-intentioned, yet naïve tourist and missionary

11 Jan

In reflecting on my last post about context, I realized that context protects us from being well-intentioned, yet naïve tourists and missionaries. For example, a huge organization here in Asia is called ChildSafe. With 24,000 children living and working on the streets of Cambodia; prone to disease, abuse, HIVS/AIDS, poor health and hygiene, accidents, substance abuse, violence and exploitation; ChildSafe’s mission is to protect, prevent and influence children. Their organization includes programs encouraging education and vocational training, which I have gotten to see firsthand. Something I was unaware of (making me a well-intentioned, yet naïve tourist and missionary) was orphanage tourism. “Many orphanages rely almost entirely on donations from visitors to survive. Thus directors may purposefully maintain poor living conditions for children to secure funds from tourists. Children who appear underserved may come across as a cry for help more than children who appear well fed and cared for. This of course places guilt on tourists if they do not help immediately. By visiting orphanages and making a donation you may be fuelling a system that exploits children”  (http://www.thinkchildsafe.org/thinkbeforevisiting/). In some cases, children are kidnapped or sold into these orphanages. Many call orphanage tourism a zoo full of children. This concept literally scares me. I feel like missions has taken on a new role that was not originally intended. Today missions seem to be about the selfish adventure, tourism, stamps in a passport, facebook likes. Are our hearts in the wrong place or are we just misguided? What happened to selfless serving?

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