Saturday, September 1, 2012

On being an expert

Hal and I are once again in the throes of preparation for a trip to Latin America. This time we will be in Bolivia for the month of September. The big event is a consultation we are calling “The Gospel and Culture in the Aymara Context,” and seeks to address one of the crucial issues Aymara Christians face in this time of an indigenous revitalization movement. The Bolivian Friends Church (an Aymara church) invited us to lead this consultation, partly based on Hal’s anthropological background and years of experience among Aymara peoples. We strongly sense God’s leading and have been preparing for some time now.
It’s turning into a very participatory event, with five sponsoring organizations and many leaders. Hal is the coordinator, always a challenge when done over the Internet, but things seem to be coming together.
We received the event poster this week, and it’s impressive. But we are having a very Quaker reaction. It features us as the special invited guest experts and makes it clear that we have our doctorates, thus, I suppose, qualifying us to lead. Actually, what excites us about this consultation is the level of participatory leadership. What up-front leading is done will be shared with six others, all of whom are Bolivian, five of whom are Aymara, all of whom could be called “experts” in the topics they will be sharing. And most of the work of the consultation will be done by all the women and men who show up, bringing their own experiences, concerns and dreams.
The poster gives the idea that we’re coming to lecture. Some of my least favorite words include “lecture,” “expert,” and “doctor.” In Spanish the word for “lecture” is “ponencia,” and is linguistically related to “imponer,” or “impose” in English. It’s what the expert doctor, usually someone from outside the context, comes to do to the passive but eager learners. Ouch.
Okay! Okay!  So I’m exaggerating a little. My Quaker preference for understatement is now clicking in.  But I do wish the publicity could underscore the names of all the people who are giving time and leadership. And someone needs to warn people that they are coming to work, not passively listen to lectures.
Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us all.


  1. Irt sounds like a powerful event. I am holding everyone involved in the Light.

  2. I'm not afraid that the publicity will diminish other people's contributions. You and Hal simply won't allow that. You're so creative in such circumstances. I'll pray though.