25 August 2011

More Le Sigh from the US – or: God’s Recruitment Process Flawed

It’s a good day for Africa stories from the US: Here’s a fun article about the Riegers, a family from Tillamook who are about to move to Gulu in northern Uganda as missionaries. God called them, you know. They will set up the Rieger Ministry that will ‘focus on orphans, child moms, ex-child soldiers and those afflicted with HIV/AIDS.’

Susan Rieger is ‘excited about what she has to offer the women and girls of Gulu. “I’m going to teach nutrition, gardening, work in the school, and develop exercise programs for people with AIDS.” She’s quite fit and likes running, but anticipates that being difficult:

‘She and her daughters will wear modest dresses and avoid doing anything to put themselves in overt danger, such as running for exercise. This will be a difficult adjustment for Susan, who is an avid runner.

“I put in 30 to 40 miles per week here,” she said. “When we get there I’m going to have to do step aerobics and yoga in the house. I might be able to run with Joe, but I would have to wear a dress, and we would have to go early in the morning before it gets too hot.”

I’m not really sure how a dress is going to help. I checked with Jane Bussmann (not known to jog in dresses) and she said she went running in Gulu, no probs.

She’s also not so confident about the school system:
‘Susan will also be homeschooling four of her own children in Africa. “In Uganda there is no public school,” she explained. “Every child who attends school has to be able to pay the fee, and the highest grade they teach is sixth.”’

Well. Uganda has a free primary education system, although I expect that like in Kenya, some ‘fees’ must be paid regardless, and the quality probably isn’t impressive. Wikipedia says: ‘The system of education in Uganda has a structure of 7 years of primary education, 6 years of secondary education (divided into 4 years of lower secondary and 2 years of upper secondary school).’

Anyhoodle. More substantially, what bugs me is this:

Here is a population that has indeed lived in incredibly difficult conditions. How is a bunch of Americans, well intended, but who seemingly can’t use google, who literally have no idea where they are going, qualified to address this? “These people have lived in trauma, it’s all they know. It is our mission to teach them how to function in peace.” Because you understand what it’s like to live in a civil war zone, because you have the skills for post-traumatic stress disorder counselling?

Susan Rieger plans to “to mentor and disciple child moms. I want to get to know them and teach them how to tend their children. The idea is that if we love on them and show them love, they will then be able to turn and love their children.” Because Ugandan child moms don’t know how to love their kids, and they don’t have parents, family, mothers and grandmothers to teach them parenting in their own community?

Is it just me, or is there something quite (albeit unintentionally) patronising about this whole venture?


  1. Okay. 1: This family gives the whole idea of missions a bad name. Just how ignorant, in this day and age of too much information, can an entire family be? 2: I bet their ignorant and patronizing posterior will be out of Uganda faster than they can say Acoli!

  2. I love the smell of self righteousness in the morning. Whoosa!!!