Fr. Valentin SHUKURU, SX
Jesus said many things, many interesting things. As a believer, I agree with Jesus in all that he tells us in the gospels and I try to live that out. Yes, I try because I failed and still I haven’t yet succeeded in some like this one for which I disagree with Jesus. In fact, Jesus urges his disciples (and myself) going into mission for the first time not to carry money with them: “Don’t bring money…” (Matthew 10: 9; Mark 6:8; Luke 9:3).
I do not wish to make a theological reflection here. I just want to reflect on the importance of money in the life of a missionary preparing himself or herself to enter for the first time into a country the Lord asks him or her to ‘take possession of.’
Among other things a missionary needs in order to take possession of his or her new country is money, lots of money! We need money and do not be shy or afraid to ask for money as soon as you arrive in your new country. I always did. Why? Because money is important!
Indeed, money is one of the first ways that helps me to get familiar with the country that I’m entering for the first time. With a banknote in my hands, I already know (even before it is taught to me by a teacher in a language school) how to say some numbers in the new language I will learn. And the more banknotes you hold in your hands, the more numbers you will know, the more information you will get on culture, politics, arts, history, some lifestyle, geography, flora and fauna, symbols, the core values that give inspiration and the men and women who knit the history of a nation, the history of an entire people. Isn’t that equally important for a missionary?
Therefore, be also your own teacher as you get possession of your country step by step. Don’t rush for in this endeavor, ‘progress is measured in small steps.’ Perhaps you shouldn’t be quick to spend the money that will be given to you. Instead, take your time to hold banknotes into your hands and at a snail’s pace admire the colors, the motives, the images and core values printed on them; try to discover what is hidden behind these colors and motives: the story of an entire people you will be part of.
For years now, Americans have chosen to put a confession of faith on their banknotes: “In God we trust.” Perhaps we are missionaries in the United States of America, perhaps we are not even in the USA but we use Dollars every day, have we tried to inquire the history behind that sentence? On their Pesos, Filipino chose to put a quotation from psalm 33:12: “Pinagpala ang bayan na ang Diyos ay ang Panginoon (Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord)” or again “The Filipino is worth dying for”, “Faith in our people and faith in God.” Do we know why? Indonesians write, “Dengan rahmat Tuhan yang maha esa…” (With the grace of God, the bank of Indonesia prints this money…). Why to mention God on banknotes? And the Congolese, after realizing (perhaps) that they were deceiving themselves, have ceased to put “Justice, Paix, Travail” on their Francs. Indeed, in their country the way to true and real justice, the way to enduring peace and the way to providing work that helps each citizen of Congo to live decently, it is a way, a long way still to be traveled…
Money is important. Ask for it; ask for lots of money! But before you spend a cent ask yourself if it is helping you to be in the place where you are, to know the language, the history, the men and women as well as the values that shape and give inspiration to the people you are sent to as a missionary. If each cent you spend does not help you in all this then I’m inclined to agree with Jesus: “Don’t carry money…”