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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Celebrating International Women's Day as a Short-Term Missionary

I don't like to call myself a short-term missionary.  However, long-term volunteers typically live in the country where they are volunteering.  Nonetheless, it seems like Honduras is always on my mind.  It seems like I am always sending an email, making a phone call, and putting off five more related to short-term volunteer teams and the long-term community education project with which I work.  That being said, though, long-term volunteers who live and work in Honduras for years at a time clearly inhabit an enormously more political space.

The question remains, though, "Don't all volunteers of all types" operate in similar political spaces?"

I think the answer is astoundingly affirmative.  My step-dad always tells me that politics is the art of using power.  Well, there is nothing more psychologically powerful than leaving one's home and traveling thousands of miles to work alongside underserved populations.  In addition, in certain countries, working with certain groups of underserved populations is inherently political.

Many of my fellow volunteers in Honduras opine that it is possible to do mission work apolitically.  I just fundamentally disagree.  Traveling to a country and attempting to do, or undo, the work of a nation's political system sends a clear signal to those in power that they are not doing something or that they are not doing something well.  To me, this is just as true in Honduras.

When the coup and post-coup governments actively, and sometimes violently, suppress the voices of women, the LGBTQ community, journalists, and activists, working with those groups pits one against the government.  Missionaries oftentimes have no idea who they will be working with when they arrive in the country where they are working.  After having worked in the same places for almost two decades, we know very well with whom we are working.  From my perspective, to ignore the political plights of these groups is not only immoral but anathema to the Christianity we so proudly display on our fluorescent-orange mission team t-shirts.

When we teach clean water, we are filling a void that is the national water infrastructure.  When we teach first aid, we are offering access to medical care that the Honduran government is not.  And when we teach eco-stove technology, we join environmental advocates like the recently-assassinated Berta C√°ceres to protest the deforrestation of one of the most beautiful landscapes many of us have seen.  Jesus said the poor will always be with us.  While I do believe there will always be people with drastically less resources and some with many more than they need,, I also think Jesus was speaking metaphorically.  Jesus uses the poor as an analogy for those under attack, those underserved, by society.

In the machismo culture of Honduras, women are both underserved and under attack.  In Honduras, no woman is immune to violence.  No woman can escape the political conditions causing violence, disease, and povery in Honduras.  So who do missionaries celebrate on International Women's Day?
We should celebrate every woman we work with on your team and every woman we haven't met.  You don't ignore a single one because you want to pretend her cause is not your cause.  Instead, you celebrate every woman despite her cause.
To learn how to work with our teams in Honduras, contact me here today!  To donate to community empowerment in Honduras, click here.

Together, we are the difference.

(This post is the opinion of the author and does not reflect any official statements by AHMEN.)

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