I don’t really know where to begin as this topic has been such a thorn in my flesh over the last decade or so. So I guess this may be part 1. I will begin with the power of story:
Over the years the story of Africa has remained bleak. Though no one refers to it openly as the “dark continent” anymore, it is still presented as mostly war torn, poor and needy. You just need to look at the next charity advert to be reminded of this. Stories seem to be told with unequal scales. Hungry, destitute children and families in America, UK …are represented with some level of dignity, African children are represented with a fly on the face, crying and well…you know the rest. Don’t get me wrong, there is a huge struggle in African countries to rise up to the glory they carry within and the conditions within some countries are completely inhumane. We get the glimpses of war torn areas and rampant poverty on every world news broadcast, this is the reality but this is not Africa’s full story, and that’s the problem. I won’t really go into the chokehold some countries are still under from their “colonial masters” and the powers that be that pull strings from the “developed” countries to see wars remain so resources can be plundered, how they collude with corrupt leaders…that’s not for this space. But what I can speak on is the damage the missionary with the “white saviour complex” brings to my country, Kenya.
Back to “the power of story” for a moment; I have no problem with the story of Africa being told but how the story is told matters. Whether in or out of my country, numerous times I have encountered the narrative that’s been taught to the “white” people group. When I was younger and more naïve, I would feel that I have to show that I am not a poor, illiterate African child waiting for a saviour or handout. It would vex me to the max when I would be treated as such, whether out loud or in thought. Wherever I go in the world, I am consistently breaking down the blanket narrative and it’s made worse when the narrative seeps into and thrives in what should be my “safe space”; the Church.
White Saviour Complex and the Superiority Spirit
“The term white savior refers to a white person who provides help to non-white people in a self-serving manner. Examples: In terms of the attitude wherein an individual sees themselves as having to save another or a group of poor people, there is the notion that the action inflates their own sense of importance and discounts the skills and abilities of the people they are helping to improve their own lives” (Wikipedia). I believe this saviour complex, linked to the superiority spirit that sits pretty in most religious settings (read…”Jezebel”), is a toxic and deadly mix. Some “missionaries” have killed the purpose and calling of those they have come to work with (“save from themselves”) as they could never see them as worthy of a calling, or ever view them as equals. This sinister undertone is not spoken out loud in church ofcourse (well, not when “locals” are around anyway) but the fact remains – thoughts are powerful. We all have a level of discernment and can roughly tell what someone thinks of us before they even speak. If you think and believe the African sitting next to you is less than, you will display it with your actions and eventually, words. This type of missionary comes to “educate” and “enlighten” so that the African becomes more like them; more “civilized”. They are not here to serve and help us we all grow “together” to be more like Christ. They have little to no concept of the Kingdom of God or the person of Christ.
Me and Them
I will narrow it down to Kenya as I can’t really speak for a whole continent. I remember just getting to grips with the atrocities committed in the colonial era. See, I grew up attending British schools and so was taught how Britain came and brought great things to our nation. It’s only in my early thirties that I began to learn the truth. The depth of the evil that descended on this land began to unravel in my mind and heart. I learnt why my grandmother used to limp and about the beatings, rapes and killing carried out in her time. The anger within me rose but healing also began.
God began to heal my heart and identity as an African woman. Subconsciously, all my upbringing – from what I consumed from television to British schooling, told my heart a story; “that the white man always knows best” and that “straight, blonde hair and blue eyes” is the benchmark of beauty. All these crazy skeletons began falling out of the closet and I had to face them head on; Why did I straighten my hair? Why did I own a pair of green/hazel contacts? Why do I feel intimidated by a certain people group and yet want to be associated with them? Is my black skin actually beautiful? why do I wish to be lighter? As I embarked on this journey, I also began to see all the others around me who walk with a broken spirit, lack of identity, an inferiority spirit and fear. Awesome Kenyan men and women who, like me, subconsciously worshiped a “white” God. This is the power of conditioning and story on a generation. The coloniser left, but his chains remained.
You are what you think.
So the inferiority complex had laid hidden within me for years and partnered with the superiority complex from the broken white people I met who ate the narrative fed to them by: the media they blindly consumed, the “urgent donation” pleas and messages well known charity organisations threw in their faces, newsletters and updates on “urgent” required donor funding from the numerous NGO’s in Africa. We were both victims. Their narrative of me – the African is – poor, needy and unintelligent. The toxic dance begins; I believe I am less than and so act it out and you believe you are greater than and act it out.
The choke hold continues as your superiority attitude/spirit works with my inferiority attitude/spirit to silence me, whilst defiling you and the image of Christ you are to carry. This leads to abuser and victim stories sprouting forth as the abuser gets bolder and the victims get silenced as the voice they were regaining is snuffed out. So before jumping on that plane to “Africa”, ensure to go on an inner healing journey so we get the best of you. And let me create this short interlude to say thank you to the awesome and legit missionaries, charity organisations and businesses that are here not to exploit or belittle Kenya or Africa but rather assist in the unveiling of its glory and awesomeness. This article is not about you. Keep doing what you do.
Why Inner Healing before you embark on your “Mission to Africa”
We have had enough carnage caused and don’t need anymore. We are a healing nation and continent and only need those with a “pure heart and clean hands”. So please go on an inner healing journey and seek God on your readiness to go on any mission. You can ask yourself:
1. Am I ACTUALLY CALLED to be a missionary in Africa: This is a conversation between you and God. We are all created on purpose for a purpose and have a people group and specific nations we are called to. Ask yourself; Are these my people? Do I love these people? Can I honour these people and partner with the glorious gifts and talents God has deposited in them? Remember, God will give you a love for the place and people you are called to.
2. What is the current narrative running in my head and what are my true heart motives? Do you have thoughts of “saving” or serving? Do you honestly view “these people” as your equals? How much has society influenced your view on Africa and Africans?
Have a moment to interrogate your heart on what it truly believes about the people you wish to go to for it has collected years of information and systematically logged it. A few times I have come head on with the heart issues of dear white friends who carried narratives from their racist father or grand father etc… and the same was hidden deep within their soul, almost seemingly undetectable (until ofcourse, the ugliness unexpectedly comes to life speaking loud and clear when triggered). We need to bring these false and toxic narratives to light, calling them what they are and intentionally break away from them and have our “minds renewed”. So, if you find hidden and dark spots of wrong thinking or baggage that’s been handed down to you from generations past, process these with Jesus by asking Him to give you His version of the people you are going to be with. Intentionally pursue to deal with generational stuff! You are to carry the mind of Christ and spread His fragrance everywhere you go, that’s your mission ultimately. Remember “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Mathew 12:34), meaning, whatever you carry in your heart will come forth. It will not stay hidden. Proverbs 23:7 is another to ponder on; For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he. We are spiritual beings and thoughts have power! We hear all you think. So, if you think it, we will feel it, see it and eventually, experience it.
4. Am I healed: Yes healing is a journey but awareness of healing and the intentionality of working towards a better version of you is on you. Damage will be caused as we heal and grow but the point is to limit the carnage and not be ignorant to the state of your heart, especially when going to serve a specific people group. I had specific triggers that I had to deal with such as when foreigners would mention the word “local” (usually used derogatively), “great British empire” and some others that have faded into the background of my healing journey. As a missionary called to nations and to heal racial divides; I have had to go through waves of healing and growth so as not to carry hatred or bitterness and speak from a healed and whole place rather than from pain and raw, bleeding wounds. So, I say this in love; please stay home and serve your country if you are not willing to go on an inner healing journey of exploring where your heart is, where your blind spots are, how you feel about other races and so on. This is an intentional spiritual journey and not a random “gap year” where you go on a personal gallivanting mission to “find yourself”. Your commission is higher, beloved. You are being entrusted with souls and have a spiritual mandate. You will answer to how you nurtured, honoured, loved. Explore Philippians 2:3 Imitating Christ’s Humility: “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
5. Am I accountable: Most of the damage done is by cowboy, solo missionaries or missionary families who have no accountability. They setup “children’s homes”, and numerous other organisations and walk around as God’s gift to Africa. The “local” cannot dare ask or question. Where there is absolute power, we know what happens. They are not here to serve others but to serve themselves. Some have successfully hoodwinked missionary organisations of their “heart for Africa” and come and create a carnage of hearts and minds, leaving a people broken, raped and abused all over again.
So Why is Africa so Gullible?
Africa is a highly spiritual place. In Kenya, freedom of religion has been a blessing and the awareness of us being spiritual beings in a physical body is one I have grown up with. So what better place to use the name of Jesus and carry out immense spiritual abuse in the name of God. Africa is the playground for the false and deluded “missionary”. The one who has not dealt with their brokenness. So they hide their: attraction to young children, need to dominate and abuse women, their racist views…and get funded to bring their brokenness. We had one “happy valley” phase in Kenya under the colonial regime, we do not need another under the banner of “Christian Missionary”.
The Truth Behind the Collar
Let’s pull back the veil shall we:
- Colonial frameworks: Most of the missionary organisations I have encountered in Kenya are built on colonial frameworks. They are far from Christ-like. Let’s have a closer look shall we:
- Pay grades and benefits: The “local” is never ever on a similar pay grade as the “international”. The missionary organisation holds fund raising events, campaigns and even prayers. The funds a rarely distributed with empowerment of the “locals” in mind.
- Warped organisational structures: Since the “white man knows best”, you may have a missionary with absolutely no technical abilities, running a technical department. A trained local has no access to senior roles even if they have the qualifications. They will usually have a white missionary “managing” the team or a puppet, token, local. A toxic shot of false empowerment and false mandates.
- Zero upskilling and growth for “locals”: They rarely ever allow the “locals” under them to grow and step into their full calling as this would then mean they are equal. They tell their donors that they are in partnership with the local people and yet the mandatory lifestyle they bill the organisation for does not apply to the locals. Uneven weighing scales.
- Outdated colonial training: The training they carry out is outdated and patronizing. You see it when the missionary says “Jambo” and almost wonders if you have a brain.
These toxic missionary organisations then setup missionary schools with the same colonial frameworks and racist heritage, further damaging the fragile fabric of the Kenyan children going to these schools as they try and figure out their identify and worth within an unspoken “class and race system””.
So my question to you if you are planning to come over is: What is the culture within the organization you wish to partner with? Is it Kingdom culture or Jezebel masked in a clergy/missionary outfit? As a local Kenyan and Christian, some of the missionary organisations make my stomach churn as they use the name of Christ and yet do not follow His teachings as they can never see us, “locals” as equals. So my prayer in this period of shaking is any missionary structured school, organization or missionary base that is not setup in love and Kingdom culture be shut down.
2. Africa the dumping ground: It seems that for every decent and sincere missionary we receive a bucket full of broken and unhealed hearts that then simulate their pain into abusive behaviour. Men who come to abuse the “local” women and children are funded by well wishing donors for their “mission trips”. We as a Nation do not yet have solid systems and structures that hold the incoming missionaries accountable and neither do their sending organisations. A win win for any abuser.
3. Illegal and fake missionaries: They come to “find” a cause, and enjoy the $ to Kenya shilling rate with a higher living standard than they may have had back home. Since they live in posh neighborhoods they have to go out of their way to find photos of “poor children” and then swiftly send these in their “missionary newsletter/magazine and fund raiser promos”. They spinoff the common media and charity advert narratives and the donors fall for it, every single time.
So, in Summary;
To my fellow “local”, tafadhali, speak out. If there is abuse happening, speak out. We must break the muzzle the fear of the abuser creates. You can write a letter to the sending office of the missionary, the organisation or church they are associated with etc.
To the “missionary sending organisations” and the like; please help us by doing a thorough job at tracking any shenanigans your team members are up to. I have personally experienced some of your “missionaries” and would ship them back if I could. So as we work on a framework to catch the ones you don’t, honour the God you serve and vet and train your people well. Take them through “sound, real and relevant – cultural awareness training”, pray over their calling, touch base anonymously and randomly with the people they are “sent to” to ensure they are abiding by Christian principles and no abuse is happening. Yes we are getting our voice back but you may need to work a little harder to find the truth from your comfortable head office in America or Europe. Any negligence and ignorance is impacting a generation and you will be held accountable by man and God.
To the White church
I will keep this short as this is another whole piece. But my prayer is that you can begin to receive Africa as we bring the new wine skin and the new sound to you. We have been on a journey and the years that the locusts had stolen are being returned. There’s a large remnant that has now come out of the wilderness with keys to healing, wisdom and revelation and understanding of great mysteries. Will you receive it? Will you partner with us as equals? And to the white church within Africa, how will you partake of the new wine? Is it possible to see beyond the feeding plans, donor funding and receive a new strategy from heaven? Could it be that you have grown so comfortable in your comfort zone of feeding a few and schooling a few – Is there more? Who is sitting in your congregation? do they have the keys to see you benefit the people group you are called to with sustainable outreaches that include seeing beyond the next crisis into raising the next generation of business men, politicians, entrepreneurs, media influencers, film creators…? With all the good works you do in your little corner, are you only still partaking of the old wine and still singing “this little light of mine”?
And finally, to the sold out missionaries who leave family and personal dreams to walk out their purpose from God; I salute you. One missionary to another, I honour you. To the ones called to extremely harsh and arid conditions, to the immensely dark places, may God continue to help you to be the the light as you spread his love and compassion. I know a couple of you and do not even know if I would ever be as obedient and self sacrificing as you have been. I honour you and your family for some of you have been here for generations, forsaking all for the Kingdom. I leave you with Exodus 33:14 as you embark on 2021; The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” and Numbers 6:24-26 The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.