Of Stillness and Storm by Michele Pheonix is a novel about a missionary family in Nepal. The story is told from Lauren's point of view. She met her husband, Sam, at a short term Bible school during their college years. After several years of marriage and the birth of their son, Ryan, Sam feels called to go to Nepal to reach primitive tribes in the Himalayas. Despite Lauren's reservations about how the move would affect their son, they spend several years raising funds and commit to a four-year stint in Nepal.
The primitive conditions are difficult - no hot water, unreliable electricity, fierce rainstorms during monsoon season, etc. Sam spends three weeks at a time out ministering to the needy in remote areas, then one week at home preparing for his next trip. Lauren works at a job she does not find fulfilling, and Ryan becomes more and more distant and angry. In the midst of this, Lauren reconnects with an old friend on Facebook, and becomes emotionally entangled in his life and recent cancer diagnosis. Through flashback chapters, we learn more about Sam and Lauren's relationship, and through Facebook and chat messages, we learn about Lauren and Aidan's friendship.
[Spoiler Alert - skip this paragraph is you don't want to know what happens in the end!] The tension in this family becomes even greater when Ryan walks in on Lauren talking to Aidan on Skype. He is already struggling with the fact that his dad is gone most of the time, that he did not want to move to Nepal in the first place, and now he thinks his mom is having some kind of affair. The family has been in Nepal for two years and Ryan is 13-years-old when he attempts suicide, changing the family dynamics once again. Sam and Lauren both struggle as they wait to see if Ryan will recover. He does, and Lauren takes him home to the States for therapy and rehab . . . while Sam chooses to remain in Nepal and continue his missions work.
The author of this book is the daughter of missionaries and now advocates, consults and teaches on topics relating to Missionary Kids (MKs). In this novel, she is trying to shed light on the difficulties that some MKs encounter. This is not necessarily the case for the majority of missionary families, however, I found this book very disheartening and really wanted it to have a more satisfying ending. [Note: I received this book free from Booklook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review.]
I Am Going is a non-fiction book reminding Christians that we are all called to spread the gospel. It does not necessarily state that it will be easy, but it is a more positive look at mission work. This is a short book, broken up into chapters about going on mission: with your church, to your neighborhood, to the nations, to your job, with your job, and anywhere. Both of the authors share examples from their own missions work over the years.
This is an easy-to-read book. It was informative, although I did not find it particularly exciting or motivating. The authors are both associated with Southern Baptist seminaries, so there is some emphasis on the Baptist denominations beliefs that would make this a good extra reading in seminary courses. However, those same ideas might distract others from the main message of this book - that we are all called to spread the Gospel. [Note: I received this book free from B&H Publishers in exchange for an honest review.]
Honestly, I'm not sure that either of these books were extremely motivating or encouraging as we look at opportunities for a missions trip. Instead, my motivation comes from the belief that we are all called to share the love of Christ with others and my desire to step outside my usual comfort zone in serving the Lord. There are several places we've considered going as we have missionary friends in these areas - Manila, Philippines; Kenya, East Africa; Andhra Pradesh, India. However, we'll see where the Lord opens a door (hopefully) in the coming year.
Have you been on a mission trip? Please share your experience in the comments!