• Podcast Librarian

The Missionary: There's a fine line between helping and hurting

The Premise (from Apple Podcasts)

A young missionary named Renee Bach left her comfortable life in America to start a malnutrition program in rural Uganda. Folks back home and in Uganda praised her as a model missionary -- an example of the healing power of God’s message. But a decade later she’s accused of masquerading as a doctor and rumored to have killed hundreds of children in her unlicensed clinic. How did Renee Bach end up here? Is she a case of good intentions gone wrong...or a predator posing as a saint? Hosted and reported by journalists Rajiv Golla, Halima Gikandi and Malcolm Burnley.


Series or standalone:

Series


Begin listening to:

Episode 1: The Lord’s Work


Format:

Longform investigative reporting


Host(s):

Journalists Rajiv Golla, Halima Gikandi and Malcolm Burnley


Sound/production quality:

Very good


Rating/age suitability:

Adult; probably OK for older teens, but they may not find it appealing. CW: descriptions of children experiencing malnutrition


Approximate length of episodes:

45 minutes


Curricular ties:

N/A


Similar recommended pods:

For the social media obsession aspect, see Broken Harts. For other pods about people who committed crimes when they thought/claimed they were helping others, see The Dropout.


Podcast Librarian’s Review:

Well, this is a wild story. I love a good long form, non-murder crime(-ish?) pod, and this one hit the spot. Renee Bach was a missionary who, as a young, naïve teen, went to Uganda and started a clinic to help treat malnutrition of children. Having no medical training herself and accused of performing medical treatments that she had no business doing--like blood transfusions--Bach was eventually implicated in the deaths of over 100 children. Her blog posts told a different story (as social media is wont to do), portraying how her clinic (and really, she herself) was rescuing children and having a positive impact on the community. Eventually, people started asking questions, like the parents of the deceased children, and that’s when Renee’s perfect image began to crack. iHeartRadio productions can be pretty melodramatic, and this one is no exception, but it is well-produced and seems well-researched (the hosts are 3 journalists who cover Africa and have been working on this for over a year). One of the most interesting parts of the pod was a dissection of the “white savior,” a role into which many missionaries, particularly young women, can fall into when they volunteer in Africa. The pod also explains how there’s a great deal of competition among missionaries, and they all believe that their methods of running their clinics are superior. There are even “celebrity” missionaries and mean girl cliques! I don’t suspect that this is the case of all missionaries, but as we know, a few bad apples can spoil the bunch. The whole story is fascinating, and incidentally, NPR published an update on the case recently that I recommend checking out once you’ve listened to this fascinating pod.


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