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David Howard interview excerpt

Q: How much did they look to you or other missionaries for guidance?

HOWARD: Well, a lot to begin with, because when I came and took over as field director [1958], they were still under the old mindset of the colonialistic approach to things. The mission had been, unfortunately, quite paternalistic in the older days and the missionaries had kind of run things, and they looked to the mission expecting the mission to do that and be this and do the other.

...And you know, I had an experience that I'm very very thankful for. ...I was visiting another mission in the southern part of Colombia...and they were having their mission meeting with their national church, while I was there visiting the area. ...And their field director was a new fellow who'd just been named...and I'll never forget this poor guy. The national pastors began to question him. They'd bring up all sorts of things they'd like to see done. "We think this ought to be done. This ought to be done. We need a hospital. We need this school. We need this." Then they'd turn to him, "Now what's the mission gonna do about that?" And this poor guy stood there, "Well, yeah, we'll think about it. We'll see." And then they'd come up with another. "Well, what about this and this and this? We want this done. What are you gonna do about that?" They were really very forceful. And this poor guy was standing there and it suddenly began to dawn on me, ...what he should have done was to turn it back and say, "I don't know what we're gonna do. What do you want to do? You're the church. What do you want done. You say you want this school, you want that hospital. Okay, what are you gonna do about that? Now, you decide what you want to do. Then ask us how we might help out. You tell us what you want us to do." He never said that.

Well, that was while I was still [working] in Costa Rica. When I went to Colombia, we had the same kind of attitude. The nationals would say, "What are you going to do about this?" And I took the position, "We're not going to do anything. You decide what you want to have done." They...somebody tried to get us to start a hospital when I was there. I said, "We're not going to start a hospital. If you think you need a hospital, then you work out the details. You tell us why you need a hospital, where it ought to be, how it ought to be run. Then ask us how we can help out. But you do the work." Well, of course, they never did it. And, but little by little they began to realize that when the mission had supposedly turned over the church association to them, that this was really going to happen.

Excerpt from an oral history interview conducted by the Archives staff in 1993 with David M. Howard, who served with Latin America Mission in Costa Rica and Colombia (1952-1968) before working with Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, the Lausanne Committee on World Evangelization, World Evangelical Fellowship, David C. Cook Foundation, before returning to work as the President of Latin America Mission in 1995. The Howard interviews are still unprocessed and as yet have no accompnaying descriptive guide.


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Last Revised: 12/13/96
Expiration: indefinite

Wheaton College 2005