Sharing a Missions Story from a Reddit User

This post today from someone passing on the story 

https://thetypicalnaysayer.wordpress.com/2016/10/14/redditor-on-ratheism-shares-how-a-religious-mission-killed-his-faith/
This is not my story, but ut coyld gave been. I served in Inner-city Missions here and short terms in South Korea and two in Mexico. My missoons experiences were not the same but i can definitely understand his story given my knowledge and experiences of other missionaries i’ve had contact with. My deconversion story is different from this person’s but it’s not a story I haven’t heard from others still in the field. Please read this person’s real story and consider that Faith can also be ‘Killed In Action’. -kia

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How a mission trip caused me to lose my faith. (self.atheism)
submitted 1 day ago by cn2092
This is a bit long. Sorry. In ’07 I was chosen to be a part of a 7-person group to visit some missionaries we supported in South Africa. I was sixteen, brainwashed, and on fire for this trip. Total cost per person to go? $2,300. As a team, we held fundraisers and we spoke each and every Sunday and Wednesday at church to encourage people to give money toward this great cause and the great work that we were going to do. We basically told people that they were wrong and selfish if they didn’t support the missions program.
So we get about a week out and everyone’s got their money and we’re getting ready to go. We get the final itinerary for our ten-day trip and while looking it over I started to notice something seemed a bit off, although I couldn’t put my finger on it. We are meeting every day at this point to rehearse the skits and things we’ll be doing while we’re over there.
We get to SA and are picked up at the airport by the missionary and her “assistant” or “head pastor” in a big conversion van. We get to her place and let me tell you: it is nice. Not nice as in she’s living like a queen or even maybe how we would think of really nice in America, but compared to these other people, her place is a palace. She’s got running water, she’s got tons of food, she’s got extra space and tv and everything. Not too bad, I thought, this will be nice.
Throughout our ten days we did not do anything of any real value. We didn’t bring food. We didn’t build anything. We didn’t provide medical care. We didn’t hardly break a sweat. We ate like kings. We were always full. We drove thirty miles one day to go to the MALL. To SHOP. For OURSELVES. We ate burgers and fries and coleslaw from an overpriced restaurant with the extra spending money that we had brought from extra donations.
Let me tell you something about Tzaneen, South Africa, folks. There are poor people there. There are no poor people in America. Yeah, we have homeless, “hungry”, etc. But there’s always a place for shelter and resources for help. In many of the small villages there is one water well. That one water well gets water let to it from the city two times a week for two hours at a time. The entire village must share and collect as much water as they possibly can during this time for all of their drinking, bathing, etc.
There is no readily available food. Many steal just to provide anything for their families. When the girls are old enough (young teens) they start to prostitute themselves to put food on the table. The living conditions are terrible. Imagine a cubicle at a bank. Double that, throw in some dirt floors, shoddy, weathered wooden walls, thatched roof with holes all over the place, and throw in a family of five: eldest brother (19) who works all week in the city and is never at home. Next four range in age from 5-17. Both sisters prostitute themselves. There is no bed. There is no regular source of food. Both parents have died from AIDS. All of the children have AIDS from their mother.
Now imagine driving by in a van as big as their home, drinking water from a fucking bottle, complaining that it’s too hot because the A/C is broken and you just happen to weigh 350 pounds (hellooooo, Pastor). The motherfucking nerve. This is when I really started to notice things were off. Did we stop? Fuck, no. We saw one of the kids at service that night in their village, though. Of course we told them that God was great and provided for all of His children. Fuck that.
Another day we were door-to-door witnessing. My team of four took a small village at the top of a “mountain” (read: big hill). It was about a half an hour walk up to the top. I met a lady in her mid-forties in a tattered green shirt, long skirt cached with dirt, and a leapord-print headdress. She was dirty, smelly, and looked a type of sad that I could never begin to understand. It was my turn to witness.
“Do you know about Jesus, miss? Do you know what a great and wonderful, kind and loving God I have come to tell you about?”… and it hit me like a hulk-fist to the stomach: What God is going to help this woman? What God is going to bring back the son that she hadn’t seen or heard from in two weeks, who had been involved in the local gang activity? What God was going to provide her next drink of water? No God was going to do these things for her.
I finished praying with her; I didn’t know what else to do. She accepted Christ, Hallelujah! Glory to His name! I felt… numb. We had been here for six days at this point and hadn’t done a single real thing for anybody.
“Alright, cn2092, we’re headed back down. We should get moving before it gets too hot!”
I couldn’t move. Here I was holding two bottles of water for the terribly difficult journey of one mile I had embarked upon. I was wearing my favorite hat to shield my face because God forbid I get sunburnt! As the others were walking away, I turned around and found that lady. I told her in my English, without the translator, to take these bottles and this hat, and to take care and that I would keep her in my prayers. To my shame, this is the only real thing I did the entire ten days I was in Africa. It was the only thing any of us did.
We spent all that money, all that time, all that energy, to go on a fucking church tour and tell some of the poorest, most downtrodden people on Earth what a great God we served. How He was the ultimate provider, healer, and comforter.
Before we left I gave all of the clothes I had taken over except for what I was wearing home. I left the rest of my snacks and I bought as much water as I could with what spending money I had left.
A big part of me died over there. My faith did, for sure. My faith in people, my faith in the church, my faith in Christians, and my faith in God.
My heart still breaks to think of all that money wasted. $16,000. We could have built dozens of homes, schools, etc. We could have built wells. We could have provided so many meals for so many people.
We did fucking nothing.
tl;dr: Ten days in Africa for Missions trip, did nothing to help the people, became numb and lost faith.

——-

What would you tell this ‘brother’? How would you respond to his story? Have you been on short term missions trips as a teen or college age students? What was your experience? How would you explain the vast differences in how these missionaries lived versus the way the people they ‘served’ lived? How would you respond to the ‘missionaries’ this person visited?

Tell me in the comments below. And thanks for reading, Liking, and Following the Recovering Know It All

-kia

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12 thoughts on “Sharing a Missions Story from a Reddit User

  1. I de-converted before I got to the “mission phase” of proselytizing, but I do have one experience that I feel deep shame about in my early teens. My Grandmother was dying of a particularly painful form of cancer. Her days were measured by the time she spent between doses of morphine and when she was somewhat lucid she was grieving the loss of her husband who had died of cancer some months before. It was all one blurry cycle of grief and misery. Mind you, this was a woman who raised me, was unconditionally in my corner when things were bad during the sporadic vagaries of my parents, who I loved more than life itself. My mother was a fundamentalist Baptist. She also embodied the very worst characteristics I find abhorrent in Christianity generally. She demanded of me that my sole purpose was to convert my grandmother to Jesus. So between us Gran had unremitting sermonizing, hellfire and damnation to the point where I think she died just to escape the harassment. In my “if you could do one thing differently” list of things, I wish I could have been a comfort during a time when she needed me most. I’d give anything to do that differently.
    You may find this https://goo.gl/aG0Yzy an interesting mission experience. I know I did.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yikes, that’s a sad story. I can remember my own experiences of trying to proselytize to the sick, the dying, and the mentally ill…I will be eternally ashamed of myself for these things. Now I’m the atheist, and I sometimes think wistfully of dying just to escape the harassment of the religious. I guess what comes around goes around!

      Liked by 2 people

        • The problem is that when everyone in your real life is religious, they end up telling YOU to move along. And then there’s no one left for you to tell to fuck off. Now that’s the real tragedy of deconversion. 😉

          Liked by 1 person

          • Shunning *is* hard. It’s like dying without the funeral. I wrangled with my highly religious family at great personal cost many years ago. I’m fairly confident they won’t be bothering me when it’s my time to go. I like to remind the religious when they complain about my atheism, that if it were easy, everyone would be doing it.

            Liked by 2 people

  2. Whilst still a Christian I tended to view short term mission trips skeptically. I saw them as concession to Christians who did not want to commit to real mission. But I really can’t criticize as I never even went on a short term mission trip.

    I did support three missionary couples in various overseas postings. I corresponded with them and found it interesting just how challenging they found the situation and it soon became clear to me that they need a lot of psychological boosting to keep going. This surprised me at the time as I assumed that ‘God’ would provide special support to missionaries. But I soon became adept at finding just the right phrase and gift to boost their faith.

    Five years ago all three couples were still in the field, in PNG, Africa and Syria. But all had to leave for reasons that puzzled me at the time, reasons like personal health issues, children’s education needs, inability to get a visa renewal. I wondered why an all powerful ‘god’ could not deal with these issues.

    The Syrian situation is especially tragic. This couple pastored churches in Damascus and Aleppo. THe Syrian people were friendly and accommodating, but the government less accommodating. After they left (due to visa problems) my former church would read letters from the congregation in Aleppo who were clearly in a desperate situation trying just to get food to live, and this was 2 to 3 years ago. I pondered why did ‘God’ seem to abandon Christians in these most desperate circumstances, yet spend so much time finding lost car keys in the west?

    It is very hard to maintain faith if you think deeply on these issues. Either that or one retreats to the “God works in mysterious ways” rationalisation.

    Another good post Mike.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’ll check it out. My mentor for 25 yrs is a missionary pastor in Thailand. He’s like a father to me. Haven’t had the courage yet to broach the subject of my Deconversion yet

      Like

  3. I do not know anything of deconverting as I have never been a convert. However I think the person in the story learned more about being human than most people do in a lifetime. So many of us never truly learn to look at our own lives, our own situation. That is why some people who have it well can talk about others less fortunate in a way similar to “pick your self up by your boot straps. That is why the Trumps of the world can say they are self made ( insert amount of money or business here ) people. They never see the great things handed to them others don’t have. The writer was given a gift I think, their mind was opened to the fact that all humans are people, and some of us have it so much better than others. It is a hard lesson to learn. It is a very important one to learn. Hugs

    Liked by 1 person

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