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"Caring for the least of these": Christian women's short-term mission travel

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 2009
Dissertation
Author: Kersten Bayt Priest
Abstract:
This dissertation explores how Christian women strategically activated social networks to do short-term mission (STM) and take on new leadership roles, creatively reinventing and rejuvenating themselves through international volunteerism. A growing religious movement, STM carework is a democratized grassroots phenomenon, typically featuring bottom-up entrepreneurial agency rather than top-down central planning and control which lends itself to women's involvement. This research used global ethnography and visual analysis to examine and theorize how social capital and resource brokering was built locally and globally, bridging and linking women within two respective groups across international spaces: (1) an incorporated not-for-profit medical professional group that traveled regularly to Africa; and (2) a suburban women's ministry group from a megachurch who conducted a large women's retreat in the Domincan Republic and also worked in an orphanage. The first group included team members from mainline, Catholic and evangelical traditions. The second group incorporated Latina women from the megachurch's Hispanic sister congregation, and included four Latina women on the traveling team. Each group's activities and narratives illuminated the crucial role of cultural brokers to mediate material and symbolic resources essential to the achievement of their work on behalf of those deemed "needy." Also, examination of normally private marital gender relations revealed that couples negotiated fender roles either in ways they had already practiced (egalitarian) or in exceptional ways (unbending gender roles.) Research on Christian women's STM resource brokering contributes to studies on congregations, volunteerism, civil society, social capital, faith-based initiatives, international development, women's religion, tourism, pilgrimage, and religion and globalization. Both professional and stay-at-home mothers benefitted from regularized church/state funding structures (pooled tax-exempt donations) which facilitated costly travel not dependent on personal/family finances. An emerging pattern of Christians (often Pentecostal) in the Global South connected with resourced caring women from the Global North, who eschew suburban materialism for international service projects, has enabled heightened pilgrimage-like experiences which translate into constitutive narratives of personal transformation and resource brokering activities. The strategies of STM women and their intentional efforts to establish international fictive kin disrupt notions of "home"/"away from home" as well as theoretical assumptions of structural alterity conceived as "authentic" versus "inauthentic." Images of needy individuals were imprinted upon volunteers' memories and displayed through ubiquitous photos that (re)informed themselves, their families, co-workers, financial supporters and numerous networks of their own Christian gendered caring identity. This research suggests such dense interconnections of relationship mediated through media, donations, travel, and narratives, are interactions indicative of new global religion which has "gone public" as Christian care "without borders." Specifically, the overlap of various STM brokers (resource and cultural) in delimited "zones of contact" is a rich node of globalization which needs further investigation because it is within such temporally delimited nodes that juncture and disjuncture takes place. And it is here that misunderstandings and unintended consequences may derail the lofty aims of those who seek to truly make a difference in a suffering world--for the "least of these."

TABLE OF CONTENTS ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ill TABLE OF CONTENTS vi ABSTRACT viii CHAPTER ONE: WOMEN'S CARE ON A SHORT-TERM MISSION TRIP 1 Prepared to Go Serve 1 Getting There 4 Delivering Aid to the Needy 7 Time to Rest and "Bond" 11 Travelers Honored 14 Returning Home and Remembering 16 Short-Term Missions as a Research Focus 18 Civil Society and Christian Women's Volunteerism 20 Christian Women's Travel as Tourism and Pilgrimage 22 Expressive and Material Culture 25 Research Questions 27 Methodology and Data 27 Outline 31 CHAPTER TWO: CARING WOMEN AS "RESOURCE BROKERS" 32 Introduction 32 Theoretical Considerations 33 The Decision to Link 37 Global Resource Brokers 39 What Resources Did Women Broker? 40 How Were These Resources Brokered or Distributed? 45 Why Were The Resources Distributed This Way? 50 STM "Resource Brokers" and Their "Cultural Brokers" 53 Conclusion 67 CHAPTER THREE: STM WOMEN'S CARE AS ANEW EMBODIED RELIGIOUS PRACTICE 70 Introduction 70 Contrasts Between the Mission Teams 73 The Congregation as Node 75 Planning 77 Gathering Resources 82 Teaching 84 Music and Worship 87 Hospitality and Prayer 95 vi

Concluding Observations 102 CHAPTER FOUR: STM WOMEN UNBEN D GENDER TO DELIVER CARE 108 Gender and Feminism in Historical Context 109 STM Women's Gendered Experience With Church and Clergy Ill STM Women's Gender Negotiation Within Work and Family 117 Project Rescue Married Mothers 118 Theoretical Considerations and Group Comparisons 127 Horizon Bible Church Mothers 130 Conclusions 146 CHAPTER FIVE: CONSTRUCTING THE CARING STM WOMAN AND "OTHERS" IN IMAGES 149 Methodological Considerations: Visual Analysis for Globalization Questions 150 Theoretical Considerations: Visual Research, Travel, and Globalization 152 Overview of the Data 153 Researcher Reflexivity and Confusion/Conflict Over Images 155 Meaning: Photo Subjects, Excitement, Memory and Authenticity 158 Audiences for Images of Need and Demonstrations of Loving Care 169 Expressive and Material Culture 178 CHAPTER SIX: CONCLUSION 181 APPENDIX A: LYRICS TO THE SONG "HEALING RAIN" 199 APPENDIX B: DEMOGRAPHIC INFORMATION ON TWO STM GROUPS 201 APPENDDC C: INTERVIEW PROTOCOL 203 REFERENCES CITED 205 VITA 221 vii

ABSTRACT This dissertation explores how Christian women strategically activated social networks to do short-term mission (STM) and take on new leadership roles, creatively reinventing and rejuvenating themselves through international volunteerism. A growing religious movement, STM carework is a democratized grassroots phenomenon, typically featuring bottom-up entrepreneurial agency rather than top-down central planning and control which lends itself to women's involvement. This research used global ethnography and visual analysis to examine and theorize how social capital and resource brokering was built locally and globally, bridging and linking women within two respective groups across international spaces: 1) an incorporated not-for-profit medical professional group that traveled regularly to Africa; and 2) a suburban women's ministry group from a megachurch who conducted a large women's retreat in the Domincan Republic and also worked in an orphanage. The first group included team members from mainline, Catholic and evangelical traditions. The second group incorporated Latina women from the megachurch's Hispanic sister congregation, and included four Latina women on the traveling team. Each group's activities and narratives illuminated the crucial role of cultural brokers to mediate material and symbolic resources essential to the achievement of their work on behalf of those deemed "needy." Also, examination of normally private marital gender relations revealed that couples negotiated fender roles viii

either in ways they had already practiced (egalitarian) or in exceptional ways (unbending gender roles.) Research on Christian women's STM resource brokering contributes to studies on congregations, volunteerism, civil society, social capital, faith-based initiatives, international development, women's religion, tourism, pilgrimage, and religion and globalization. Both professional and stay-at-home mothers benefitted from regularized church/state funding structures (pooled tax-exempt donations) which facilitated costly travel not dependent on personal/family finances. An emerging pattern of Christians (often Pentecostal) in the Global South connected with resourced caring women from the Global North, who eschew suburban materialism for international service projects, has enabled heightened pilgrimage-like experiences which translate into constitutive narratives of personal transformation and resource brokering activities. The strategies of STM women and their intentional efforts to establish international Active kin disrupt notions of "home'V'away from home" as well as theoretical assumptions of structural alterity conceived as "authentic" versus "inauthentic." Images of needy individuals were imprinted upon volunteers' memories and displayed through ubiquitous photos that (re)informed themselves, their families, co-workers, financial supporters and numerous networks of their own Christian gendered caring identity. This research suggests such dense interconnections of relationship mediated through media, donations, travel, and narratives, are interactions indicative of new global religion which has "gone public" as Christian care "without borders." Specifically, the overlap of various STM brokers (resource and cultural) in delimited "zones of contact" is a rich node of globalization ix

which needs further investigation because it is within such temporally delimited nodes that juncture and disjunctive takes place. And it is here that misunderstandings and unintended consequences may derail the lofty aims of those who seek to truly make a difference in a suffering world - for the "least of these." x

CHAPTER ONE GOING ON A SHORT-TERM MISSION TRIP - TO DELIVER CARE Prepared to Go Serve On a bright crisp fall morning in 2007 I hurriedly finished last minute errands, located my passport and proof of travel insurance, pulled on a bright pink and brown screened logo T-shirt, strapped on a fanny pack with notebook, pens and digital recorder, wheeled three fifty-pound international travel footlockers out to my driveway and waited for an airport limo to arrive. A middle-aged mother, church member, fulltime professor and PhD candidate, I was accompanying a team from the Chicago area on a two-week trip to South Africa designed to "bring aid to Africa's children." As a participant- observer, I joined seven women and two men traveling abroad on a "short-term mission trip," something which 1.6 million adult US church members do every year (Wuthnow and Offut 2008, 218). Months earlier I had been informed that my college would fund me to go as part of doctoral research. With a good deal of planning and the help of work colleagues and my husband, my classroom and home responsibilities were covered. While I did not have to "raise support" as my nine full-time working fellow travelers did, I joined them 1

faithfully for evening preparation meetings in a heart and vascular office - the daytime worksite of one of our "team" nurses. The team leaders were nurses and they shared leadership tasks between themselves and the group. These women leaders led in prayer, collected paperwork with relevant personal information, dispensed papers with due dates for travel funds, shared guidelines for writing good "support letters" to one's networks, collected each traveler's money, exulted in donations received, and excitedly shared stories from prior trips. Half our time was spent discussing two books geared to raise our awareness of global poverty: The Skeptic's Guide to the Global AIDS Crisis (Bourke 2006); and What Can One Person Do? Faith to Heal a Broken World_(Alkire and Newell 2005). As our departure date neared, we all were encouraged to recruit and participate in a 5K Run fundraiser. In the morning mist I joined my mission team on race day and rapidly processed runners' paperwork (and releases for children), gave them their official number and pins, collected donations, handed out brightly designed Project Rescue logo T-shirts, and rang a cow bell at the finish line. Over 200 people walked or ran the park's lakeside course. Obligated by the example of women who had acquired dozens of brand new boxed tennis shoes and raised over a thousand dollars at a joint yard sale, I solicited donations from local businesses and church networks to collect school supplies for a needy rural township preschool and cloth for a fledgling women's sewing cooperative. Along with my Protestant, Catholic, and unchurched fellow "missioners" (their self-designated identification), we were commissioned at a rural Methodist service by an ardent pastor who wore ministerial garb brought from South Africa on one of his own

3 short-term mission trips. His church was home to two traveling nurses for whom medical short-term mission trips had, in their words, transformed their lives. The church's praise band sang a song specially composed to "send off' our group, and all the missioners stood in the center aisle while church members promised in a scripted verbal "covenant" to remember and pray for each one serving in Africa. At the left of the church altar donations were generously displayed - like a store window cornucopia—with boxed tennis shoes, stuffed animals, school and medical supplies, sewing items, and lovely children's clothing displayed on hangers. Additional goods in Hefty bags and boxes were stashed in the back. After the service sandwiches were ordered by one of the missioner's husbands and we all set to work packing. Sorting items required using half the church pews to organize everything. Twenty fifty-pound capacity footlockers - the standard international travel weight limit per luggage piece ~ were coded with duct tape by destination (four different South African localities), filled carefully to their weight limit, checked on a scale, entered on an official ledger to be double-checked at the airport, and wheeled to the back of the sanctuary. By the end each traveler had their allotted containers which would be brought with them the following week to the airport. The two men in the traveling group (often) and two missioners' husbands lent their muscle, gave advice and broke down many boxes into a neat stack.

4 Getting There In the terminal, I fell at the curb and scraped my knee while nervously locating my group - a circumstance which in South Africa enabled me to be used by a missioner nurse as a demonstration for HIV/AIDS adults learning to properly dress wounds. Our group found each other and created an airport distraction with all our containers. Bright "Project Rescue''' logo T-shirts further distinguished our group as did one missioner who was in full khaki as though prepared for safari. When one woman was late, a nurse quietly suggested to me that we should pray for her. The missing nurse arrived and we began to check in. Slightly over-weight containers required us to stuff over-flow into personal carry-ons in an effort to get everything to Africa. Two designated missioners negotiated at the counter and the rest followed our self-proclaimed "mother hen" leader to the exchange kiosk. Waiting tourists were overheard conversing about "sneaky little dirty kids" at a Caribbean port they had visited on their cruise. Their comments were a marked contrast to the message emblazoned on missioner T-shirts - "Help Africa's Children." Back at check-in, tearful good-byes were exchanged with family members staying home. We unlaced shoes and placed personal items into plastic bins for X-ray scanners, and guards scanned for metal on our bodies. With purpose, team members wheeled their personal belongings to the gate and boarded for their first destination, Washington, DC. A lengthy unexpected delay on the tarmac meant we missed our South African Airways flight. What ensued in Washington was a great deal of negotiation and cajoling of airline personnel. Promises were made to reroute our ten tickets through various European destinations - and then rescinded. Meanwhile the group swung

between emotions of resignation (it'll all work out if we talk reasonably with personnel), frustration (are they playing games with us?), hilarity (the Mennonites were bumped too!), and disappointment (we're going to miss our scheduled African cultural event and the huge ethnic worship service). Eventually we were given hotel/dining vouchers and booked for the following day. As we all wearily checked in and slowly congregated in the luxurious hotel dining area, one missioner said: "This is good, we needed to do more bonding." Over wine and dinner we learned about one another's lives, such as how missioners had divorced problem men and found the "love of their life." Earlier in the day each of us was given a booklet of devotional thoughts and readings written up by one of our members. My roommate, who became my travel partner for the duration of the trip, faithfully laid out her Bible, a journal, and an additional devotional book alongside her new booklet for early morning "time with God." Over the next two weeks she would get up early each morning for this "time with God" and would also take additional time out of each day for reading, Bible study and prayer. The trip involved spiritual discipline. Our direct flight to South Africa took twelve hours and, as our leader had promised, there was a lot of good food and free movies on individual screens. We could actually track the plane's flight on a map and get the view from a sky-cam on top of the plane. Group members chatted, exercised their legs and slept. Upon arrival we picked up our 20 containers - and slowly hauled them along with our personal carry-ons and bags. From behind carts piled high with luggage we greeted our waiting white South African hosts: two elderly women and two men. One nurse quickly rented an airport cell phone for more effective international and domestic communication (two others had personal

6 cell phones). The reusable nametags I had printed up for each missioner helped facilitate greetings for our hosts. One thousand pounds of supplies, ten missioners and personal belongings were squeezed into one truck and three vehicles. We headed to our homestay destinations for the evening. Five of us accompanied the tall white-haired woman home to a gated Pretoria neighborhood. Rustic but exquisitely designed, it was perched on a hillside overlooking the valley and city beyond. Across the tops of giant jacaranda trees laden with purple blossoms we could hear exotic bird calls. We relaxed on the balcony with pre-dinner drinks and watched as city lights began to twinkle. Personal news was quietly exchanged with this revered South African woman pastor, beloved by the nurses. It was on a trip to visit her daughter (whose family was transferred internationally for job reasons) in the United States that she had attended the rural Methodist church in which our group was commissioned. One nurse had been particularly captured by her stories of South Africa's poverty and the historic white Methodist church's mission to post-Apartheid blacks. As we sat together in the dusk and moved indoors to prepare the meal together there was a sense of deep satisfaction among the missioners, as though they had come home. The adjacent bungalow we were given for the night was built as a spiritual retreat and fully furbished to enable withdrawal from daily life: kitchenette with tea and cookies, inspirational decor with South African carvings and dried lavender, and several dozen books for spiritual reflection. Each of us was given a water bottle with a built-in purifier and a few protein bars for our trip out to the township and tribal areas, which our host warned would have their physical challenges. On our bed pillow was a brightly

7 embroidered cross and folder which included both tourist information on Pretoria (newly renamed Tshewana) and information about their church and its various mission projects - to which our missioners were variously assigned: two at the city church mission compound; two at the city home for AIDS-affected children; three at the tribal home of a women's sewing cooperative; and my nurse partner, our carpenter, and myself at the township home of a black couple who use their compound as a site for a preschool, an AIDS orphans support group and an adult HIV/AIDS support group. Delivering Aid to the Needy The following day our containers posed a logistical problem. We were constrained by our host's car size. The truck was not available. Containers were opened and items removed and reorganized. According to the master schedule, I was listed as a nurse. When it was discovered I was a teacher, our South African host encouraged me to help the township preschool teachers get more organized, review the accounts and go on home visits with teachers to get a sense of which parents could be paying tuition and which ones could not. She reasoned that if I went along on home visits my American status might be a help to "encourage responsibility" (presumably in paying tuition which was owed). She also thought it would be good to teach the orphans sewing skills such as "how to turn a collar" (a skill I do not possess) and to help organize all the donated clothing which had piled up in a shed. Alternatively, my nurse partner had told me prior to the trip that I was to teach some stories, songs and lessons to 85 children so I had prepared and

even organized craft items of colored yarn, construction paper and popsicle sticks. Problematically, we also could not immediately carry the carpenter's table saw, vice and drill which limited him to only hand tools for teaching skills to the HIV/AIDS adults. Somewhat distressed we got in the vehicle without important items which would be brought later. As we drove away from Tshewana into the open countryside our purpose felt less certain. But the exotic scenery and our hostess's interesting commentary about the region's pre-Apartheid history refocused us on South Africa's history and the context of people we were going to meet. We passed many partially-built abandoned houses on the highway. The distant belching smokestacks of giant factories attested to thriving industry. However, conditions readily visible along the road evidenced a post-Apartheid economy which has not benefitted tribal areas adequately. First, we dropped off a nurse to join two others in the tribal area (a community/region under jurisdiction of a chief) home of a women's sewing cooperative. Amidst scampering chickens, the three ladies came out, in the distinctive garb of the Zion Pentecostal Church, and warmly greeted and hugged everyone, especially the nurses whom they already knew from prior trips. The nurses also recognized uniformed children walking to school and excitedly called out, waving to "their kids," as they passed. Containers of cloth and sewing items were left with the women: three missioner nurses and three tribal seamstresses. My group was shepherded back into the car and driven further into rural territory to a township which had seen a great deal of improvement in its conditions. Small homes of red handmade clay bricks and tin roofs stood side by side divided by carefully-strung wire fences to demarcate neat

9 gardens growing both decorative and edible plants. Many homes were connected to both electricity and indoor plumbing, although as we soon discovered, electricity and water was unpredictable and sometimes unavailable for indefinite periods of time. Our arrival at the large open compound of our township hosts was the occasion for all the 85 preschoolers to run to the fence and excitedly jump, shout and greet the new American guests. As children swarmed us for hugs and got mouth kisses from my nurse partner, adults began to appear. Brightly clad preschool teachers with earrings and cell phones tucked in decorative crocheted necklace pouches emerged from two small concrete aluminum roofed classrooms to embrace us. The dignified township host and her husband emerged from their private home at the back of the property, and more warm hugs were exchanged and introductions made. A newly successful contractor, Mr. L was busy overseeing the HIV/AIDS men as they finished recent home improvements - ostensibly for our benefit: a brand new kitchen with shiny appliances, glass-paned cupboards, counter tops and grouted tile, as well as a brand-new second bathroom with tub, sink and toilet for our use. Only a few years earlier, during straightened economic times, Mr. And Mrs. L had been convinced by a visionary black Methodist woman pastor to turn their neighborhood bar business into a place for spiritual outreach. Since then they are supported in their efforts by the inter-racial (formerly white) Pretoria Methodist mission church and by international short-term mission guests - like ourselves. The first job at hand was to bring in the large footlockers and store them along the wall in the family's formal dining room. Then we immediately headed out to begin what would become a pattern, being the observers of the morning preschool songs and interactive

10 verbal exercises - all conducted at the top of the children's lungs - for the viewing guest audience with ubiquitous camera and film recorder lens. My missioner partners and I were given our own rooms and, in the days to follow, fed bounteous meals served with delicious domestic wines at the hardwood dining table on dishes from the china cabinet. Two women domestics cooked and cleaned daily. We visited over meals with the teen-aged daughter and two sons, and discussed "the South Africa situation." As Mr. and Mrs. L sat at either end of the dining table we heard them explain in measured terms their views and daily personal interactions from a Christian businessman and Christian nurse's standpoint. Family news and gifts were exchanged and subtle suggestions made for how we as guests could "serve" in the compound during our stay. Mr. and Mrs. L were deeply concerned about the growing needs of township children, particularly those affected by parental/guardian deaths, most likely due to AIDS ~ thus their provision of a place for HIV/AIDS support groups to meet (youth once a week and adults on a daily basis). I soon discovered that the preschool's function was as much nutritional as educational: the children received two generous hot meals each day. Mrs. L was most closely involved on a daily basis since her husband ran the family construction business. The compound became our base of service and we only ventured beyond the gate accompanied by our host when she had plans for us to meet specific people whom she thought were important to connect with. Our presence represented a resource both materially and symbolically for the benefit of our hosts in the achievement of their goals. For example, we were taken to a middle school at which Mr. L's friend was principal,

11 and, as "honored guests" seated at the front of the room, we sat through several presentations of HIV/AIDS education taught by a team of black and white adult South Africans who themselves are HIV-positive. Afterward we shared tea with the administration. We also were taken to meet orphans and "observe" the dilapidated, yet neat, homes in which they raised their siblings. We walked to meet a personal friend of Mrs. L who wished to be contracted (along with her network of craftswomen) to make beaded jewelry and ornaments. Our nurse was taken to meet specific individuals Mrs. L knew who were dying of AIDS in order to instruct HIV positive women from the AIDS support group how to recognize symptoms and handle the final stages of the illness. Others of our team also were used in similar ways, brought to schools and used for health exams, HIV/AIDS education, and strategic planning for the import of computers. The material items in our footlockers were also carefully counted, entered in legers by our hosts, and divided for distribution - in many cases with signatures by the recipients. The actual physical distribution was done by the missioners in a public manner and recorded in hundreds of photos and many hours of digital recording. Time to Rest and "Bond" On our only weekend in South Africa the team organizers planned a retreat, together with our hosts (white and black), at a game preserve for a "break" to both "bond" with our own American group and "connect" with our South African partners. The excursion into "the bush" was a welcome luxury - and fully paid for by our

12 missioners within our total cost. We were grouped together by fours in quaint two-level thatch-roofed bungalows which adjoined an ingeniously designed boulder-enclosed outdoor patio where we shared evening bar-b-ques with wine and hot breakfasts. We hiked trails to swimming pools and various promontories for views of the preserve and exotic wildlife. The lush foliage surrounding the guest restaurant, shops and indoor pool attracted brilliant yellow weaver birds with their hanging nests. Some in the group were driven by an elderly white South African host for a day trip to another preserve which featured the famous "big five" animals of Africa: lions, elephants, leopards, rhinos and buffalo. Many pictures were taken with great awe and enthusiasm. The black South Africans had never been to the preserve and were excited to see giraffes and zebra. Many exhausted missioners napped while their black hosts happily visited and laughed together. Getting all together was a goal of the white South African woman pastor, so she gathered all the women for poolside milkshakes and conversation - on the missioner budget. After the evening bar-b-que she invited each individual to tell about themselves and their work. The depth of American missioner's feelings about their trip - and particularly the people they had met - was conveyed through trembling voices and teary eyes. Two women's birthdays were celebrated: a black South African university library administrator and a nurse missioner who explained to all, "Even when I can't be in Africa, all I think about is Africa." Our informal worship service on Sunday morning was held outdoors with chairs in a circle. African members sang music in Tswana and led the whole group in choruses we had grown accustomed to hearing the preschool children sing: "I searched for Jesus

Full document contains 232 pages
Abstract: This dissertation explores how Christian women strategically activated social networks to do short-term mission (STM) and take on new leadership roles, creatively reinventing and rejuvenating themselves through international volunteerism. A growing religious movement, STM carework is a democratized grassroots phenomenon, typically featuring bottom-up entrepreneurial agency rather than top-down central planning and control which lends itself to women's involvement. This research used global ethnography and visual analysis to examine and theorize how social capital and resource brokering was built locally and globally, bridging and linking women within two respective groups across international spaces: (1) an incorporated not-for-profit medical professional group that traveled regularly to Africa; and (2) a suburban women's ministry group from a megachurch who conducted a large women's retreat in the Domincan Republic and also worked in an orphanage. The first group included team members from mainline, Catholic and evangelical traditions. The second group incorporated Latina women from the megachurch's Hispanic sister congregation, and included four Latina women on the traveling team. Each group's activities and narratives illuminated the crucial role of cultural brokers to mediate material and symbolic resources essential to the achievement of their work on behalf of those deemed "needy." Also, examination of normally private marital gender relations revealed that couples negotiated fender roles either in ways they had already practiced (egalitarian) or in exceptional ways (unbending gender roles.) Research on Christian women's STM resource brokering contributes to studies on congregations, volunteerism, civil society, social capital, faith-based initiatives, international development, women's religion, tourism, pilgrimage, and religion and globalization. Both professional and stay-at-home mothers benefitted from regularized church/state funding structures (pooled tax-exempt donations) which facilitated costly travel not dependent on personal/family finances. An emerging pattern of Christians (often Pentecostal) in the Global South connected with resourced caring women from the Global North, who eschew suburban materialism for international service projects, has enabled heightened pilgrimage-like experiences which translate into constitutive narratives of personal transformation and resource brokering activities. The strategies of STM women and their intentional efforts to establish international fictive kin disrupt notions of "home"/"away from home" as well as theoretical assumptions of structural alterity conceived as "authentic" versus "inauthentic." Images of needy individuals were imprinted upon volunteers' memories and displayed through ubiquitous photos that (re)informed themselves, their families, co-workers, financial supporters and numerous networks of their own Christian gendered caring identity. This research suggests such dense interconnections of relationship mediated through media, donations, travel, and narratives, are interactions indicative of new global religion which has "gone public" as Christian care "without borders." Specifically, the overlap of various STM brokers (resource and cultural) in delimited "zones of contact" is a rich node of globalization which needs further investigation because it is within such temporally delimited nodes that juncture and disjuncture takes place. And it is here that misunderstandings and unintended consequences may derail the lofty aims of those who seek to truly make a difference in a suffering world--for the "least of these."