Date read: 03.15.2017. How strongly I recommend it: 7/10.
I see millennials gravitating to a book of this type, people who want their lives to matter to God and yet realize that expectations must be tempered by reality. Christians interested in an honest take on the missionary venture will find this refreshing, even if the author’s self deprecation of her missions call does tend to be a bit copious. There is a very strong “anti-hero missionary” overtone within these pages, an admirable stance to take—for missionaries, after all, are not superheroes. Because of this, however, I feel that many long-term missionaries might find this book a bit hard to swallow.
Dangerous Territory tells the story of life in an unmentioned country in Southeast Asia, recollecting not only the author’s experiences, but also her internal questioning and uncertainties. There is a noble trend in modern Christian literature to unfold not only the positive breakthroughs of missional outreach, but also reveal the doubts about God and faith. I appreciate this approach, popularized by Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz. I do feel, however, that Dangerous Territory tends to be a bit too redundant on this matter. Doubts? Uncertainties? Questions about faith? All good. But let’s not forget that God is at the center of it all. I find that this narrative has an enormous focus on the overseas worker and not enough focus on the the things beyond our vision, namely, the advent of the Kingdom of God. To be sure, we all have this tendency toward myopia. Still, I would have liked a more uplifting approach in stories about Gospel transformation and missionary service. On another note, I was growing very interested in hearing the end of the stories of the young ladies being discipled in the book. As I neared the last few chapters, I was frustrated to find that there was little mention of their lives. To be fair, the author did not know the details of their lives at present writing, but I found this lack of closure (or at least lack of details) rather vexing.
My early Christian life, like the author’s, was influenced and altered by missionary biographies. And though I too, in retrospect, have come to recognize the oft inflated depiction of a missionary and the exaggerated examples of early pioneers, I am still impassioned by their sacrificial life. It is a noble thing, I agree, the author’s desire to level the pedestals of missionary’s past. They were, after all, simply human, fractured jars of clay, no more spiritual than modern day missionaries may be. But still, they paved the way for the modern missionary venture. And though mistakes were made and some intentions were not always blameless, I hold in high regard those who pioneered obscure regions of the earth for the Gospel’s sake. I say this because the book tends to carry a certain subtle sense of distaste for the missionary venture. Perhaps the fact that this undertone strikes me negatively is because I know it to be true; because I too grapple with the term “missionary”, wrestle with the negative connotations that the missions call entails, and strive to live out my missional calling in a noble way, untainted by the negative associations that often intermingle with pure obedience. Having said that, the author does bring to the table fresh challenge and encouragement for new terms and definitions of the missionary venture. These interludes though, at times, feel out of place in the book’s layout, and I struggle to fit them into the ongoing storyline. The “flow” of the book feels a little broken and disorderly.
The author’s creative style and storytelling ability is evident throughout the book. There is a certain artistic approach here, one might even say a revival of good artistry in Christian literature. There also exists a sort of poetic prose that I appreciated greatly. The author quotes missionaries of the past, some well-known, others forgotten in the annals of time. Because of this, it is clear that the author did a fair share of reading, research, and exploration of the missionary enterprise.
It brings me great cheer when I learn new words in a new book. This was not your typical antiquated missions book, written (rather poorly) by a family member or friend of the deceased missionary. The internal struggles were well articulated, descriptions of places and landscapes and exotic fruits illustrated in detail.
I find myself hashing over the insights in this book, lingering, unfortunately, on many of the negative points. This is a compliment to the author, as she has brought to the surface innumerable concerns about how we do modern day missions. A new paradigm ought to be pursued. A certain amount of frustration has been elicited—perhaps the author’s goal. Am I encouraged and inspired by the story? In part, yes. But instead I am more contemplative than impassioned.
10 POINT RATING
I give Dangerous Territory a 7/10.