Conversations about the religious and spiritual life on the other side of fundamentalism
152:  Josh Brazier: Missions, ‘American Saviors’, Serving and Becoming Teachable

152: Josh Brazier: Missions, ‘American Saviors’, Serving and Becoming Teachable

Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 11.10.53 AMJosh Brazier is the executive director of the Kaiizen Foundation which is a non-profit organization that arranges volunteer groups of young people to travel to orphanages around the world where they undertake building, cleaning up, renovation, friendship and relationship projects in South America, Africa and India. I invited Josh onto the show with a suspicion that we would have a great deal to talk about together with respect to multi-cultural competency and interculturalism.


Josh grew up in Southern California, always a good Mormon boy, a Deacon’s quorum president, and a priest quorum assistant he demonstrated strong leadership skills from an early age. But right up until his mission he’d never felt a serious ‘no’ to any church expectation that came his way.   Yet he’d also grown up in a household of strong compassionate women and lawerly political debate. This combination of intuition, intellectual strength and empathy would eventually come together while he was serving in the Spain Malaga mission where  his outlook on life changed significantly in light of 9/11 and a heart breaking experience while he was serving as the Branch President in Ceuta.


After leaving his mission Josh eventually ended up at BYU where he set up a non-profit that coincided with the Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004.  His fund raising for the Tsunami relief gave rise to a concerted effort to develop the Kaiizen Foundation.  Kaiizen has been going for 10 years now and we reflect on what it means to go into the Global South as a white American, shouldering the ‘burden’ of ideological and economic privilege.



  1. Gail

    This was a great interview. The great whit American taking a version of fixing things their way around the world. Americans on the whole would be better entering a new culture with humility. It would be better ti sit in a humble manner and ask “what can you teach me” first before opening the mouth.

    Missionary work HAS to change. Giving members permission to be themselves in the ultimate priority. Until that is done this church will not succeed in planting any type of lasting message world wide. As I see things from my perch here in The Netherlands we are losing ground so to speak.

    But alas I could go on forever.

  2. Carolyn sharette

    I love the heart Josh brings to life and to his interactions with others. It is a wonderful expression of life to be involved in following our hearts and having the courage to step out and interact with others- near or far- human to human. It takes courage to respond as we are led to relationship with others and are made aware of their dreams and desires. As we are taken into their confidence and as they share those dreams and desires- which may range limitlessly- from desire for food for themselves or their families, shelter, education, dreams of a life sustaining business or warm clothing- our hearts respond and our minds begin to create and possibilities arise in us and we are motivated through love to ask what is the meaning of our life’s intersection with theirs and what we might offer them that could enhance their journey.

    As we move along the development path we learn a lot of lessons- about what helps, what hurts, what love means, what it does not mean. International development is an amazing journey.

    I feel Josh’s story was a beautiful and humble example of that learning process. I felt the hostess uses her developed views of ID to label (and even shame) those who may be in the beginning stages of understanding and experience in international and culturally impacted assistance work.

    I feel her perspectives serve to stifle, not enhance, the process of developing human hearts and minds and discourages rather than encourages people to embark upon this, perhaps the most meaningful of life’s journey- that of reaching out, of connection, of personal investment in others, of sharing, of building capacity.

    I could be reading this all wrong- I will do further research on her views- but I hope others will not be hindered in their desires to connect because they will make missteps (it is inevitable). We learn many things through doing them.

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