Sunday, October 09, 2011
An eBook Review: The Unlikely Missionary: from Pew-Warmer to Poverty Fighter by Dan King
Dan King is a wonderful bear of a guy with a heart as big as he is. Several years ago, he began the blogsite BibleDude.net as a means of deepening his walk with Jesus and on that blog, he made discoveries that have changed his life. And if you read this book, those discoveries are likely to change yours as well.
It's a quick read with long-lasting impact. Dan describes himself as anything but a 'powerhouse writer.' And in one sense, I suppose he's right. He does not have a particularly poetic or 'literary' style. But here's what he does have: a very distinctive voice, one that communicates clearly and effectively. And most of all, he is as real as they come. And kind and funny, too.
In nine brief chapters, Dan takes us on a life-changing journey - from his initial research into the disastrous impact of poverty on the two-thirds world, to making contact with an NGO called Five Talents, to a 2009 trip to Africa, where he joins a teaching team in Kenya and Uganda for a two and a half week outreach experience.
There are two things that make this book a must-read for me:
1.) the beauty of Dan's heart and the enthusiasm of his words as he tells us his story; and
2.) the down-to-earth, practical suggestions he makes for all of us to open our own hearts and minds to
a.) the need, and
b.) the ways we can contribute to alleviating that need.
Each chapter has a praxis section, with clear, simple ideas for how we, too, can make the jump from pew-sitter to poverty fighter. And each chapter has at least one personal story - of a child, a pastor, a mother - who has been changed because of the hands-on advice, teaching and financial assistance they have received. But none of the money is handed out gratis; instead, Five Talents and their partnering agencies offer micro-loans, inviting the recipients to build their businesses, market their products well, budget wisely and then....repay the loan so that others in their community can experience the life-changes that come with a little bit of training and a whole lot of work.
A special chapter for me was the one in which Dan describes a brief safari/retreat their group squeezed into their itinerary between countries. This was not a fancy 'perk' for the visiting team, but a necessary, helpful and ultimately refreshing change of scenery. Re-discovering the magnificence of God's creation in the African setting proved to be exactly what was needed to step from Kenya into Uganda with energy and enthusiasm.
My husband and I had the privilege of living in an African country over 40 years go. We loved what we did, the people we met and the beautiful meld of savannah plains, wild animal preserves and majestic waterfalls within a 100 mile radius of our home during those two years. God created the whole world, not just our north American corner of it, and discovering the beauty of both land and people in a faraway place is a gift of grace that cannot be duplicated. And for me personally - and, as it turns out, for Dan, as well - seeing God's glory reflected in the world around us leads 'further in and higher up.'
Dan is honest about the cumulative and overwhelming sense of despair that can quickly rise when faced with the myriad problems faced by our African brothers and sisters. But he listens to wise advice: "Be content with doing your small part." That is all any of us can do.
But imagine if ALL of us did our own small part. What kind of change could we see? What kind of hope could we bring? What kind of God would people see through our combined efforts?
Near the end of the book, Dan reflected on his experience with these lines:
"I'm not sure if God put a calling on my life through this experience, or if the experience lifted the veil from something that He has put inside of every person. After all, we are created in His image, so maybe we do have a piece of that compassionate heart that defines His character."
I really like the idea of a mission trip like this 'lifting the veil,' uncovering the eyes of our hearts and showing us that imago dei within each of us. And then, of course, responding to what we find with compassionate action.
I highly recommend this book for any Christian wanting to go deeper in their discipleship journey. Working through the suggestions at the end of each chapter will light a fire in your spirit and take you places you've never dreamed of...even if you never travel anywhere but cyberspace.
I received a free copy of this ebook from the author and agreed to do a review on my blog in exchange. But I would gladly have paid to read it and the words written here are as true as I can make them.
Check out Dan's blog at http://BibleDude.net