FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Do you send missionaries? Are grants or bursaries available through AVM? Can I work for AVM?
The Alliance for Vulnerable Mission shares and promotes good Christian mission practice. But we do not send missionaries or provide financial assistance. AVM has no paid staff.
Do you do mission to vulnerable people?
Certainly vulnerable mission practitioners encounter vulnerable people in their ministries. However AVM’s use of the word “vulnerable” describes a humble attitude of Christian cross cultural workers themselves, expressed through their using local languages and resources.
Is vulnerable mission like incarnational mission?
Incarnational mission can be defined as being present with people, giving up privilege, and sharing in people’s sorrows as Jesus did. Vulnerable mission may include those things, but it also includes using local languages and resources, which is something that incarnational mission does not necessarily emphasise.
If they are to use local resources only, should vulnerable missionaries refuse to live off support from their home countries?
In VM, local resources are to be used when working with local people. Support may come from missionaries’ home countries, but they do not channel these funds to local people. Resources to sustain vulnerable missionaries themselves often come from their people, in the same way that resources to sustain local people should come from local people.
How can Christians refuse to be generous?
While Christians are called to give to those in need, there are at least three situations when generosity can harm rather than help. The first situation would be when generosity creates ongoing expectations that financial support will continue, thus alleviating the recipient’s responsibility to look for local support and resources. This creates dependency and can lead to strained relationships and bad stewardship of the resources that are available. The second situation occurs because of “Western guilt” - when the abundance of the West is contrasted with those parts of the world where there is serious poverty. This type of generosity is an attempt to alleviate guilt. It can also contribute to unhealthy dependency, described above. Thirdly, Western “generosity” easily creates envy in a community where some people are supported and some are not.
Do I not make myself vulnerable when I assist people in need financially?
Jesus commends the poor widow for giving all she had to live on (Luke 21:1-4). Such sacrificial giving is rarely practiced in West-to-the-majority-world aid. Assisting people in need has to be done very carefully and strategically in order not to create false expectations on the part of the recipient (and the donor unwittingly becoming their patron). Those false expectations could make the donor vulnerable to strained relationships and miscommunication. By contrast, vulnerability by a mission worker, that comes from physical presence, and openness to the persons themselves who are in financial need gives opportunities to work alongside them in a true partnership, without being a financial donor.
Why insist on local languages if ‘local’ people often speak English?
English used cross-culturally conceals the different assumptions we bring from our home cultures and languages. The fact that translations exist for certain terms doesn’t mean these words carry the same impact and meaning or evoke the same emotions or reactions in a different context. Learning the languages associated with their cultural context will help one to understand much better what people are saying through English as a second or third language.
Are you suggesting that we cannot understand each other cross-culturally if we use English (or another ‘world language’ like French, Spanish, etc.)?
We tend to understand each other cross-culturally in a world language to the extent that we share a common context. For instance, people in a multicultural church will all know what will happen when they are invited to pray, depending on the kinds of prayers practised in this church. This understanding, however, does not easily extend to cultural / church / or other contexts that are not shared. We often think we know what the others are saying – or assume they understand what we are saying. And yet, we can misunderstand each other due to unspoken assumptions, or ‘culture-blindness’.
What does “use of local languages” mean when in multi-lingual work / church contexts?
If learning several local languages properly is not an option, focusing on one local language that can be used consistently with people of that language group could be considered. It promises a much richer understanding of their context and helps one to become aware of their own cultural and linguistic biases, e.g. in understanding and teaching Scripture. It's true, a focus in language- and culture-learning always means limiting oneself to a certain extent. However, gaining a deeper understanding of one speech community (that may at times even have many things in common with another one) may be worth it and enable much more insightful and relevant ministry.