When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert of the Chalmers Center for Economic Development is a great resource for Christians considering how to best attempt to fulfill the task of the Church in declaring the Gospel of Jesus Christ in both words and deeds without causing more harm than good to others and ourselves.
The book is divided into three sections. The first is a discussion of the problem of poverty from a Biblical perspective.
The second builds on this foundation to address key issues-relief, rehabilitation, and development – which must be considered in designing and following through with helping others over a period of time. The authors address ways in which the Church and individuals have done harm by not considering these three issues.
Finally, the third part applies all the concepts to help offer a set of strategies designed to help alleviate material poverty. The first chapter in this third section (chapter 7) is helpful for those who have felt called by God to consider a short-term mission opportunity with suggestions on how to evaluate a short-term mission opportunity and suggestions on how to improve the impact of short-term missions.
All this information is challenging and can be a bit overwhelming, especially for those who aren’t involved in designing strategies for poverty relief here in one’s community or abroad. Yet, for anyone who has been challenged by “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need, but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?” IJohn 3:17, this book can educate and equip in order to transform one’s good intentions into genuine lasting change for those whom believers have been called to serve.
Book review by Karyl Boring
While this book’s target audience is likely first-time mission trippers, it can be a helpful and thought-provoking read for seasoned short-termers, as well.
With a grandmotherly tone, Martha VanCise walks her readers through every step of a short-term ministry experience. From helping you select a missions organization to coaching you on how to best relay your experiences when you return home, VanCise is your guide!
While each mission trip is unique in destination, purpose and group dynamics, Van Cise focuses her work on items that most have in common: spiritual preparation, packing, travel tips, food safety, cross-cultural communication, teamwork and more.
We at The Boaz Project recommend that all of our short-term team members read this book. It is designed for use in groups, with questions and assignments to promote interaction over the material, but an individual willing to give it a thorough read can gain a lot, as well.
Review by April Jurgensen
Foreign to Familiar by Sarah Lanier is a fabulous little fast read which paints broad-stroke pictures of cultures around the world. Lanier theorizes that much of a culture is determined by its climate. For example, hot-climate cultures tend to be less time-oriented and more laid-back than cold climate cultures.
Using this model, Foreign to Familiar examines seven different scales for evaluating a culture, such as relationship vs. task orientation or inclusion vs. privacy. Then it predicts where a culture will land on that scale based on its climate.
Along the way, Lanier offers examples from her many experiences overseas and makes suggestions of how to apply the information in your own travels or with those of a different culture who live nearby.
It’s the best resource I’ve found for explaining all the world’s cultures at once!
Review by April Jurgensen
It’s no secret we’re living in a new era. Technology and information revolutionize nearly every aspect of our daily lives.
Today, travel is quick (think a 14-hour plane ride is bad? Imagine three months on a boat!). Much of the world speaks English or has technology that helps them translate from it. Communications can be sent around the globe nearly instantly.
Naturally, these changes have ushered in new strategies for intercultural missions.
In A Common Mission: Healthy Patterns in Congregational Mission Partnerships, David Wesley examines how these changes can enhance and challenge congregations as they partner with missionaries to reach the lost. Based on interviews with nearly 200 individuals from numerous countries, this book synthesizes the information gathered in hopes of safeguarding healthy partnerships between local churches and mission agencies.
The first four chapters of this resource address the challenges of cross-cultural ministry, from issues of power to financial inequity.
The remainder of the book addresses five themes for best practices which arose from Wesley’s research into missional partnerships. Rather than presenting a perfect model for partnerships, he looks at principles which can be adapted and applied for each unique relationship.
Review by April Jurgensen
American Church: Beware
Though Revolution in World Missions by K.P. Yohannan is written in an autobiographical style, it is full of tough confrontations of the American church. A pioneer in the movement to equip national leaders to reach their own nations for Christ, Yohannan tells the story of his call to ministry, his vision for Asia, and the founding and growth of Gospel for Asia.
To begin, the author addresses the dire spiritual needs found around our globe, particularly in Asian, third world nations. He makes the case that nothing aside from the gospel will remedy the situation.
Then he addresses the American church’s lackadaisical approach to world evangelization, “God did not shower such great blessing on this nation for the Christians to live in extravagance, in self-indulgence and in spiritual weakness.”
Having come to believe that America, who had lead the charge in missions for so many years, had lost its sense of urgency to reach the nations with the gospel, Yohannan came to the conclusion that Asia will be won for Christ by Asians. The least the American church could do is support them.
The author supports this theory by explaining that it requires fewer finances for nationals to reach their own people than to train and move Westerners to the field. This nationally-lead movement also prevents the lost from thinking that Christianity is a Western religion. It encourages the Asian church to be financially independent, and reduces political, language, and cultural barriers.
On the whole, I believe Yohannan offer the American church some valid confrontation and a sound approach to ministry: the work being lead by nationals. I would disagree with him, however, when he takes a stand against social justice ministries. I do believe that—if carefully coupled with the gospel—demonstrating social concern can flesh out the gospel of Jesus Christ and make His love tangible to the lost.
Review by April Jurgensen
Travelogue, editorial, journal entry, comedic script—Jesus without Borders manages to be all of them as it details the author’s journeys through 13 countries in just over two years.
Gibbs, determined to increase his own knowledge of Christianity and the world, set out to visit Christian brothers and sisters living out their faith in cultures drastically different from his own. As a favor, he recorded his thoughts along the way, so we could be challenged, too.
Each chapter (other than the prologue and epilogue) is titled with the name of the country visited and reads much like a humorous diary entry. Gibbs records his activities and conversations: the tourist sights he saw, church services attended, observations about people and culture. In addition, he records lessons learned as he reflected on what it means to live out a Christian faith in the culture he visited.
Of course one of my favorite chapters was, “Russia.” Having lived there for two years and visited somewhere in the ballpark of 100 times, I could envision his movements around the Izmailovo complex, his awe at Red Square and the chastisement he received during a Russian Orthodox Church service. And I appreciated his description of the people he met and how they changed his perceptions about their country.
Though written in a humorous style (with footnotes that induce belly laughs), Gibbs does a great job of challenging typical American Christian thought. He also identifies some real potential pitfalls and challenges in missions. I appreciated the way he encouraged his readers to think and even change.
I would highly recommend this book to the person whose travel has been limited. But even the well-seasoned traveler will resonate with Gibbs’ descriptions, conclusions and challenges. Anyone who’s breathing would enjoy his humor!
Reviewed by April Jurgensen