Advocates Open Doors for Women and Ethnic Minority Missionaries

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By on May 1, 2013   /   Leave a comment

I’ve often wondered if advocacy and commendation occur so much in scripture because the context reects near Eastern cultural values. Although self-advocacy is seen to express condence and assertiveness in male majority (white) cultures, it can be disrespectful in communities of color.

For example, most non-majority cultures are relational and group-oriented. Things get done through relationships and networks – folks support people they know. Without someone they trust making the introduction, you are an outsider. Because there is strong loyalty to the community, when someone vouches for you as one of the community, members of the group are more inclined to support you.

Another dynamic is that Latino, Black, and Asian-American communities are more hierarchical and patriarchal. It is hard for a younger person or a woman to speak since they have little authority. However, because elders/leaders are respected, what they say is valued. Having an older leader/inuencer in the church as an advocate for you makes a powerful statement to the community.

Asian cultures have the value of “saving face.” This concept doesn’t exist in majority cultures where making a direct request and receiving a direct “no” is okay. In Asian cultures, saying “no” to someone produces disharmony in the relationship, causing both parties to lose face. However, when an advocate asks on your behalf, no loss of face occurs because the person asking is not the recipient. It is similar in Latino cultures where honor and dignity are critical in relationships.

Similar dynamics aect women raising support. When women engage in self-advocacy they may be seen as pushy or unfeminine. In conservative churches, it may be inappropriate for a woman to speak out. A younger woman may struggle to have her call to ministry taken seriously and a single woman may be expected to seek marriage rather than mission. In these settings, receiving the endorsement of a respected leader raises awareness and lends credibility to her request.

Ministry advocates are often the key to opening doors to partnership where traditional support raising fails.

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