March 1, 2010

I've been thinking a lot about mission work and service lately. Perhaps this is because my final paper is about mission trips and the concepts of charity versus social justice in the context of these trips. Along with these concepts I have been reflecting on the location of these trips and where I feel called to do my work in general.

I graduated college with a degree in global studies and French and had originally believed that I would work in a global context, perhaps for a large organization like the United Nations or some other large non-profit. I had even considered working for the church.

As I traveled, I realized that I wasn't sure these large organizations were able to work at the grassroots levels where change was really needed. So, I then decided that I wanted to work for a small non-profit, but still at the global level. After more traveling and thinking, I realized that it's not fair for me to go abroad when there is so much to do here in the United States. Why should I take jobs that could be done by local people?

But I think I am starting to see why people seem so excited to go abroad and work rather than stay in their own cultural context. Work in the US is hard. There are many times that I wish I could go abroad and teach some people English or how to grow food. They would probably look up to me because of my American accent and white skin. But that's not right. Just because I'm foreign doesn't mean I know more than them. More likely, they know so much more than me. But work in the US is hard. Issues are super complex. How do you show that people are living in poverty when their children have Nike shoes and ipods? There are complex issues that have people spending money on luxuries instead of necessities, but when you try to appeal to people to help, they just point to the ipod and say that obviously people don't need their help.

Navigating the world in one of the most economically and culturally diverse zipcodes in the United States is really causing me to question many things and has shown me how hard it is to paint the world in black and white. But, there are many who see the world in black and white and so I question, how do I get people to open their eyes and understand the issues around us and support people like me who are who are working for social change?