My goal for several years has been to read 50 books in one calendar year – 52 weeks – but I have always fallen off the rails around 25 books. This year, I’m twice as determined. I will be posting short reviews of each book with my thoughts and any recommendations I received for the book as well as a link to purchase the book from Amazon, (though I recommend checking your local library first). If you have questions, leave a comment! If you want to follow my journey, find me on Goodreads.
I started following Jamie the Very Worst Missionary sometime in 2012 during my time on the World Race, probably because Liz or Helena suggested it or shared one of her posts that resonated with our own outlandish experiences in international ministry. I picked up her memoir (or whatever), The Very Worst Missionary, from Barnes & Noble on the day it released and saved it for my camping trip.
I laughed within the first few pages and had to share her words immediately. Her journey of being planted Jewish, raised a bit non-traditionally, only to find herself back in church in her 20s resonated with my own story. She details her re-entry into the American Church with guffawing tales of Bible studies and women’s events that we can all identify with on some level. It was refreshing to read a raw, realistic take on these things. I have zero animosity for the Church, but still find some of our practices amusing and hilarious.
The real crux of Jamie’s story revolves around the five years she and her family spent as missionaries in Costa Rica. The struggles she recounts and the systematic flaws in our “sending process” she identifies are all too real to me. Having spent 11 months on 11 different short-term mission trips (literally) I felt all the shame and sadness for the little we actually accomplished in these countries due to the poor mission model we were sent under. This system we’ve created in the Church is sad and ineffective. I truly believe God uses all our aspiring attempts to bring greater good to His kingdom and His work, but we could be a little less “off the mark” in the way we do things. International ministry is hard. We have created a mindset that Americans are superior in some way and we try to coerce people into Jesus. They say yes just because they know it will make us happy, then we leave and no relationship is built, no long-lasting impact is actually effected. among other poor practices, Jamie touches on the awful cycles we create by “visiting orphanages” only to leave again. She approaches a lot of our feel-good ideas and attempts at Ministry with frankness and truth, exposing the brokenness we like to cover with #blessed and #ministry as often as possible.
I have several dear friends who are long-term missionaries in different countries and I fully support their work. They are brave, humble, servant leaders in their new communities and they are thriving. Almost all of them have adopted the idea that it’s better to equip someone with the resources around them than it is to bring in piles and piles of non-native resources to bring a community or group to the American standard of success or prosperity. I have learned so much in following their journeys, but most notably how they simply do life with people. It’s not about churching people or evangelizing them into something. It’s about communing genuinely – no agenda, no “project people” like we tend toward to exact our personal standards of success.
I can tell I’m getting long-winded here so I’ll settle down and leave you with this: Jamie has written a lot of truth and has asked some very hard questions that don’t get answered by the end of this book. She challenges a system we continue to give a wide berth with a blind eye and she does so out of love, not out of hatred or bitterness. It’s a fantastic read and one I will continue to mull over as I do ministry, change jobs, and seek to love the people around me. Also, this book is hilarious. She mentions unicorn farts if that will help convince you to get your hands on this book.
Goodreads rating: 4.43/5
My rating: 5/5 stars
Days read: April 21-22