- Partnering with Nationals
The SIM / ECWA Model
Since the mid-fifties SIM (once known as the Sudan Interior Mission) and the Evangelical Church of West Africa (ECWA), the daughter church spawned in Nigeria, have been autonomous bodies. Today the 2500 churches are led by a strong board of African leaders, with Rev. Panya Baba as the chairman. ECWA has its own mission board, the Evangelical Mission Society, with over 800 African missionaries working cross-culturally, most fully supported by ECWA.
Serving on the church board is one SIM missionary who acts as liaison officer between the church and the 115 SIM expatriate missionaries in the country. SIM missionaries are invited by ECWA to serve in Nigeria. ECWA handles visa requests for the SIM missionaries who are asked to teach at their missionary training school, to fill specialized roles in other institutions and to start new ministries approved by the church in unreached areas. Now ECWA wants to more intensely target the cities and has asked SIM to assign missionaries to urban evangelism projects. In this ministry Nigerians and western missionaries will team up to form an evangelism partnership.
Though the SIM / ECWA model has developed to the place where the church eagerly welcomes missionaries and the mission feels it is fulfilling a needed role in the country, the transition was not always smooth and took about ten years. Though some transitions are bumpier than others, certain problems seem to be common to all in one degree or another.
Western missionaries inherited a paternalistic role in which they expected everything to continue to run in the way they had started it. What would happen to the beautiful buildings and the expensive equipment if nationals took over? What would donors think if they saw their sacrificial gifts misused? Who would handle the books? What would happen to accountability?
Many missionaries struggled through the process of transition. An attitude of equal partnership was farthest from their minds at that stage. In fact, it was hard to give up a sense of ownership of the ministries which grew out of their vision, whose funds came through their hard work and prayers, and which were run with western efficiency.
At the same time, nationalistic feelings and pride stirred national leaders to demand leadership. It was finally in the open—the mistrust, bitterness and resentment over years of domination.
On the other hand, many nationals feared letting go of the umbilical cord. As one African leader explained, "We always felt that the white missionaries were our masters." And the older, less educated leadership in the church feared not only the insecurity of letting go of the mission, but the changes and threats to their position which would come as younger, more educated national leadership took charge.
Click here for original documents from Partnership:<> the New Direction in World Evangelism by Lorry Lutz and Luis Bush, 1990, InterVarsity Press.
Cooperation: Networking | Partnerships | Church<> Planting
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