The Missionary Podcast Episode 2: who is telling the stories?

Listen and learn. Repeat.

The conversation the first episode raised has been so good. Check it out here.

This space is not intended to rehash all the details, to vilify or expunge, but to learn. So after all the episodes are out and even as we listen, we’re talking about practical takeaways.

Find the podcast here

A Ugandan news station report on the story on YouTube It seems quite disturbing that the Ugandan families continue to face problems from this case - not only dead, ill, or scarred children, but journalists, photographers, and the invasion of privacy, as outsiders try to capture the story. And, if we, the outsider, would only listen for a few minutes, just in this 17:00 clip, appropriate ways to behave and engage is obvious, like relying on village elders and listening to qualified medical professionals.

Again, for background, some key articles here: A Missionary On Trial, by Ariel Levy in The New Yorker and Protecting Whiteness At All Costs, an Open Letter to Ariel Levy and The New Yorker by No White Saviors on Medium.

Episode 2 37 Pounds: addresses the first death, a woman named Nabakooza, at the facility founded by Renee Bach.

Episode 3 Good Samaritan: Renee appears on Fox News to present her side of the story.

Episode 4 The Video: a disturbing look at what happened to one of the children in Renee’s care.

Again, I listened to the episode more than once. The first listen was to note my emotional response. The second was to take notes. The third was to put the two together.

This is tough stuff to listen to so many times but I take it seriously because I want to both understand and learn. Where could some of my own attitudes or behavior be implicated? Where do the topics raised cross into my life or sphere? How can I talk about these things, and do good better, ie grow as a human being on this planet?

Here are things that jumped out and questions I have.

  • How did Renee find Nabakooza and what or who gave her the authority to scoop up this woman and bring her to Kampala for medical care, and then her own center? I don’t ask that intending to get an actual, literal answer, but as we look at our own work and roles, who invites me to come into a situation? If I act authoritatively, where do I get that authority from and is it appropriate, or not?

  • Why do so many young, single, American women with little experience or education feel “called” to places like Jinja, or to set up their own organization? Where has the church, maybe, gone wrong in terms of the role of women in leadership, service, and ministry? Has a kind of narcissism been fostered, even encouraged in faith circles? Why are Westerners reticent to join existing, especially local, organizations? We could go on for weeks probably, about these questions.

  • This quote from Episode 2 is powerful and requires personal reflection, “I find it ironic how many of these relatively young, white American missionaries were ready to criticize each other but think of themselves as the one white person doing it right in Africa.” Do I ever find myself thinking like that? How can I learn to be more self-critical?

  • With so many aid organizations and feeding centers and women taking in children in Jinja, why are there still so many severely malnourished children? Meaning: these methods don’t seem to be providing any kind of longterm solution. If they aren’t working, why not? What needs to change? Why is this kind of aid and missionary work failing and how can it be done more effectively, or should it end?

  • There are three wildly different stories on how Nabakooza died in the second episode. Maybe in Renee’s arms, peacefully. Maybe after being jabbed with some kind of injection, gurgling, falling backward, and suddenly dying. Maybe surrounded by her family, loved and cared for. The journalist concludes that how she died isn’t the point. The point, she says, is who gets to tell the story and how they tell it. While I agree that who tells the story absolutely matters (and the family of the woman Renee knew for only a few days would be the obvious choice of who gets to tell the story), it also really does matter how this woman died. I don’t think source trumps truth. I doubt we can know the truth here, or if it matters that we, the voyeurs looking in, know it. But in general, I don’t feel comfortable saying that who tells a story is more important than the veracity of that story. Chide me if I’m wrong here.

Dang, I said this would be about episodes 2-4 but there is so much to cover and these are just my questions from the second episode!

I’ll stop now and see what the discussion brings up.

What do you think?


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