Author: Sadiri ’Joy’ Tira
Before I put into writing what has been weighing on my heart and mind all day in response to your respective articles, I must express my deep gratitude for your response to the lead article, "The Diaspora Dollar." Many are reading our exchanges regarding this insightful issue i.e. Money and Missions. Thank you for lending your voice to this important conversation.
We are all in agreement that the diaspora (Christian) communities have the resources. Some of these funds can be effectively used to fund missions projects if the diaspora churches are motivated to become missional and are taught about biblical stewardship. We are in agreement that diaspora and homeland churches should find ways to partner for Kingdom advancing projects. It was reflected in your articles that generosity is a godly virtue for God’s people.
I am inspired by the generosity modeled by Mr. Stanley John’s parents. I love what Dr. JD Payne expresses: “If [a]new brother or sister in the faith is taught to follow the way of Jesus, equipped, and empowered, churches can then partner with and send such workers back to their peoples--not only with silver and gold, but with the pearl of great price!” Indeed! This is desirable. In the area of mobilization I agree with Mr. Allan Lee, that churches need to be planted "there" --- in obscure places. But we also need to reach out in the name of Christ to those who came and now live around us as Dr. Payne encourages us to do. Finally, I appreciate Dr. TV Thomas and Mr. Allan Lee’s warnings of (unhealthy) dependency to both the givers and receivers of gifts. Now, I would like to talk specifically about developing "dependencies", and go forward with a warning.
In his response, Dr. Thomas touched on the diaspora dollars that are remitted to the homeland for political causes. While I appreciate that the diaspora dollars are often going “home” to further the cause of freedom and democracy, I must say that I cannot endorse what some “spiritual leaders” are doing by requiring their followers in diaspora to send home money towards their own political careers, such is some times a case in the developing world. I guess you have to look at your own understanding of “Kingdom of God”; anyways I am not going to get into that. That is another topic for another day. What I want to emphasize is that there are abuses of this practice. I know of a powerful evangelist turned politician who ran for the highest position in the country, calling on his followers all over the world to financially support his cause. Unfortunately for him, he lost in the election. You can only imagine the disillusionment of his followers and the millions of dollars squandered – much from overseas workers. Therefore, I appeal to my diaspora brethren to be extra careful about supporting these causes.
Furthermore, hundreds of homeland "spiritual leaders" and some self-proclaimed "bishops" visit the hard-working diaspora congregations asking for so many appeals. Now, I understand the idea of responsible fundraising for ministry projects and missionary supports -- that is not what I am talking about. I am talking about the snare of some leaders preaching a gospel of guilt, saying "give up one of your meals and don’t be too materialistic... your countrymen are starving ..." and yet, they themselves are living it large in their homeland. Now, I appeal to these "spiritual leaders" to stop visiting the diaspora congregations with these sermons. It is one thing to ask for ministry partnership, it is quite another to suggest guilt for personal gain (or the personal gain of the pastoral team back home!).
Finally this, I hear of far too often. I meet with many spiritual leaders from developing countries who say that their missions programs and initiatives are limited, because they do not have the funds that the West has. They say “it’s nice that the western Christians can do that. It’s too bad that we cannot. We do not have the finances that the western churches have.” I really do empathize with this sentiment, but I say: "this is precisely why the church in the homeland must find a way to educate their members -- those who stay and those who go, on supporting the missions programs of their churches and schools." There are great people and financial resources there that are waiting to be tapped! Homeland churches cannot, as Dr. Thomas explains, continue to depend on the second and third generation diasporas who are unlikely to continue to remit to their ancestral lands. Nor can they continue to look to the "West". The resources are there, literally at their fingertips. We need to ask God for wisdom and courage to seek them and to put them in missionary action.
Having said all this, the diaspora congregations must position their resources to assist in the fulfillment of the Great Commission. They must do this with discernment and good accounting. And rather than nurturing unhealthy “diaspora dependencies”, recipients of these funds should receive the “diaspora donations” with grace and a sense of responsibility for the highest glory of God.
Sadiri Joy Tira (D.Min., D.Miss.) is the LCWE Senior Associate for Diasporas; Vice President for Diaspora Missions at Advancing Indigenous Missions (AIM); Director of the Institute of Diaspora Missiology at Alliance Graduate School (Philippines); and Diaspora Missiology Specialist at the Jaffray Centre for Global Initiatives at Ambrose University College (Canada).