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By Dan Canavan
The moral and personal values of people across
the world vary greatly. The focus of this article
will be on the latter in view of one’s worth as a
person and how it helps or hinders missions.
The American missionary must be concerned
with the mindset of the people to whom he
ministers rather than his own set of values.
In Ireland, a person’s worth is disproportion-
ately defined by the property he owns. For
hundreds of years, many Irish were tenant
farmers mercilessly exploited by the landed
gentry. The ownership of property gave inde-
pendence and financial stability. In Ireland,
property is the preeminent statement of
wealth, not stocks or other investments. Even
today, when an Irish person achieves owner-
ship of property, he achieves status in Irish
society. It is common knowledge in a subdivi-
sion for one to know who is living in a rented
house and who owns his own house.
When a missionary moves into a “rented
house” and continues in long-term rental
accommodations, he is viewed in an overly
negative light by his neighbors and those to
whom he is trying to minister. He is not seen
as stable and permanent but as temporary and
prepared to leave. This creates uncertainty
and hesitation in building relationships.
Additionally, rented houses are notoriously
poorly maintained. “Good enough for a renter”
is the motto.
4 BIMI WORLD
Number 3, 2017
This effect is compounded when a missionary
rents long-term in a semi-derelict building he
has “fixed up” for church services. The same is
true when he uses a community hall or school.
Catholics and Protestants built ornate church
buildings throughout the villages and cities of
Ireland to appeal to the strong emphasis of the
natural man on property ownership. In Ireland,
this emphasis is magnified. While worship
is wholly spiritual, buildings either facilitate
or hinder investigation into the truth of the
Gospel by the unsaved. A missionary does not
need a cathedral. However, when he continues
to house the church in what the Irish view as
an inferior property, his message is muted or
ignored by the unsaved.
Because of the Irish obsession with ownership,
positive economic activity is unduly channelled
into property. Simple four-bed duplex houses
that were bought in southeast Dublin for
$65,000 in 1992 peaked at approximately
$800,000 in 2007 and are worth $600,000 in
2017. Rents have gone from approximately $500
in 1992 to $2,700 in 2007 to $1,400 in 2012 to
$3,000 a month in 2017 for a four-bed duplex
in southeast Dublin. Additionally, the 2007
peak was accompanied by a strong devaluation
of the dollar. Missionaries, churches, and
church members are regularly ousted from
rented accommodations by greedy landlords.