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Have you ever questioned if Christianity is a white man’s religion? Have you ever wondered if there is a better way to do missions and church planting?

African Missiologist and thought leader, Mekdes Haddis joins Latasha Morrison on this Be the Bridge podcast episode to challenge the Western Church’s view on missions. She invites listeners into a history of Ethiopian Christianity and how the Doctrine of Discovery remains embedded in the modern mission movement. Their discussion points to the brutal impact of good intentions and how church plants can often be facilitators of gentrification. Mekdes reminds us that Black and brown leaders and pastors are already doing the work and there are wholesome ways to empower, support, and join them in that work.

This needed conversation, along with Mekdes’ book A Just Mission, encourages a reframing of missions and a pursuit of racial righteousness.

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Resource Mentioned:
A Just Mission book by Mekdes Haddis

Connect with Mekdes Haddis:
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Just Missions Facebook Group
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Twitter
LinkedIn

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Host & Executive Producer: Latasha Morrison
Senior Producer: Lauren C. Brown
Producer, Editor & Music By: Travon Potts
Transcriber: Sarah Connatser

Not all views expressed in this interview reflect the values and beliefs of Latasha Morrison or the Be the Bridge organization.

The full episode transcript is below.

Narrator 0:01
You are listening to the Be the Bridge podcast with Latasha Morrison.

Latasha Morrison 0:06
[intro] How are you guys doing today? It’s exciting!

Narrator 0:09
Each week, Be the Bridge podcast tackles subjects related to race and culture with the goal of bringing understanding.

Latasha Morrison 0:17
[intro] …but I’m going to do it in the spirit of love.

Narrator 0:19
We believe understanding can move us toward racial healing, racial equity, and racial unity. Latasha Morrison is the founder of Be the Bridge, which is an organization responding to racial brokenness and systemic injustice in our world. This podcast is an extension of our vision to make sure people are no longer conditioned by a racialized society, but grounded in truth. If you have not hit the subscribe button, please do so now. Without further ado, let’s begin today’s podcast. Oh, and stick around for some important information at the end.

Latasha Morrison 0:54
Hello Be the Bridge family, community. I am so excited to bring to the mic, or as you would say to the table, to the podcast today a friend that I’ve known for a few years now and a bridge builder. And I am so excited to introduce this voice. Some of you may have heard of her, but if not, you will hear of her after this. Mekdes Haddis is here. And Mekdes is the founder and executive coach of Just Missions. It’s an online community that elevates diaspora voices and equips Western allies to become mutual partners for the work of the gospel. She’s originally from Ethiopia. She moved to the United States in 2003, and earned a B.S. in communications from our alma mater Liberty University. Oh look, I said that now. (laughter) And a master’s degree in organizational leadership from Columbia International University. She is also a project director for an effort on racial justice and reconciliation. She has worked in several churches building discipleship outreach strategies that are holistic in their approach and include people in the margins. She and her family live in South Carolina. And it’s so funny, because when I read this, Mekdes, wait a minute, she lives in Charlotte! (laughter)

Mekdes Haddis 2:35
I know. We’re so close to Charlotte.

Latasha Morrison 2:37
She’s so close to Charlotte. I’ve had the opportunity when she was on staff at a church to go and speak. And she was leading Be the Bridge groups at that time. And so we’ve kept in contact. And we have several mutual friends. And she just wrote a book, A Just Mission. And I think this is an important book for us to know about and understand, and really hear from someone who has grown up in Ethiopia. And just the way that we do missions. This is something that’s, Mekdes, that you know is important for me. Because having gone to Africa, Panama, Venezuela, you know, several countries, and also doing some missions work, I’ve seen, and gone with other organizations, but I’ve seen some of the impacts. Some good and some bad impact of that. And one of the things that stood out to me, I will never forget, is when people were introducing themselves. And they were saying, “Oh, my name is Diane.” “My name is Chip,” or “My name is Bert.” And “My name is Chloe” or “Katherine” and all these things. And I just was like, I was puzzled by that. And then sometimes they will say, “Oh, well, this is my Christian name,” or “This is my baptism name.” And, you know, and I’m just thinking like, “Okay, Chuck is not a Christian name. That’s your European name. Or that’s your western culture name.” And those are just some of the grave mistakes that white Christian nationalism, that white supremacy has done all over the globe. And I know that it did not happen in Ethiopia. So I would really love for you to give your thoughts on that. And maybe some of you who are listening you’ve witnessed the same thing. And maybe you haven’t really thought about it because you’re like, “Oh, well, you know, that name you can easier pronounce it or whatever.” And a lot of times there’s pride in that name, because there’s been really a fallacy in how that’s been communicated and the theology around that. Where, you know, I meet people from Rwanda, and they have beautiful Rwandan names. And then I will say, “What does that name mean in Rwandan?” And they say, “Blessed of God.” That is your Christian name. (laughter) Like what? Like, Christianity is not Western culture. You know? So I know there’s just a lot of things that you’ve seen. And before we go there, I want to know, why did you feel the need to write this book?

Mekdes Haddis 5:42
Yeah, thank you so much, Tasha, first of all, for having me here. It’s such an honor. And yeah, the reason I thought it was important to have this conversation was because of how the mission movement is fully monopolized by Western culture and theology and tradition. So as somebody who was raised in a Christian home in Ethiopia, with a dad who’s an Ethiopian Orthodox and my mom is Ethiopian evangelical Christian, my worship of the Lord and my discipleship was not Western at all. You know? And so coming to the U.S., and trying to disciple new believers in the way that I was discipled, just was not fruitful. Because people are, you know, they expect a certain type of person to come with a certain type of way to lead them in their spiritual journey. And so in my like desire to partner with, you know, churches while I was in college, or even afterwards, to do some work, to go back home and serve my own community, or even serve communities here in the United States, I realized like the way missions was done was so economically oriented. It’s about the poor and the rich. It’s not about like, people who don’t know Jesus and Jesus. So mission has become like synonymous to the haves going to the have nots, and making impact that makes the haves feel good. You know? Rather than what we see in the Bible, where, you know, people are going and telling the world about the love of Jesus, the joy, the freedom they found. So it’s not necessarily something we do in the Western culture, because we’ve experienced miracles, that we cannot contain ourselves, we want to go to the world and tell them. But it has become about, you know, we have money, too much of it. And we almost feel guilty if we don’t share it with, you know, people that don’t have. So it kind of became, it has become, I think all of us like our brain goes to, when we say mission, we think about what do I have I can give people. It’s about like financial possession, status. And so I thought it was such an important conversation to have, if the Western Church is going to continue being a part of the conversation of global missions. Because those of us who are coming from the Global South as missionaries in the world are not being sent with our monthly salaries being sent from our churches or organizations supporting us. We are immigrants and refugees. And we are the people that a lot of Western Christians don’t want to associate with. They don’t want to deal with our issues. And so, it’s really important to have this conversation and redefine what mission is. It is a spiritual calling for each believer to undertake. And also, like, put it in a different category than philanthropy. Because philanthropy, Western philanthropy, has taken over the mission movement. And it’s just not that powerful tool that Jesus gave us to say, go into the other nations and share the Gospel. Like, the gospel has been institutionalized, and its power less in its current form, going from the west to the rest of the world, in my opinion. But also, so one of the reasons I wrote the book is, first of all, let’s strengthen the message the Western Church is taking to the rest of the world, because the message has become secularized. But also let’s prepare the Western Church to receive missionaries that are coming from the rest of the world. Because we are the immigrants; we are the refugees; we are the people that you’re having political debates about. But we’re your brothers and sisters in Christ you are called to receive. And, you know, we’re coming with messages that are going to revamp and rejuvenate the spiritual condition of the Western Church. So that is the biggest the biggest factor.

Latasha Morrison 10:21
Wow, wow. And I don’t think we, and that is so true when we think of the word missions, that is not what we’re thinking about. It’s like those who have giving to those who we’ve deemed that don’t have.

Mekdes Haddis 10:35
Yeah.

Latasha Morrison 10:35
And when we look at it scripturally, that is not…I mean, you have all different classes of people that are coming to faith and coming to faith by all different types of people.

Mekdes Haddis 10:48
Yup.

Latasha Morrison 10:48
And I think that’s an adjustment in our ideology and in our perception that needs to happen. That’s definitely a conversation. Now growing up like in Ethiopia, I know you’ve had two different experiences as it relates to your parents. What are some of the things that you’ve seen where you think missions have hurt Ethiopia?

Mekdes Haddis 11:19
Yeah. So that’s actually, Ethiopia has such a unique history because it’s one of the ancient Christian countries.

Latasha Morrison 11:29
Right.

Mekdes Haddis 11:29
So for anybody that says Christianity is a white man’s religion, I would say go and visit the ancient Ethiopian churches that have been there for centuries, before any white man ever came into Africa.

Latasha Morrison 11:44
Right.

Mekdes Haddis 11:44
So it’s such an interesting dynamic. So Ethiopian Orthodox, it’s an Eastern Orthodox religion. It came directly…

Latasha Morrison 11:53
Where Christianity was birthed.

Mekdes Haddis 11:54
…where Christianity was directly birthed. So you know. So we have this beautiful tradition that we have. And as a country, who is mainly Christian, you know, the interesting thing is, we also take pride in being the safest country for Muslims to migrate to. When Muhammad told them like to go and find safety somewhere else, he sent them to Ethiopia. And the reason he did, and this is like in Muslim, or you know, in that religion, this is something they talk about as the safest place for them to find refuge. So in Ethiopia, Muslims and Christians have lived peacefully for centuries. And it’s so interesting, because it is the hospitality of Christians that has allowed this, even people of different religion to come and live. And so there’s like, this sense of pride in being such a hospitable culture. So as much as we’re Christians, we love God and we believe in the Trinity and all of that, but there is no animosity to people of different faiths to come and reside. And I think that reflects the power and nature of the gospel. And, Ethiopian evangelicalism just is about 75 years old in Ethiopia. It was not introduced to us until a Dutch missionary came to Ethiopia 75 years ago. And did you know did that. And so there, you know, there is like, tales about how early on missionaries tried to come to Ethiopia, but they were not welcome. You know, because we already had heard Christianity.

Latasha Morrison 11:54
Right? So why you coming? (laughter)

Mekdes Haddis 12:45
Exactly. So I always critique this and say, there wasn’t like an effort to come and kind of work with the Orthodox Church, and kind of say, “Hey, what can we do to further Christianity in Ethiopia?”

Latasha Morrison 14:06
No, you’re doing it the wrong way. (laughter)

Mekdes Haddis 14:07
Exactly. There needed to be like a new way to introduce the gospel to Ethiopia. So historically, the northern part of Ethiopia has been more Christian and the southern part has been like traditional worship, you know, whatever that might be. So some people would say it’s paganism, some people would say we just worship God in a different way. But, so the gospel in its western form was introduced to the South because there wasn’t a presence of Christianity there. So that’s kind of where you know…so the interesting thing is historically, because the South adopted a Western religion and then the North, you know, had the Ethiopian ancient orthodox practice, there became this animosity between the two, the North and the South. Which still continues; it’s really interesting. So whenever somebody would come to know the Lord through the evangelical church, if they came from a family that has, like my family, like my mom, who grew up who her family’s from the North, therefore traditionally Christianity has been passed down. She was, like, crucified for it. You know, she went through persecution, because they couldn’t understand why she was adopting a culture and a Christianity that was the white man’s religion, basically. So it was almost as if she was turning herself away from being an Ethiopian, not just a Christian. They, like, the Orthodox Christians still don’t really see even Ethiopian evangelicals, as true Christians. And evangelical Christians also have this pride of like, “No, we have the true gospel.” So that animosity was really there. So there was no effort to reconcile and kind of build kind of this economic, economical, you know, I can’t say that word well. (laughter) But you know, that type of brotherhood or sisterhood in the body of Christ, because we’re all believers, it just became the North versus the South, white man’s religion versus the ancient prideful Christianity that we have till this day it exists. So it was confusing as Western evangelicalism was growing from the South and kind of moved into the big city in the capital, you know, where I was born and raised. My mom, who was a devout orthodox became, you know, chose to follow, she says, as an Evangelical, because she was raised in a missionary school. Interestingly, both my dad and mom went to missionary boarding schools growing up. So they both were exposed to Western Christianity. So anyways, she came to know the Lord and became a disciple as an Evangelical, which she was the most devoted follower of Christ. Therefore, she took us to church with her growing up. So I grew up in the evangelical tradition. I have no like…I have no like connection to the Orthodox Church, because, you know, I grew up going to church with my mom. So I still consider myself an Ethiopian evangelical Christian. So it’s kind of an interesting journey. But there is a part of me that feels like I was, there was like a beautiful culture that I couldn’t participate in because of this animosity. So I can’t just walk into an Orthodox Church and be like, “Hey, can I experience worship with you guys?” Thereare rules and traditions that you have to adhere to. So it’s really interesting to me. Like when my dad takes me to church, of course, I like wear my, you have to wear a shawl and cover your head, you know, as a woman, when you go in. There are special prayers and liturgies that, you know, people learn from childhood that I don’t know. So there’s a part of me that feels robbed of my own culture and the tradition that was passed down from my family. But I will say, I did come to know the Lord and pursue a relationship with Him through the Evangel culture. So I have a lot of love and passion for that. The beauty in the Ethiopian evangelical church, I will say, is that because of communism, all the Western religious leaders were kind of, for them it would be persecution, but they were kicked out of Ethiopia. And the church went underground during that time. And so what happened was, because missionaries left, we had the opportunity to customize or contextualize our theology for it to become a true Ethiopian evangelical theology. So that actually allowed us…there was about 30 years of communist ruling. And that actually allowed Ethiopian Christianity like evangelical Christianity, to contextualize and grow and mature into what it is today. So yeah, a little bit of history.

Latasha Morrison 14:33
But that’s good. I think context is important. And then, you know, when you saw my face when you said Dutch missionaries. Because I’m like, “Oh Lord.” (laughter) Because if you read about Dutch missionaries just over the continent of Africa, I mean, just havoc.

Mekdes Haddis 19:51
Yeah.

Latasha Morrison 19:51
You know? Like, there’s a lot to repent of when you think about even Dutch reform and South Africa, you know, like, it’s a very…yeah, a lot of those spaces, it has been done with white Christian nationalism that is laced in white supremacy.

Mekdes Haddis 20:15
Yes.

Latasha Morrison 20:15
At the foundation of it in those beliefs. And so there’s a lot there, we don’t have time to unpack all of that. (laughter) But that is something, you know. And I know even for some of you hearing this, you know, even the word evangelical when you’re hearing that because it has a different context for a lot of different people. I didn’t grow up using that word, we used the word Christian. It wasn’t until I was exposed more into what you would call predominately white church that I heard the word evangelical as much. And a lot in the Black church tradition, we don’t typically use that word as much. So I know for some people, that can be a word that’s very triggering, because it has a lot of, in America that word has a lot of partisanship. I don’t want to say, partisanship, political context, you know, with it. So, but I think that’s really important for you to kind of explain that. I was just looking at a documentary. And it really talked about the Orthodox Ethiopian church and some of the traditions and all of that, and answering that question that Christianity is not a white man’s religion. But it has been hijacked in the western culture by white Christian nationalists in a lot of ways. And I think that’s important. And so, tell me a little bit about, just when you talk about some of the organizations that you’ve been working with as it relates to global missions in a way that we can do this better. So, I know, because, it’s like, it’s one thing to tell people about Jesus and export Jesus. But along with that, we also export ideology, we also export our culture. And that’s the thing where you were saying, when the church went underground there was an opportunity to contextualize the gospel with your culture. Because like, that’s, you know, it’s like, there’s certain things even when…I wanted to go to a Rwandan wedding. And it was at a church, I wanted to see because I see, you know, different weddings in different cultures. And so they have different things that they do. And so we were just kind of looking through the window, the person was getting married. And it was like a very, because it was happening in a church that was probably founded by American Christians. The wedding was very traditional to what we were seeing in Western culture, which I know that’s not the Rwandan culture. And so those are just things that get lost and displaced. Like as far as, you know, even hair, how we deal. We have to have the Crown Act here in America as it relates to hair. And, one of the things I know in Rwanda, they were really trying to like, when they became Christians, they had to also rid themselves of traditional hairstyles, traditional clothes, traditional names, the way of doing things to do it more Western. And that is like a white supremacist type ideology.

Mekdes Haddis 23:58
Yes, yes.

Latasha Morrison 23:59
What does that…what does me, that God’s gonna have to do with how I have my hair?

Mekdes Haddis 24:03
Exactly. Nothing. Yup.

Latasha Morrison 24:03
I’m like, nothing. But I’m just saying, those are some of the things that just breaks, it breaks my heart. You know, but this stuff, sometimes we’re like, “Oh, this is familiar.” And we like it, and we embrace it. But no, I want to hear how you worship God in your language. And in your tongue. And in your culture. What does this look like for you in your God given context? This is what it looks like for us. And I think maybe someone culturally who has been stripped of that through the Atlantic slave trade, maybe that’s more important for me. What are what are some of your thoughts as far as organizations that you’re working with making sure that those mistakes don’t happen?

Mekdes Haddis 24:52
Yeah. So there is, you know, the concept of the Doctrine of Discovery. Right?

Latasha Morrison 24:59
Yes.

Mekdes Haddis 24:59
And it is so embedded in the mission movement. So that’s something that I spent time working with people on that topic. So for those that might not be familiar with it. In short, the Doctrine of Discovery is what Christopher Columbus did when he came to the states, to North America. And he saw the land was beautiful, but then he saw that it was already inhabited by a group of people. So the only way that it was going to be quick to take over this land was to dehumanize the people that were already in possession of this land, which were Native Americans. And so he went back and told them, basically the people that he was getting ready to bring and sell land to and all of that, that these were barbarians, these were not really human, they were less than human. And so the common human love or decency that you would give now your mentality is that you’re dealing with animals, basically. People that cannot survive on their own, they need you to be able to either save them or to lead them. And if they don’t get in line, then you just destroy them. Because you are the superior race, or you are the one that is deserving of inhabiting this land. So basically, that’s in a short what happened to the Native Americans that were here when, you know, migration to the U.S. started happening. And so that same mentality is really embedded in current organizations, missional organizations. They’re not doing it intentionally. But that mindset is embedded in there, where they’re thinking, “If I don’t go, if if we don’t go and plant a church here, or we don’t go and reach them, these people are gonna be destroyed. They need a Savior.” And they associate the Savior Jesus with themselves or their culture. And so they go in with these great intentions. And Tasha, I learned this from you always say, intentions and impact. Like you talk about that a lot. And so like our good intent does not always produce good impact. And so they go with these great intentions, but the impact is brutal. You’re destroying cultures, like you just mentioned; you’re taking away people’s identity; you’re taking away their names; you’re taking away the way they worship their God in their mother tongue. And so there needs to be this relinquishing of control to go to these places. If God is truly calling you to be a missionary around the world, there needs to be a way that you approach that with this kind of curiosity that says, “What is God doing there?” So replace the Doctrine of Discovery with the doctrine of common grace. God has revealed himself to all people in all cultures, and we are able to see Him and worship him wherever we go. If we truly believe that He is all powerful, almighty, He created all things, then how can we think that people groups that we’ve never interacted with because we haven’t interacted with them, they have not seen God or know him? He made them in His image. So we have to replace it with that mindset of, “Okay, I’m gonna go and see what God is doing there first. And I’m gonna figure out how he wants me to participate, not go with languages, like we’re gonna go into the other parts of the world, and plant the flag of Jesus there.” It’s like, you’re going on a space ship and going to…

Latasha Morrison 28:59
It’s like dominance. It’s dominance.

Mekdes Haddis 29:00
Yeah. And you see those things in their mission statements sometimes. So you know, those are the things I help people figure out is like, what is the language you’re using? Why do you use this? What is this embedded need that you have about these people groups that they need you more than they need God?

Latasha Morrison 29:19
So good.

Mekdes Haddis 29:19
You know? They have him. You know? You have something to work with if you would only go and learn and see Him. And what that does is when you do that, when you interact with God and other cultures, your worship of Him just explodes into a new dimension.

Latasha Morrison 29:38
Yes, yes.

Mekdes Haddis 29:39
You know, you can see how little you are and how big He is. You know? So it’s also a breakthrough for you. It’s like you’re getting out of this bondage of self worship by going. It’s an advantage to you. And the advantage for them might be something, maybe. They’re really, really there’s a lot it does for the one going. And so those are some of the things that I work with them on.

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Latasha Morrison 31:34
I was just thinking, you know, as you were talking, like, it’s so much at the crux of just this superiority, American exceptionalism, supremacy, at the foundation of that is that of greed, indifference, and really control and dominance. If you feel like God is showing up, because you’re there or your organization is there or your church is there, that’s when you know you need to stay home.

Mekdes Haddis 32:07
Exactly.

Latasha Morrison 32:08
No, no, really. You need to stay home.

Mekdes Haddis 32:10
Yeah.

Latasha Morrison 32:10
You need to really, really beckon God to replace that mindset set with that of humility, because you’re looking through the wrong lens. And that is how we plant churches, a lot of times in America and communities. I see commercials of churches coming in and you know it’s like, “God is here, because we’re here,” or you know, “We’re gonna take the city for Jesus.” Have you even paused and said: What is God already doing? And how God is already moving? Who are the people that God is already using? What are the churches that’s there already, that God is using but maybe they need some additional resources or support our some asset development or, you know what I’m saying, or some prayers? You know?

Mekdes Haddis 32:10
Exactly.

Latasha Morrison 32:11
But you feel like you could show up with the money machine and displace even some of the churches that have been there for decades that understand the community. And, but I’m gonna get off subject now. But this is something that’s been eating at me. And I just want to say it. It’s one of the things is like, you know, there’s churches everywhere. Especially here in Atlanta, you know, Texas when I lived there, North Carolina, like all the things. There’s churches everywhere. But when I see a church, you know, because sometimes church buildings and some of these facilities are a lot cheaper in underserved communities, you know, or communities that have been impacted by white flight or desegregation, poverty, the war on drugs, like all these things, there’s a lot of complex issues. And so just because you can get a building that’s cheaper in the area, but when you plant a church and you’re not considering the people in the five mile radius in how you plant that church, the culture of that church, how you staff that church, how the worship is done in that church, why are you putting the church in an area where the church is so disconnected from the community?

Mekdes Haddis 34:36
From the people.

Latasha Morrison 34:37
From the people. And I think that’s what happens, you know, even in global missions, even how it’s also a reflection of how we do church planning here in America. Where you see churches in these areas and thinking you’re bringing the presence of God. Where if you would have just paused and and really said, how can we support the churches that are already there? What might God be saying?

Mekdes Haddis 35:03
Yeah.

Latasha Morrison 35:03
You know, how can we do this differently? You know? And is your presence, if you’ve been there 20 years or 10 years or so, has your presence changed the community? Or does your church still look like…

Mekdes Haddis 35:21
What you’re used to?

Latasha Morrison 35:21
…suburban. What you’re used to.

Mekdes Haddis 35:23
Yeah.

Latasha Morrison 35:23
What you’re used to. So I mean, what do you say about that? What are you thinking? Does it upset you?

Mekdes Haddis 35:29
It’s interesting, you brought that up, because honestly, my last job that I had before I transitioned into doing this was literally that. And what made me want to write this book, because you know, I’ve been in discipleship ministry in majority white mega churches and have led efforts. But my last role was to help our church think through how to go into a community that is majority immigrants and people of color all around and be a presence that makes life better. So we were working on making this beautiful community center. And I was leading a listening project where we were just meeting up with pastors and leaders and just making all these promises. Like, we want to be as humble, open handed as possible. And COVID hit and all the plans just went out the window. And what essentially what the decision that came down the pipe was, for financial reasons, we cannot afford to contextualise basically the ministry that we’re going to do there. So we’re going to make this campus whatever everything else that we’ve done is going to look like. So that told me, for me personally, I was like, okay, so people that don’t have money always come last. We’re always you know, the church institutions, especially these large ones are going to serve those that are going to continue giving or providing your daily bread or paying for your salary. So I was like, you know, what, I could not be a part of this anymore, and decided to walk away from that. And it was one of like, just one of the projects I was super passionate about. Because it was going to be a resource center for immigrant teens that don’t have role models in the community. And we were gonna have like, just all type of stuff built into that space that was going to serve the community. And we were going to be a community center that just has a church that meets on Sunday. Rather than like a church that meets on Sunday and then there’s like an empty building basically sitting all throughout the week, when you could be doing so much for that community with this space that you have. And so that’s like the really sad thing. So we’re almost like facilitators of gentrification. When we do that. It’s almost like, oh, that suburb is coming this way. It’s the next church planting location.

Latasha Morrison 37:52
Yup, yup.

Mekdes Haddis 37:57
That’s the mentality. Rather than what is God doing in these communities? And how are we going to be able to just be with him, like worship Him with the work that he’s given us? And it’s so completely different. And like you said, like, church planting is one of, and it really relates to…you know, I talk about this in the book. One of the things I talk about is the missionaries that don’t fit this context of raise money, go into different parts of the world. They’re already here. Those are the the pastors, immigrant pastors, you know, Black pastors in spaces that nobody goes to. They’re already doing the work that needs to be done. Your heart shows whether you partner with them or not. So if we’re talking about raising up leaders, they’re the ones raising up the next generation. America is becoming more and more Brown and Black. Those are the people that are raising…

Latasha Morrison 39:09
Girl, don’t say that too lightly because people take offense to that.

Mekdes Haddis 39:13
Well!

Latasha Morrison 39:14
And if you that makes you uncomfortable. If you’re listening to this and it makes you uncomfortable, there is something wrong.

Mekdes Haddis 39:23
Yeah.

Latasha Morrison 39:23
And that’s something for you to ask yourself: why does that make me uncomfortable? And really, as a Christian. Because if we’re talking about eternity, like you gonna be really uncomfortable. (laughter)

Mekdes Haddis 39:35
Right, there’s a lot of Brown people.

Latasha Morrison 39:36
When we think about that. There’s a lot of Brown people. And just a reminder, Jesus was Brown. You know?

Mekdes Haddis 39:44
Yeah. Exactly.

Latasha Morrison 39:45
And so. So people, if you’re uncomfortable with that, you may be uncomfortable with Jesus. I mean, just frankly, and I think those are just things that are a part of our society and the way society has cued us and the way Christianity as cute as that we’ve really have to reimagine and ask yourself those hard questions and not plant churches based on where the new coffee shop is. And base that on but how are you supporting the churches in that community that have been there that may not have the resources? They don’t have the budget. How is that? And that’s just something that’s just really been on my heart. And then where it’s like, sometimes I’m like, instead of maybe God is not saying that you need to plant or you need to go, maybe you need to partner and combine. I’ve heard of some Be the Bridge churches where it’s like congregations combining because together they have the resources to do more. If we can get out of our own way, as far as like dominance and you know wanting to hold all the leadership and all those things that typically get in the way, if it’s going to be better for when we say the kingdom of God. And so I think, you know, what you’re talking about, in this book is so needed. What is something that you really want churches to really take from A Just Mission? And when you say A Just Mission, what do you mean by a just mission and what you really want churches to leave with when they finish reading your book?

Mekdes Haddis 41:38
Yeah, so A Just Mission is mission work that is consistent with Jesus’s mission to restore what was broken. Right? And so wherever we go, our focus needs to be what is broken, whether it is, you know, the systems that we’re operating within, whether it is cultures. I think for Western mission, a lot of times, because of their cultural context, because it is a wealthy culture, they see what’s broken as what is lacking financially or physically. Therefore, the way they restore is by giving money. So if you’re poor, you don’t have Jesus, that’s basically the equation. And so, yeah, and so when when you talk about that, and so there’s, you know, I…there’s a chapter that talks about money in my book. And that’s one of the biggest, you know, I think, most important chapters, because we really need to reexamine why we worship money more than we worship God. I think it’s because I grew up in a place where I just saw so much joy where people didn’t have anything. So I don’t equate my joy with money or possessions. And I think that’s just the gift of being in a place where I was mentored by grandmas that lived in tiny little homes right next to ours or something like that. Where, you know, I just saw people and in their full dignity not because of what they had. Because what you have is temporary, it’s not like an eternal thing. You can’t even be buried with it. You know? So it’s just such an interesting concept. So, in Mark, I’ll leave, you know, I’ll share the Scripture and kind of wrap it up at Mark 12:41. Jesus talks about this woman, the widow with a dime. And He looks, He says, like “Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put in watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich, rich people threw in large amounts.” So He made a point to tell us there were rich people that threw in large amounts. “But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling His disciples to Him, Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth, but she, out of her poverty put in everything – all she had to live on.'” And Jesus embraced that. That’s what He wants. He wants us to give out of our poverty, out of what we do not have. So this sacrificial giving of our time, sacrificial giving of our energy, whatever it is, that’s where the heart issue is. And so, if you’re not a true follower of Jesus, you have no business going anywhere in the world and trying to like evangelize. So what is it that you do not have that you can give, even in your home. Like if you do not have patience, but you’re practicing that with your children, with your husband. You know? If you do not have whatever it is, but that you’re trying to live out with the power of the Holy Spirit as a believer who is called to be a light to the world, that is, first and foremost, what is important and what brings justice to the world. And so even when we look at like the Western Church dynamic, where we’re still divided by faith, we worship as white and Black individuals and immigrants and all that stuff, like in all our segregation, if we’re not able to work that out as a church body, as Christians here in America, and think outside of being discipled by our favorite news channel that we follow, we have no business going anywhere in the world and saying, “Let me tell you about this Jesus.” If you’re doing that, without creating reconciliation, restoring justice within your own community, then you’re really exporting this redefined gospel that is powerless, that is Western, that is anemic. And it’s gonna secularize the world’s Christianity, because you’re literally exporting what secularism means – living by your own power, by your own money, by your own drive, and your own strategy. So A Just Mission is a call to church leaders, to believers to lay down power and to embrace mutuality. And I did a lot of work to try not to give people the ABCs or the 123 steps, because that’s such a Western method to be like, if you do A, B, C, then you’re good. No, like, whatever Jesus calls a few, that is where you need to go. So I really want people to embrace that and to really live out the calling, reach your Jerusalem first with whatever Jesus called you to reach them with, with the love of Christ, with the gospel, and then go to Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Do not jump from Jerusalem to the end of the earth and call yourself a missionary. There is a process to it. You know? So that’s what I would say.

Latasha Morrison 47:12
Or either people who are working on issues in Jerusalem and all the all the other parts, you know, but not working on it in their Judea. You know, what I’m saying?

Mekdes Haddis 47:25
Exactly.

Latasha Morrison 47:25
And that’s like, you know, I see that a lot where, you know, and that was just some of the things. You know, I’m like, when you talk about building wells and water crisis, and that is the case in a lot of areas, you know, the access to water. But then I look at there’s so many places also in the United States that we don’t even realize that don’t have clean water. Flint being one.

Mekdes Haddis 47:55
Yes.

Latasha Morrison 47:55
And when we start talking about environmental injustice and geographical injustice, that racism has a legacy in so many different areas, but we’re not as concerned about those. But some of the other things make us feel better about ourselves. And we have to look at, you know, then why are we doing it if we can’t do it here. And it’s not to say that it’s an either or, it’s a both and.

Mekdes Haddis 48:19
Yeah. It’s all of it.

Latasha Morrison 48:20
Yes. It’s all. And I think, even the work that we’re doing in biblical reconciliation, you see a lot of people that do that work in other countries, because there’s no cost to them. You know what I’m saying?

Mekdes Haddis 48:38
Exactly.

Latasha Morrison 48:38
That’s easy. I can throw money at that or do something, and I don’t have to live with it. And I can go back home.

Mekdes Haddis 48:46
Live in your bubble. Yeah.

Latasha Morrison 48:47
And then, live in your bubble and not be a part of the solution here in America when there’s a need for that and the investment is not there. Because it’s all entangled in our own view of, worldview in our theology, where it’s costly here. It’s very costly here. And so. Yeah.

Mekdes Haddis 49:09
Yeah. And the Western Church is guilty of not helping disciples count the cost. Jesus, when He called His disciples, He said, “Count the cost.” And there were people that walked away.

Latasha Morrison 49:20
Yes!

Mekdes Haddis 49:20
They were like, “I’m not going to do this.” We don’t do that. We do not. It’s part of their discipleship should be people knowing what the cost is. It’s gonna cost you your comfort, not just like your comfort, like, not your comfortable home or whatever. Like people are not trying to rob you. But your comfort in thinking that the world revolves around you and your problems. Like it’s bigger than that. And it’s a call to, you know, carry the cross daily and follow Jesus. So if our churches are not helping believers count the cost, then it’s on them.

Latasha Morrison 49:59
Yeah.

Mekdes Haddis 49:59
It’s on them. They’re gonna have to answer to the Lord. They’re literally leading people away from the narrow path. And we have the obligation to let people know Christianity’s this narrow path that you’re being called to pursue Jesus and follow Him daily. It’s costly; it’s not glamorous; it’s not this like, fancy thing we do. It costs you. But you find yourself, you find beauty, you find life and fulfillment when you do that. If we cannot disciple new believers in that way, then like it’s on the Church. The Church has allowed people to literally waste their lives. And I don’t think…that by itself is an injustice to the gospel. So we really have to go back and reexamine the way we do things, because it’s not gonna work.

Latasha Morrison 50:58
So good. And I think one of the other things, too, is just as I look at, like, I always say when was Jesus ever comfortable? I even have to remind myself that. Because we, you know, I want comfort. Comfort is secure in a lot of ways. And we don’t, you know, we want security. And so we don’t want to, we don’t long for discomfort. So that’s not something natural. But that’s something that I have to seek out to do the justice work.

Mekdes Haddis 51:34
Exactly.

Latasha Morrison 51:35
You know? And I think that’s some of the confusion that we get is that if it’s uncomfortable, then there’s wrong.

Mekdes Haddis 51:44
Yeah, exactly.

Latasha Morrison 51:45
Or if it’s costly, then it’s wrong. And we really have to, you know, just with so much going on in the world, we really have to reimagine our faith in the sense of do we want Christian dominance? Is this about empire? A world system? There’s definitely something when we say a kingdom mindset is totally different of an empire mindset. And I think that’s what a lot of is skewed in how we do missions and how we’re doing church, and just all the culture issues that we’re having today. What are some of the things that you are hopeful for as it relates to the Church and to missions right now? What are some of the things that you are hopeful for?

Mekdes Haddis 52:42
Yeah, um, so one thing about me is I’m hopeful in Jesus, like anything that is in Scripture, I’m like, it’s gonna happen. You know? (laughter) It doesn’t matter what I see today, it doesn’t matter. Jesus is powerful, the gospel is powerful, and it’s gonna go into the world, whatever. But I think the thing I’m hopeful for is that, truly, like racial justice and reconciliation will lead the path to a diverse and more global Western Church that’s going to be able to participate in the global mission movement. So I think like the West should not sit it out. And I’m hopeful that you know, with the work that you’re doing and people like you are doing, that God is preparing the hearts of the next generation to undertake the work of the gospel. So for me, racial justice is just a bridge to gospel work. You know? Because if we can’t sit in one room and care for one another and weep with one another, than we’re not going to be able to have a body of Christ to live life with. So I’m hopeful as we’re engaging more and more in bridge building work, and that we’re able to see Jesus through the eyes of someone that looks different from us, that our faith will be challenged, our Christianity would be robust enough that we would be empowered to go and share the gospel with the world. And that it no longer looks like the West to the rest, from everywhere to everywhere. Right? That Christianity is not going to be defined by political parties or by like whatever agenda the enemy has, but that we would be able to be defined by Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit. And this power as the gospel that raised Jesus from the dead is what it’s gonna exude out of us as we go out into the world and share the gospel. So when I see especially Gen Z, I’m like, we’re good. We’re good. We’re gonna be able to do this.

Latasha Morrison 55:00
Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Mekdes Haddis 55:01
Honestly, I just love their passion and zeal and like this unwavering desire to stand for justice. But I would say we really have to be able to help them kind of stay on the narrow path. And that’s the work of racial justice and reconciliation. Therefore, that the gospel has a way forward. If we cannot listen to each other, we cannot build God’s kingdom together. So I am hopeful that we can do that.

Latasha Morrison 55:33
Yeah, that’s so good. What is something…and I normally ask this question before I ask the hopeful question. But what is something that you’re lamenting now?

Mekdes Haddis 55:48
Oh, that’s a good question.

Latasha Morrison 55:50
I know, I know, it’s like, I mean, there’s so much to lament. But also, I think it’s also, I like to ask these questions, because there is so much to lament, but lament brings us hope.

Mekdes Haddis 56:02
Yeah, you’re right.

Latasha Morrison 56:03
And there’s also so much to hope for even when things seem hopeless, if our faith is in the One that gives hope. You know?

Mekdes Haddis 56:14
Yeah, yeah.

Latasha Morrison 56:14
And so what is something that you’re lamenting?

Mekdes Haddis 56:19
I would say, the first thing that popped up, as you said, you know, there’s a lot of things, but the first thing that popped up into my mind is diaspora leaders who are so capable and so brilliant and so in love with the Lord, not having the time of day or space or like the exposure to be able to lead in this dialogue. I have so many friends that are African, that are Latino, that, you know, we talk about this stuff, but at the end of the day, they’re not given the space or just the time to sit in rooms that they’re worthy of, not just sitting in but leading. Like if we can only open our ears to hear them, the solution is right there. But they’re still sitting outside of the room because maybe their accent is a little too thick, or maybe because people are afraid that, “Oh, they’re going to ask us for money.” So they’re not even willing to kind of approach them and have a conversation with them. So my heart breaks for, you know, just my friends, for example, in Ethiopia, that wish that the missionaries that come to them would not treat them as like tourist guides, or whatever, that they would at least listen to their vision and the desire that they have for their communities. So for the people that are sitting with so much ability, potential, and power to change the world, but have not been given the mic yet or the space yet. My heart goes out to them.

Latasha Morrison 58:05
Yeah, that’s good. That’s good. And there’s so many people. And I think, you know, as we’re talking about doing any type of missions work, I think, if there’s not people from that community at the table, I think there’s something you have to think about.

Mekdes Haddis 58:31
Exactly.

Latasha Morrison 58:32
I think the same thing when it comes to church planting. I think we have to reimagine. And I’m thinking even as you were talking, like, how, what missions truly is, you know, the sharing of the gospel, and how it has taken on this, you know, the haves and the have nots type mentality. And I’m like that stuff is cued in me too in how I’ve been taught theology and what I’ve experienced. And it’s like you’re bringing someone, something that has nothing and you know, and that’s not true and how we equate poverty. I mean some of the most joyous, spirit filled people that I’ve ever witnessed and seen, are those that we would see that we would think because they’re economically in poverty, that they’re without Jesus, but really, they have more to give. And I remember sitting at a table of just Rwandans saying, “You guys are way more qualified.” First of all, most of the women at that table were way more educated. You know? But you know, seem a little inferior because of American exceptionalism, because of Americans. Where you could run circles around us.

Mekdes Haddis 59:23
Exactly.

Latasha Morrison 59:24
And just having to infuse that. So I think that is also the prayer. Is that that people would stand in that power that God has given them to. And if it’s not, for people creating a space at the table or making room or passing the mic, that you would create the space for yourself.

Mekdes Haddis 1:00:24
Yes. Amen.

Latasha Morrison 1:00:24
That you would build your own table and then she would snatch the mic.

Mekdes Haddis 1:00:30
Amen!

Latasha Morrison 1:00:31
So I’m so grateful for you.

Mekdes Haddis 1:00:34
Thank you.

Latasha Morrison 1:00:35
Basically what you done, Mekdes, it’s like, you’ve, you know, you’ve snatched the mic, and you’ve ignited something here. And you’ve created a tool, a book that’s going to help people.

Mekdes Haddis 1:00:53
Yes. Thank you.

Latasha Morrison 1:00:55
Coming from someone that has experience in it. And it’s not like, you know, I’m just gonna say it. It’s not like a white missionary telling us what to do and what not to do.

Mekdes Haddis 1:01:09
Exactly. (laughter)

Latasha Morrison 1:01:10
You know? This is a part of your lived experience, and I think this is a part of snatching the mic.

Mekdes Haddis 1:01:16
Amen.

Latasha Morrison 1:01:16
And giving a deeper understanding to truly what missions is and how intricately connected to the gospel in essence; it’s everything that that Jesus did. We wouldn’t be here without it. (laughter) Like, and so we have to realized, western culture had to be, would you say missionized. Like people had to be sent for you to be brought into the gift of salvation. You know? And so, so yeah, I’m just grateful for you, grateful for your voice, grateful for the work that you’re doing. I’m looking forward to some of the work that you’re doing now in the new organization that you’re you’re in. And so all of you, this book comes out in September, on September the 27th, I think, to be exact. So A Just Mission. We’re all books are sold. And we will have all the information in the show notes. So thank you so much for spending time with the Be the Bridge community. This is one of our fellow bridgers, as we will say. And we’re so grateful for your heart and your passion. And thank you for just continuing to come along God and the great word that God is already doing. And I’ve just being in that. So, thank you so much.

Mekdes Haddis 1:02:49
Thank you so much. Thank you.

Tandria Potts 1:02:53
Go to the donors table if you’d like to hear the unedited version of this podcast.

Narrator 1:03:00
Thanks for listening to the Be the Bridge podcast. To find out more about the Be the Bridge organization and or to become a bridge builder in your community, go to BeTheBridge.com. Again, that’s BeTheBridge.com. If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, remember to rate and review it on this platform and share it with as many people as you possibly can. You can also connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Today’s show was edited, recorded, and produced by Travon Potts at Integrated Entertainment Studios in Metro Atlanta, Georgia. The host and executive producer is Latasha Morrison. Lauren C. Brown is the Senior Producer. And transcribed by Sarah Connatser. Please join us next time. This has been a Be the Bridge production.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai