By Bill Mefford
My wife and I have always tried to support missions throughout the world in various ways. I remember a number of years ago there was one part of the world that we were concerned about – there had been violence directed towards children in that part of the world and so we knew people who were doing ministry among children in that country and we excitedly supported their mission. On one of their trips back to the States we were talking to them about the political situation in the country to see what they were doing to help bring relief, particularly for the nation’s children since their ministry was among children. They told us they went out of their way to not be involved at all because they felt if they were active in any way, especially in the political realm, it would hurt the financial support of their ministry. I understood the precariousness of Westerners leading advocacy efforts in another nation, but refusing to even give support to those efforts to bring about change led by indigenous people? I was stunned. Can we really call it mission if we ignore state-sponsored violence as well as political and economic suppression among the people we are supposedly “ministering” to?
On a personal note, I remember when I served in an urban ministry there were outside groups that came to our neighborhood for short-term “mission” trips. There were several different groups that came to minster among the children and they practiced harmful forms of evangelism. They were also just plain rude to folks in our community. Their presence damaged our relationships we had with people in the neighborhoods. So, when I asked my Executive Director if I could prohibit them from coming and doing further damage in future years I was told they gave too much money to the ministry and had to be allowed to come. Again, I was stunned.
Though Jesus never intended for evangelism and justice to be separated they have been and nowadays evangelism just makes more money; it pays more bills in mission agencies. When issues of justice were increasingly becoming areas of focus for churches at the beginning of the 20th Century, noted ministry leaders like Billy Sunday and Dwight Moody eagerly sought out the financial support of affluent businessmen, otherwise known as “robber barons.” What did the affluent businessmen get in return? They got a gospel shorn away from any kind of challenge to the economic, social, or political status quo. Moody and Sunday focused on evangelism of the soul and purposefully ignored addressing political and economic oppression. This satisfied the business leaders of the day because they knew then what we know now: it pays off handsomely to convince your workers that their problems can all be solved through inner peace and love rather than through livable wages, good working conditions, or affordable healthcare.
What began with Moody and Sunday continues today in our current “missions industrial complex.” Far too many missionary-sending agencies ignore the call to justice entirely or those who do talk about it give it lip service most of the time. Rarely do support-raising missionaries write letters to their supporters detailing how they are overturning oppression and confronting human rights abuses. Rarely do missionaries enlist their supporters in ways to do more than write checks – to do the work of advocacy. The real money for missions is still in saving souls.
It should be acknowledged that some denominations have raised justice-oriented ministries to greater importance. However, with all the institutional edifices attached to one particular person or project you have to raise a couple hundred thousand dollars to have the impact of one person.
Folks, missionally impacting the world was never meant to be this difficult or costly.
This is why I am super-psyched about this new opportunity for Fig Tree Revolution to be more engaged in missionally impacting the world and in confronting injustice and oppression. One of our Fig Tree leaders, Steve Pavey, is journeying as part of a delegation to Palestine and Israel May 13-26. In Palestine/Israel they will focus on human rights issues surrounding incarceration and the political persecution of human rights defenders in the larger context of the ongoing and unjust occupation. I want to invite you to join me in financially and prayerfully supporting Steve as our first Fig Tree Revolution missionary.
If you have noticed any of the pictures associated with Fig Tree Revolution, many of those were taken by Steve. But Steve's approach to his art and his ministry is to come alongside those directly impacted by injustice, documenting their very real pain and joy, struggle and celebration, fears and dreams. His pictures are not taken by someone who stands detached from his subjects, but as a co-journeyer in the long walk towards justice, a fellow collaborator.
Becoming a fellow collaborator and having a real and lasting impact on what is happening in Palestine and Israel is why we can and should support Steve’s work. My invitation to you is to do more than merely write a check (but to do that as well!), but to walk with Steve as he literally walks with the people of Palestine where tremendous injustice continues. In short, I want to invite people to financially support Steve and in so doing to become a co-collaborator and fellow protagonist for justice with Steve and with us at Fig Tree Revolution.
The delegation is sponsored by Interfaith Peace-Builders, which has been leading delegations to the region since 2001. The goals of the delegation are more broadly to bear witness to the ongoing conflict and occupation, to support local human rights activities in the region, and to return home to engage in advocacy efforts that include educating Americans about the unjust occupation and our government’s involvement in the region.
The delegation will continue their advocacy work beyond the end of the trip as they focus on the struggle against the human rights violations caused by Israeli military courts, incarceration, and militarized policing. Even more, Steve will be extending his stay for an additional 13 days beyond the time of the delegation to work on a book that will describe the intersection between the global struggle against state-sanctioned violence among indigenous, black, undocumented, and migrant communities.
Steve needs to raise $5,500 to cover plane tickets, delegation fees, food, transportation, and accommodations.
We at Fig Tree Revolution want to do more than merely dream of new connections. We want to facilitate those connections. Support for Steve will allow me and you to have an impact on ending the violence in Palestine and to connect the movements for justice in Palestine, here in the States among indigenous peoples and migrants, and with others throughout the world. I invite you to join me in being part of missional engagement that specifically will bring about a redemptive upending of the current social, economic and political order. We want to do missions the way Jesus did. We want to start a revolution. Wanna come along?
To contribute to Steve's trip please click here.