Originally written December 2016
“The temptation is to take a photo the most poverty stricken compound. Photos showing children with flies and mucus on their faces and with dirty torn clothes, standing next to a heap of stinking garbage…those are the “perfect” pictures to produce a “Wow!” back home. That is certainly not an everyday sight in the Western World.”
This quote came from a very interesting article entitled “why do Missionaries take such embarrassing photos?” written by an African pastor who found himself tempted to take pictures of Africa’s poorest regions, and share them on Facebook.
As a missionary I understand his struggle of looking for pictures that portray the spiritual need of the mission field, and my specific calling. These greatly used in ministry presentations where you can give a Biblical background to them, but they do great damage on Facebook
Pastor Embewe explains it this way:
Facebook is another context altogether. There is need for greater sensitivity when posting on the Internet and especially in social media because the presentation is not to a localised group. Although we often choose the “friends” who see our posts, those posts are often shared beyond our initial circle of “friends” and can end up upsetting the feelings of the local people who are all being painted with the same brush.
That was why I stopped in my tracks last week in Freetown, Sierra Leone. I realised that my hosts would see my postings and get hurt. It is vital that we are more sensitive and balanced when posting photos on the Internet and commenting on them. Some comments add insult to injury. The photos are bad enough. The comments—which sometimes can be very sarcastic—suggest that the people being served by the missionary are stupid and need to be helped to think. This must be avoided at all costs.
In other words Missionaries should not share their “wow pictures” online
For me this article spoke to a different challenge since I work with children who LOVE to have their picture taken.
It isn’t sinful to share a few of those pictures along with a Bible verse or explanation of my calling to the young people of Barrouallie and ask for prayer. But its way too easy to begin sharing photos of Barrouallie children for likes or comments online, and when that happens I’m exploiting (using) them for my own purposes.
God does provide “wow pictures” for missionaries; but these are meant for personal prayer time or public ministry presentation. Anything other than that is exploitation.