Monday, February 14, 2011

Conversations with Wakerley - Missionaries from the West, About India and the Changing Nature

I was talking to Mr.Wakerley yesterday (Mr.W) at a birthday party. I had a very interesting chat with him. He is an amazing person. Not to sound patronising, because I hate patronising people and things they do. You see, the idea about patronising comes from kings and rulers who 'patronised' artists and musicians and made them live in their courts to entertain them. Fair enough. The artists got fed and got paid for their craft. But to patronise someone you need to be above them, for example, the king was above the status of the artist's to be able to patronise him.

Anyway. I digress all the time.

I was talking about Mr.W. He is an English guy who moved to Christchurch years ago and then about ten years ago, moved to India because he felt God tell him to go there and be a source of help to people who might need it. So he moved there without any ado and landed smack in the middle of Indian heat and craziness and dissent and everything in between.

In Gujarat.

You cannot end up in a more hard core place than Gujarat. The Chief Minister is Narendra Modi, and let me put it this way, he is one of the main reasons why Hindu politics has gone terribly nasty, and the reason why impression of Hindus are screwed. He is also the leader of the Hindu almost-Fascist movement that says unless you're Hindu you are not a true Gujarati (and I am sure he would claim true Indian).

I told Mr.W to move from India and NZ (or vice versa) is like moving from one pole to another. Complete opposites. And I respect him for doing that. I mean I know what the difference is like. If you have been brought up in the more comfortable lifestyle that NZ and England (probably) offer, India will kick your senses out of you. I seriously cannot think of two contrasting nations than India and New Zealand.

Difference NZ & India (among many other things):
1. Indians are go-getters. They need to be. They need to survive, shove and step on other people to get anywhere. They cannot afford to sit around and wait for things to happen. I am not saying Kiwis are that. But the alignment is more in that direction. Delhi-ites argue and go to points of fist fights just to bargain for a little bit of rupees to save, while people in NZ are more complacent and would buy bread from a supermarket that sells them a few dollars more without giving it a thought. And that's not necessarily because Indians are poorer and need the money. No, there are more Indian billionaires hands down than Kiwi billionaires.

2. Indians are assertive and opinionated. Kiwis are not. Except when they are drunk or high in the Holy Spirit. Your voice needs to be heard above the other billion people's voices in India. The Indian press is highly opinionated and full of critical dissent. Kiwi press reads more like a Reader's Digest issue that you might enjoy before nodding to sleep.

These were two glaring points that I talked about with Mr.W. He went there and wanted to do some help to the young children who didn't have homes and were even getting trafficked between states.

Self-efficience and Independence
Here, I recall what the team from Parachute Music and World Vision said when they returned after a major trip to India. The thing that struck them was the mindset of the Indian people where they refused to be helped. It was unlike Rwanda (where Parachute Music also do some work) where they looked intently to the western nations to help them, India was like a proud woman whose dignity refused any helping hand.

I am proud of that attitude. It has led to Indians rising up to help themselves, societies starting up to be a blessing to the fellow men and women. Mr.W also noted that saying he realised he could do nothing being an outsider. The fact that he was white and starkly different made it extremely difficult for him to do anything, whereas the impression was that the western nations have always always been helping the 'third world' nations. The impression was that USA and the west and the 'developed' nations have the 'burden' (in fact it was Rudyard Kipling who used the phrase 'white man's burden') to show the way and bring light to these 'third' world nations.

I am overjoyed to know that India is leading the way in asserting its independence and self respect.

Self doubt and Western Missionaries
So this raises the issue of the role of the trickle of missionaries left over from the West. The amount of missionaries from USA, England, NZ and Australia has dropped the last few decades in India, replaced by missionaries home bred from Nagaland, Mizoram, Kerala and so on.

So what do these 'leftover' missionaries do? What are their roles now? Mr. W felt inadequate sometimes in India too. He felt he wasn't doing much and so sometimes even questioned the calling he knew he got. I am very sure hundreds of American, British, Korean (and so on) faithfuls question themselves especially now that mentalities have changed. I know a few Americans in Varanasi who grapple on to the little they know and have adopted of the Indian culture in their attempt to be relevant to the locals. Perhaps its no longer enough to make little england's and usa's in their mission fields. Maybe they have done their share of service and faithfulness to their individual as well as collective calling. Maybe it has become time for the locals to take over.

A Generation Rising
Like everywhere else in the world, in India there is a generation rising up to take the place. My heart has always been with the missionaries. I know perhaps I am never really called to be one myself (in that specific term of the word), but I have grown up meeting mission teams and missionaries from America to Ireland to Holland to Japan. I have felt the discontent in them when I talk to them, as much as I sense the victories. I have also felt the sense of desperation in them, desperate to help people and to love them as best as they could. I have recognised their love for people. I have also seen their attempts to try and fit in so selflessly into a foreign culture losing their heritage sometimes, forsaking the little pleasures of the world they were brought up in. I remember how excited an American friend became when she found out there was a Baskin Robbins in Shillong. Now I realise it must have been like light from heaven in a dark desert.

And maybe they have done enough. Maybe they have been faithful in inspiring a new generation of people to take the place. Maybe its time for a change. Maybe it is already taking place.

Maybe there are still little pockets where people like Mr.W fit in even if nothing else, just so that he can be a figure that inspires people who can do so much more.

More than the awesome people I sometimes patronise like Andy Warhol, Jimmy Page, Jack White and so on, I respect people who give up their whole lives to be this symbol of faithfulness and sacrifice. They might not have done enough to rid the world of its negativity, but they have done enough for themselves and for the eyes of God.

Mr.W told me that he will be visiting Nepal this year. I told him he will love the Nepalis. They are beautiful people, friendly, extremely loyal (in fact the most loyal people I know) and welcoming, a pole apart from the stiff necked Gujaratis that he lives with where he serves.

I told him to go visit Shillong and Darjeeling. He needs to see these places in India where its temperate (even cold) where the alpine trees blow in cold breeze and the mountains roll as far as the eye can see. He needs to meet people who are also doing works among people, meet churches, be encouraged and just hang out with people who will respect him. My father will do just that. My house has always been open to people like him.

After all, my house in Shillong used to be British vacation house (and still is, except that its open for all who are called to serve the people).

1 comment:

Rathiulung KC said...

agree with you. there is a major paradigm shift in Mission works in recent years. there is always the fact that local missionaries always do way better than foreign ones in general.

those step of faith with which missionaries go to unknown places- that's something even i do not understand, i have to admit. sometimes, they may be somewhat senseless, but other times, it is inspired truly by the Spirit of God and by great faith.

Christians in Naga hills as elsewhere owes everything to those people who gave up everything for the sake of the gospel and God's love to be made known to others.