So how can it be that ten white American evangelical church people can think that they can fly into Haiti and attempt to take thirty-three children out of that country with nothing more than a note from a pastor?
This incident calls up terrible echoes sad history of Western missions when it was thought that taking children out of their native cultures and eradicating all memory of their homes was equated with proclaiming the Gospel.
Anthea Butler writes on Religion Dispatches:
The misplaced missionary impulse to save the heathen children and impart “civilization” by loading a bunch of Haitian kids in a bus and heading for a resort with a swimming pool, to share the “good news” and be adopted, is simply ludicrous. No reputable missions organization works that way. Still, despite the group’s irresponsible and crude behavior, I suspect that many in America thought that the missionaries would be on a transport home by now.
Frankly, if anyone in the group had even bothered to read Haiti’s Wikipedia page, they might have thought twice about a plan to take Black children out of the country without paperwork. By disregarding even the most basic history of slavery, missions, or colonial activity in Haiti, their missionary impulse failed them miserably. With all of the missions already on the ground in Haiti, what made them think they could just take children out of the country? The ignorance and naïveté of this group is staggering, except when considered from the perspective of the evangelical imperative of Go ye into all the world. Last time I checked, however, that scripture did not mean take children and make them Christians by spiriting them away to be adopted by other families.
Unfortunately, Missions history shows otherwise. In the United States, and many other countries, families of non-Christian groups were subjected to Christian missionaries in the nineteenth and twentieth century who took children away for adoptions or at the very least to attend church schools. Many were never reunited with their parents, and some came to hate their parents as a result of the indoctrination. Haitians are well attuned to missionaries as several missions’ organizations have been in the country for more than fifty years. So before the Haitian government is criticized for arresting the New Life group, remember: they understand what it is like to have the United Nations and many religious relief organizations operating within their country—and they know what’s legal.