For a couple of years now we've been reminded, again and again, about the hard work, sacrifice and need for money by one of Evangelical Quiverfull's royal families - Jill Duggar Dillard and her husband Derick and their mission for Christ to the poor nation of El Salvador in Central America.
The couple continually ask fans for their television show 'Counting On' to donate money towards their mission trip. They have to raise funding for their mission trip all the time because they have applied to different mission-sponsoring and certifying organizations and have been rejected. Most of the organizations have certain requirements to join, many times these requirements are minimal in nature. Usually something like a small number of classes in Bible studies at a university and other lower-level educational requirements. Nothing too tasking or onerous, but the Dillards have failed to meet the rules, or even make a cursory attempt to comply. They've demonstrated that they think they should be exempt from regulations because of who they are and their zeal for the Lord.
Here's the thing, looking through the postings of what the Dillards are doing in El Salvador it's not very clear exactly what they are doing. It looks much more like vacation-tourism-prayer situation.
Moving to a rural 3rd world area of Costa Rica five weeks ago has given me a completely different view of the Dillard's 'mission' in Central America. Yes, there are critical needs here in Central America, particularly I witnessed this in the country next to El Salvador - Nicaragua, but I'm also seeing oodles of tourism-missions going on in the area that do nothing to address any of the legitimate needs of the populace.
The closest to meeting needs I've experienced here was a group of teens purportedly here to built sidewalks around the schools. They seemed to spend minimal time mixing the cement and actually installing the needed walkways, and more time hanging around in big giggly groups at the luxurious American- style local coffee shop. Yes, I understand being without wifi might make that coffee shop something you really really want to visit since they have the only decent wifi in the area.
But even as many of the mission trips to Central America seem to be more tourist-oriented there's an even larger reason why people like the Dillards and church groups really do not need to be here using the local resources without providing a real benefit. Central America is one of the most religious places I've seen. I'm betting the pervasive religion in the culture of Central America rivals even the biggest towns in the US Bible Belt. It is in every single sphere of life here.
It's not uncommon to see random pictures of Jesus in places you would not expect, like the side of a bus, at a bus stop, in a cafe, and, of course, in everyone's homes. Jesus is EVERYWHERE!
Most of this area is heavily Catholic. Now I know the Duggars and pals think that Catholics are not real Christians and that they are going to hell, but having attended the local Catholic church here for a number of Sundays now I can only conclude that there's not a lot of difference in core beliefs based upon the sermons I've heard here. Plus, Evangelicalism has made vast inroads here. Most people attend church here, it is serious, taken more seriously than many places I've lived.
Faith is taken so serious here that there are national holidays based upon religion. Next Wednesday the nation takes a holiday named 'Virgen de Los Angeles' and if you scan through a list of Costa Rican holidays you will see many are based around religion. On August 2 locals will walk in pilgrimage to the basilica in Los Angeles to honor the La Negrita, the end of the trip taken on their knees.
So what are Derick and Jill supposedly saving people from here? Higher percentage of Christians here and a much higher percentage of weekly church attendance. Oh, I forgot, evil Catholics.
Evangelical missionaries aren't needed here, or at least the ones that don't do anything to meet the needs of the people. Missions shouldn't be endless vacations. If you want to come here and make a difference then come to do something like teaching English, or to help dig and set up a community well, to help out with medical treatment in communities several hours from medical help.