During this time I was also working as a missionary of the Christian church. This fact caused me to have to consider the following question: How do I reconcile the spread of Christianity with the preservation of indigenous cultures?
THE DESTROYER OF CULTURES
Once on a trip to Venezuela, I found myself in a conversation with a young German student at the airport in Caracas as we waited for our out-going flights to go home – he back to Germany and I to Guatemala, where I was living at the time. The country and the people of Venezuela were well known to me, since I had earlier lived there for many years. On this trip, however, I had only returned for a visit.
I had been to Venezuela to conduct a pastor’s training seminar. When I told the young German about my work and that I was doing similar work in several countries at that time, our conversation began to become centered on a theme that I had often had with travelers.
The theme has to do with the effect of Christianity on local cultures. Because of my work in different countries and because of the fact that I often worked with people from indigenous cultures, I was fair game for criticism from other travelers who pop in to a country to visit certain areas in order to get a cultural “experience” and then go back home.
Two Types of Travelers
Actually, I usually appreciated hearing the various perspectives and opinions of these travelers and I usually learned something from what they had to tell me. Gaining such insights from people who have diverse points of view is one of the aspects of my work that I have enjoyed.
Because I generally worked with people at the local level in areas where there were relatively few tourists, the tourists that I did meet in these areas were usually people who were sensitive to cultural issues and appreciated the differences that we have among us as people. This, to me, is much preferable to a second type of traveler that I would meet.