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International | Will we survive the Western missionaries?

Issue: "Cloning: Double trouble," March 7, 1998

In the first half of 1990 we were flooded by missionaries. This influx lasted for nearly two years. I believe that in 1990 and 1991, I had one visit a day on average. Of course, there were days when no one came, but there were also days when I had three or four visitors. From my perspective much of God's financial blessing was mismanaged by the people who visited us. Some of them came from Europe, some of them from Australia, most of them from North America. Let us estimate that they stayed for only two days in the country. Czechoslovak prices were (and now, Czech prices still are) moderate by Western standards. So let us estimate that the two days here cost $100 (U.S.) per person. And let us suppose that each visitor spent $500 for airfare and ground transportation. One visit by one person would cost $700. So the total price tag of these "fact-finding missions" and other trips (real ministry trips not included!) would be $525,000 in one year. My salary at that time was about $130 per month, that is, about $1,560 a year. You can easily calculate that the money spent on visits to the Czech Republic in one year would cover salaries for 336 pastors in that year. Was this wise stewardship of God's money? Why so much waste? There are probably many different reasons. But one of them is obvious. There was a complete lack of coordination. Those who sincerely believed that "God now opened the door" most probably did not even try to contact the people who already were working here in the Communist years. Nearly everyone wanted to do his own thing on pretext of fulfilling the Great Commandment. If we have the best doctrine, if we have the most powerful anointing, why bother about coordination with others? Let's go! It was a costly way to get a feeling that one does something for the Lord. Many visitors (not all of them) were of course aware of the difference in the standard of living. They were aware, or became conscious of the fact, that they live in far better conditions than the vast majority of people here, and especially better than the Christians, who usually did not belong to the local upper class. And they looked for a way to address this. There is a European country where there is only one pastor who is paid by local money, as far as I know. Most of the pastors have sponsors in the West and their income is four to five times higher than the average salary in the country. To keep their sponsors, they have to spend a few weeks, in some cases even up to two months, traveling in the West and speaking about "the mighty things the Lord is doing in his church." You can imagine the pressure to make things look better than they really are. And who would muster the courage to tell the sponsors the harsh truth in case things don't go well at all? But who would refuse to help when he is able to help? How many times must the story of Naaman and Gehazi be repeated (2 Kings 5)? In that case, the story of Gehazi seemed quite trustworthy. It does not surprise me that many churches in our part of the world are contaminated by spiritual leprosy.--Dan Drapal is a pastor in the Prague Christian Fellowship, Prague, Czech Republic. His article is excerpted from a 36-page booklet of the same title, reprinted with permission of the East-West Church and Ministry Report.

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