September 28, 2011

When Helping Hurts: Book Review

Without giving too much away about this book, I would like to say that if you are interested in or are doing mission ministry then this book is well worth the read. As this book covers a wide berth of information, you will find that the author writes this book in the same format that you might cover it in a college course. The information is formative, detailed with great examples, and ties it all together with biblical examples and great insight that will leave the reader really looking into their ministry.

Personal Thoughts: The part I enjoyed most about this book were the overarching questions that were provided at the start of each chapter. I enjoy comparing my personal thoughts and beliefs at the start of the book, and then see how they are transformed as I become more knowledgeable or perhaps less ignorant of what is actually taking place. Some may call it the truth or a version of the truth. I guess it really comes down to whose perspective you are looking at. My perspective is tied to my personal truth in Jesus Christ and as I read through this book I felt the authors did a great job illustrating Jesus’ love for each of us, and our ultimate purpose as we interact with each other in a friendly and loving way.

My main focus for reading this book was to get some insight on the effect of Mission trips and the lasting effect it has on the communities they serve and each other. I would like to share a short story from the book:

            Elephant and Mouse were best friends, One day Elephant said, “Mouse, let’s have a part!” Animals gathered from far and near. They ate. They drank. They sang. And they danced. And nobody celebrated more and danced harder than Elephant. After the party was over, Elephant exclaimed, “Mouse, did you ever go to a better party? What a blast!” But Mouse did not answer. “Mouse, where  are you?” Elephant called. He looked around for his friend, and then shrank back in horror. There at Elephant’s feel lay Mouse. His little body was ground into the dirt. He had been smashed by the big feet of his exuberant friend, Elephant. “Sometimes, that is what it is like to do mission with you Americans,” the African storyteller commented. “It is like dancing with an Elephant.”

Personal Thoughts: After reading this story I really began to think how often this is true. American Christian Mission teams can at times be a little too excited, with too much on there plate that the time spent in the community becomes more about the project and the product than it does about the people and the relationships. I truly believe there are times that immediate relief is required and needed, but too often teams look more at what they can report back to their church then on the “lasting” impact they will have on that community. I do understand there is room for differences or focuses for each mission group, I do belief that mission trips should also focus on building up lasting relationships with community leaders, while providing continual support after leaving. This can be done in many forms of monthly communication and can also be done with financial assistance if needed, and always prayer.

This book will raise those questions and provide wonderful opportunity to reflect on your mission trip vision and your objectives. If you keep an open mind, keep Christ as the center of your thoughts, I think everyone can walk away from this book with a little more knowledge or understanding on how we can assist each other without hurting.


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