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Somehow my generation has it figured out that being white and passionate is enough to solve problems and work effectively cross-culturally. It’s not really something expressed in generations before us- us on-fire, bleeding-heart millennials. Especially in the church.

It’s something that was built up and encouraged in my own life- something I am actively working to grow out of and challenge as I identify my own tendencies toward entitlement and thinking I can do it all without really knowing how to do much.

Now, don’t get me wrong, passion is great. I believe passion drives great work to fruition. But church folks (not only church folks, but yes, mostly church folks), we’ve got to stop encouraging passion without education, passion without experience, passion without the proper training and expertise- we’ve got to stop maintaining that passion is enough.

Why is this so important?

Because we are making a mess.

I’ve seen it, I’ve cleaned it up, I’ve been responsible for it myself.

We’re coming to countries like Uganda and we’re playing doctor, we’re playing director, we’re playing teacher.

We’re playing with people’s lives.

~

I hold a high standard, but not an unrealistic standard, for how things should be done in the missions, aid and service work we deliver to vulnerable communities here in Uganda. In Social Work school we spent a lot of time studying best practice/evidence based interventions and we focused on the importance of delivering clients the very best possible services.

Competence is one of the 6 core values in our code of ethics and it teaches us not to offer services or practice outside of our training/expertise, “Social workers should provide services and represent themselves as competent only within the boundaries of their education, training, license, certification, consultation received, supervised experience, or other relevant professional experience”. (NASW, 2008).

This is why Megan and I have hired Ugandan social workers who are licensed and trained to work with our families. It’s why most of our job centers around boring administration work and not direct practice. We know we aren’t the most fit and that Ugandans can do this sort of service work with families and communities far better than we can.

This core value, competence, is why I didn’t drop out of school and why I want to continue my training and education until it actually matches up with my job description.

I know that currently, to be running an NGO effectively, I probably should have 10 more years experience (at least) in the field, learning from others. I definitely, at the least, should have my MSW (Masters in Social Work) and most of all, I know I am certainly not the most fit to be filling the role that I am.

I know that, a 24-year old white girl, fresh out of undergrad, should not be the one overseeing a Ugandan social worker with 10 years experience in the field or a pastor with a life-time of knowledge and wisdom in working with and alongside of vulnerable families and communities.

It feels unnatural and it should.

It should feel strange to us that people with less training and expertise are the ones in charge.

It should make us angry when people practice medicine without medical degrees.

We should challenge the young person dropping out of college in a blind fit of passion after a 2-week mission trip and encourage them in the benefit of gaining education and experience before launching an NGO on your own.

Church, I believe you owe this to us. I believe you owe it to us, I believe you owe it to the missions you are funding and to the communities you are investing in.

You owe it to us because ultimately, holding us to a higher standard and challenging us will improve everything we are doing as cross-cultural workers and representatives of the Western church.

~

I’ve had a lot of conversations with my staff around this topic, and the conclusion we always seem to reach is that, if it would not be allowed to happen back home in America, it should absolutely not happen here in Uganda.

Having a lower standard, because it is Uganda, because “This Is Africa”, is unacceptable.

And church, I’m really tired of you turning your head to this.

Not only turning your head, but I’m upset with you for encouraging this blind passion in me, in my generation.

I believe God loves His people around the globe dearly and I believe, when we have access to education and we turn it down because we are impatient and we WANT IT NOW, we are not loving his people well and we are showing them that a lower standard of care and service is what they deserve.

We remember that love is patient and that God is not unaware of the needs of his people.  While we step away to educate ourselves. While we wait and gain experience. He is right there with those who are suffering. And when we enter back into the field of service and we get to love His people from other cultures, we get to serve them the way they deserve to be served. We get to say to them, you don’t deserve a lower-standard. You deserve the best I can give you.

So, church, this is me asking YOU to ask me the hard questions. To challenge me, to challenge the young folks entering international work. Encourage more patience, question our entitlement, remind us that we don’t know it all and that we have a heck of a lot to learn still.

We might get mad at you at first, but {most of us} will thank you later, and so will the staff and communities we work alongside of.

~

-Kelsey

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