In the refectory of our Mission House in Lusaka there is a mission statement on the wall. I can never pass by it calmly. I read the text again: „(…) We believe that, in a dialogue with different religions and cultures, we will be able to build a more fraternal world of justice and communion.” The most annoying part for me is the word „more.”
Ludwig von Mises (†1973), Austrian free-market economist, says that every human action is purposeful. He was an agnostic, but he did not mind that human action in the economic sphere could be directed at some metaphysical aims. To my surprise, the Divine Word Missionaries in Zambia set themselves goals which do not go beyond the earthly horizon. Left wing parties believe that being based on social justice they will be able to build up a new order in the world. But the Divine Word Missionaries in Zambia want to make it just a little more fraternal.
In front of the Divine Word Missionaries Seminary in Pieniężno (Poland) there is a statue of Christ who sends his disciples to the ends of the world to proclaim the Good News. To this day I remember it very well. It was our simple Pieniężno’s „mission statement”. The goal was clearly defined and limited only by the sky. Having such a supernatural end, the missionary selects the appropriate means for its completion. In the visible world these means are never in abundance, so the action of a missionary – just like of any other entrepreneur – is burdened with risks and uncertainties.
The missionary, who trusts in God in all things, should not be exempted from such action, but in Zambia it is different. Almost all live on the religious budget, which is granted to them every year by Rome. Nobody thinks about making money. The word most often associated with profit is greed. Does the Bible not say that the labourer deserves his wage (cf.1 Tim 5:18)? Mr Average goes to work first and then he receives a salary to support himself and realize his dreams. Similarly the entrepreneur. First, he has to invest and the profit comes only after success. The SVDs in Zambia live in an unreal world. First, they receive money for living for one year, and then they make up their plan of action. When the natural order of affairs is overthrown it carries certain consequences.
I came to Zambia six years ago. Previously I was in Botswana. It was the same province but a completely different reality. I wanted to use the internet in the SSpS Mission House in Livingstone. „Could I check my e-mails?” – I timidly asked. „We have no internet – that was the short answer – it is too expensive, and we live in solidarity with the poor”. Later the fridge in our house of Lusaka in which there was very often only mixed fruit jam did not surprise me at all.
I have learnt from St Arnold Janssen that the missionary should use all available and possible means to proclaim the Good News. That is why during his life the most modern printing house in the Netherlands came into existence in Steyl. When our Founder died in 1909 there were in our Society more brothers than fathers. They were the logistical base for the SVD’s missions. Today these proportions are dramatically reversed. Why? I think we lack a clearly defined aim, and the Society resembles more and more a non–governmental organization that supports itself on government grants, and not on their own work.
Those who made the mission statement were the confreres whose mental horizon had been shaped by the every year reduced religious budget. This is the reason why the word „more” appears in the text, because probably they have ceased to dream of winning the world for Christ. Economical life and tightening one’s belt is not good enough. According to Mises the best way to get out of poverty is the work and the accumulation of capital. The saving alone is not adequate. The problem is that the term „just to be” crept into the SVD’s dictionary for good and it has characterized our missionary activity, or rather stagnation.
How to change it? Mises says that the man acts only when he is unsatisfied with the state in which he is located and at the same time he believes that he is able to change it for the better. I do not know what my confrères do, but every day in the morning I get up unsatisfied.
Komunikaty SVD, April 2016, p. 16-17.