The Problem with Aid
OneIN exists to help break down the cycle of dependency that has developed between those who have power and those who need change. Throughout contemporary history, groups with power of one sort or another have created environments where those with less power must depend on them for basic needs. This is often done inadvertently, in an attempt to help those with less material wealth by providing aid to them without a good knowledge of how that "aid" will affect the local economy and how it will affect the people long-term. This type of aid does help in times of catastrophe, but often this continues for generations after the catastrophe hits because the local economy has been crippled by the good intentions of outsiders.
The Church in India
Sadly, this phenomenon is not limited to government agencies and secular organizations but also happens within the church and among missions agencies. Peter Ignatius, president of Lakeview Bible College and Seminary, grew up in India and has ministered there for most of his life. He knows firsthand the effects of such dependency cycles on the people in India.
"All the missions I have known which are supported by Churches of Christ/Christian Churches have followed this model with no exception. Whether it is church buildings, Bible colleges, paying evangelists-pastors-Indian missionaries, all the money is from the West." He goes on to say that the missionaries themselves typically use the only models they know for doing ministry in India, many of which began after colonialism and were based on historical control of the East by Western Europe and North America. While they intended to help and not hurt, they often did not realize how debilitating it would become after just a short while.
Peter adds that there is a subtle feeling of superiority in the Westerners over the nationals. "After all, how can the poor, ignorant, spiritually-blind natives be expected to do anything right--especially raise and manage their own finances!" he states. The recipients of such help also welcome it. Why wouldn't they accept free handouts that made their lives easier in the short run?
A Numbers Game
Western missionaries also know that support-raising tends to be nearly impossible if they do not show some success in ministry. This is usually measured by numbers of converts. Supporters want to know that their money is being put to good use and is bringing in many formerly unreached people. Sadly, some of these new converts are attracted to the church because of the financial benefits they may receive by being part of the church.
Not only do people convert in order to benefit themselves, but they sometimes participate in ministry and become full-time pastors and ministers because the financial support from the West guarantees them and their families a good life. Peter reports, "The competition between Christian organizations has created a terrible image for Christian work in India. Most Hindus and Muslims think that Christians in full-time ministry are in it for the money from the West."
Good Intentions, Bad Results
Peter describes the results of such a system on the church in India: "A major long-term effect is the incredibly poor quality of the Christian community. This quality is demonstrated in various ways: a beggarly mentality, poor self-esteem among Christians in India, dishonesty among full-time ministers, a step-child mentality (Western Christians are powerful and privileged, we are not blessed), etc. Another long-term effect is the inability of Indian leaders to decide and control their
own domains. Since money comes from outside, so does leadership, decision-making, and ultimately control."
Is There Hope?
This sounds like a hopeless situation, but God has been able to work in India despite our mistakes. OneIN strives to provide opportunities for Indian people and the Church in India to reach out to those around them with the love of God without the entanglements of Western paternalism. Watch your emails in the coming weeks for more information about how we're doing this!