I’m over at SheLoves Magazine today, writing for the Red Couch Book Club. This month, we’re reading Dangerous Territory: My Misguided Quest to Save the World by Amy Peterson. Join us!
The appalled look on their faces told me this idea was unwelcome. To my non-Christian friends, the mere mention of “missionaries” conjured images of vulnerable people cajoled into forsaking their own cultural traditions, hungry citizens of developing nations promised food in exchange for a proclamation of faith in Jesus and a denunciation of other gods, and White “saviors” colonizing hearts and minds. I didn’t expect this.
I was in high school and had only been a Christian for a short time. I was unprepared for my friends’ resentment at the thought of missions trips. At church, missionaries were spoken of with reverence, as those who had answered a holy calling, those who were sent out for great work. In her book, Dangerous Territory: My Misguided Quest to Save the World, Amy Peterson describes this dichotomy well, opening her story with:
“Dear Reader, I wanted to be extraordinary, the greatest, truest kind of Christian, one whose life counted — not one who raised 2.5 children behind a white picket fence in American suburbia. I wanted to be one of heaven’s heroes” (p. 13) and a few pages later, “Despite my sincere and passionate desire to change the world for God, I hated the term — missionary — for all the connotations and baggage trailing behind it. I dreaded being aligned with the long history of abuse that educated westerners commonly associate with “missions” — destruction of indigenous cultures in the name of Christ, introduction of foreign diseases, wars in the name of evangelism” (p. 18).