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Read Your Way to More Effective Cross-Cultural Ministry

12.18.19
in Blog, Mission work
15 books to add to your reading list

I’m quick to self-identify as an avid reader. It’s how I learn about people, about God, and about the world. In my life overseas, I’ve frequently turned to books both to help me grow in cross-cultural skills and to find motivation when I feel apathetic.

Below are 15 books that have spurred me on in the calling to share God’s truth cross-culturally. This list just scratches the surface. Please post your own recommendations in the comments.

How-To Books

There’s a plethora of “classics” on every missions reading list. Here are five lesser-known books that are every bit as helpful.

We Are Not the Hero

We Are Not the Hero: A Missionary’s Guide for Sharing Christ, Not a Culture of Dependency by Jean Johnson
I consider this a must-read for Westerners, especially North Americans, working among cultures of the majority world. As the author challenges, may we all examine our hearts to see where we hold onto a savior complex in ministry and instead pursue humility, sustainability, and reproducibility.

Ministering in Honor-Shame Cultures

Ministering in Honor-Shame Cultures: Biblical Foundations and Practical Essentials by Jayson Georges and Mark D. Baker
I found myself in awe of the beauty of the gospel as I saw it through a different lens, and nodding my head as the authors’ personal stories resonated with my own experience working in an Asian culture.

Expectations and Burnout

Expectations and Burnout: Women Surviving the Great Commission by Sue Eenigenburg and Robynn Bliss
From a large survey of women working in cross-cultural ministry, the authors conclude (this is not a spoiler as it’s in the title!) that expectations can lead to burnout. I recommend this to women particularly at the beginning of the ministry journey, though I think there’s something here for men, too.

Church Multiplication Guide

Church Multiplication Guide Revised: The Miracle of Church Reproduction by George Patterson and Richard Scoggins
My husband and I aren’t church planters, but we gleaned great help from the practical tips and stories about building reproducibility into all we do, starting from the very beginning.

A Better Way Make Disciples Wherever Life Happens by Dale Losch

A Better Way: Make Disciples Wherever Life Happens by Dale Losch
My connection to Crossworld aside (the author is Crossworld’s president), this is the best book I’ve read about the calling to be a disciple-maker who also works a job. My husband and I don’t quite fit into the typical missionary mold, and this book inspired us to see our part in the future of global missions.

 

Biographies and Memoirs

These stories of individuals who, despite obstacles and weaknesses, have been faithful in service to God, will remind you of the power God displays through ordinary people.

Evidence Not Seen

Evidence Not Seen: A Woman’s Miraculous Faith in the Jungles of World War II by Darlene Deibler Rose
Darlene Deibler was a young wife and missionary to the tribes of New Guinea (now Papua) when World War II broke out and the Japanese invaded. She writes with beautiful vulnerability and hope about what she endured through four years in a POW camp. This is one of my favorite books of all time.

God's Smuggler

God’s Smuggler by Brother Andrew
Brother Andrew dedicated his life to smuggling Bibles behind the Iron Curtain and encouraging the persecuted church around the world. His many stories of specific and miraculous answered prayer will blow you away and help you to grow in your own faith and prayer life.

The Insanity of God

The Insanity of God: A True Story of Faith Resurrected by Nik Ripken
The author traveled around the world to meet members of the persecuted church and tell their stories of courageously worshiping and serving God in spite of danger. The stories (which at times require a box of tissues) show just some of the many ways God has turned persecution into a blessing in recent history.

Fire Road

Fire Road: The Napalm Girl’s Journey through the Horrors of War to Faith, Forgiveness, and Peace by Kim Phuc Phan Thi
Kim Phuc was just nine years old when she was captured in one of the Vietnam War’s most famous and horrifying pictures after being near-fatally burned by napalm. I loved reading about the many faithful Vietnamese Christians God brought into Kim’s life, and who continued the work after the foreign missionaries had been forced to leave.

 

Fiction

One of my very favorite ways to learn about a place and people is through stories. If you’re interested in a specific country of people, read books written by or about them, read memoirs of their history, read tales of foreigners traveling to their country. Here are a few of my favorites from a variety of peoples.

Americanah

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
A novel written by a Nigerian about a Nigerian who immigrates to America.


The Sympathizer

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
A novel written by a Vietnamese-American about a Vietnamese refugee to the U.S. The story starts at the end of the Vietnam War.

Four Seasons in Rome

Four Seasons in Rome: On Twins, Insomnia, and the Biggest Funeral in the History of the World by Anthony Doerr
A memoir of an American living in Rome for one year.

Girl at War

Girl at War by Sara Nović
A novel written by a Croatian-American about a young girl surviving the Yugoslavian war.


Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper

Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China by Fuschia Dunlop
A travel and food memoir (with recipes) by a British chef about her experience as the first Westerner admitted to a Chinese cooking school.

An Unnecessary Woman

An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine
A novel by a Lebanese man about an elderly Lebanese woman reminiscing on her past, including surviving war, and making sense of her life.

 

Have books to recommend? Post them in the comments below.

Crossworld worker Chloe and her family make disciples in East Asia.

The people in this story are real, but their names have been changed to protect their privacy.

comments disclaimer

What do you think? Your comments and questions on the topic of this blog are welcome. (See our brief policy.)

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