The road from Jerusalem to Jericho is very dangerous. It seemed almost daily that someone on that road was mugged, beaten up, and left for dead. Now it just so happened, that this road was a main thoroughfare for missionaries. Here are some of their stories:
Missionary 1 worked in a soup kitchen in Jericho every day, volunteered at her church, and had been intentional about making friends with local residents of Jericho. Finally, all her hard work had been recognized! She’d been invited to speak at a very important missionary conference in Jerusalem. She was already running late because the volunteers had to leave early so she had to stay and clean up after that morning’s breakfast at the soup kitchen. When she saw the injured man, she thought to herself, “I wish I could help, but I’m in such a hurry! Couldn’t I do more good by inspiring others at this conference? Ripple effect, right?” She said a prayer asking God to heal the man and all those hurting in the world, and went on her way.
Missionary 2 had actually encountered this same problem 3 years earlier. Missionary 2 immediately ran over and helped the injured man. In fact, from then on Missionary 2 made it his primary focus to help all of the injured victims along the road. He always offered to pray with the injured folks he helped. He did a great job, and he was proud of his righteous work! Other people recognized his worth as well. Actually, the members of the city council thought briefly about applying for a grant to add additional safety and security features along the road and implement programs to help thieves integrate back into society, but decided that Missionary 2 was doing such a great job already, there really wasn’t a need! Unfortunately, Missionary 2’s term of service was over after two years so he said goodbye and went back home to Greece. No one had noticed because Missionary 2 was doing such a great job, but actually rates of muggings and injuries had increased over those two years and was now significantly higher than it was before he had arrived! City Council tried to apply for the grant from earlier, but unfortunately the money was all gone.
Missionary 3 was what some would call an “old school” missionary. She had handed out tracks and evangelized to at least 1,500 people since arriving in Jericho and 15 of them had come to Christ! When Missionary 3 saw the injured man, she recognized him as the devout Buddhist man she had tried to convert in the market the other day. Missionary 3 came over and tried to convince the injured man that all he had to do would be to renounce Buddhism and offer his life to Christ and all would be well. She assured him that his needs would be cared for if his family or community abandoned him because of his conversion. She thought she could even offer him a job at the mission site! Unfortunately, Missionary 3 had a tendency to get so wrapped up in her love of God that she didn’t notice much around her, including when the man died five minutes into her twenty-five minute monologue about why he needed to convert. She said a prayer thanking God for giving her the opportunity to save this man and hoped that he had indeed silently converted before he died, and she went on her way.
Missionary 4 knew all about the harm that Missionary 3 and other “old school” missionaries had done. He had studied history and knew how these missionaries had contributed to empire building and colonialism. Thankfully, he had read “When Helping Hurts” and all of the recent literature about the potential harmful effects of direct service. He knew he could not let himself end up like Missionary 2 where his service actually contributed to an even worse scenario in the future. There were so many reasons why he couldn’t help this man! He thought about calling for help on his cell phone, but that would have demonstrated his privilege rendering it difficult to truly engage with his local community in the future. He looked around for someone indigenous to the region who could help the injured man without causing greater harm. Finally, he thought he saw a local coming up behind him on the road so he said a prayer asking God to heal the man and all those hurting in the world, and went on his way.
Missionary 5 was indeed indigenous to the region. She had actually just returned to her hometown of Jericho. Egypt had seen some terrible flooding recently and Missionary 4 had spent the last two months helping clean up the mess and get that community back on its feet. Honestly, Missionary 5 didn’t even take much notice of the injured man. There had been men and women on the side of the road as long as she could remember; it was hard for her to imagine the road from Jericho to Jerusalem without someone on the side of the road! She prayed to God asking God to heal all the people in Giza still struggling from the flooding, and went on her way.
I wish I’d been able to produce an obvious Good Samaritan model for missionary service. Unfortunately, there is no easy solution when walking along dangerous roads. Good missionaries are forced to live in this tension—we need to be aware of all of these narratives while not allowing them to paralyze us. I continue to struggle with this dilemma every day. But I also believe that hope exists because in the midst of this struggle the Spirit continues to teach us what it truly means to “Go and do likewise.”
Racial Justice Advocate, Columbia/Ferguson, MO
US-2 Class 2014