Jennifer's books

Goodbye, Vitamin
American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land
Mrs. Hemingway
Poetry Will Save Your Life: A Memoir
The Princess Diarist
Watch Me Disappear
Hello, Sunshine
Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success
A Man Called Ove
The Heirs
Our Souls at Night
White Fur
Confessions of a Domestic Failure
The Map That Leads to You
The Little French Bistro
Love the Wine You're With
Always and Forever, Lara Jean
Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore
The Party
New Boy

Jennifer Curry's favorite books »

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Book Review: The Very Worst Missionary

The Very Worst Missionary by Jamie Wright

Every now and then, you read a book that makes you laugh and makes you think. For me, The Very Worst Missionary by Jamie Wright is just that book. The author gained fame as a blogger while on the mission field in Costa Rica. However, I was not one of her many fans – simply because I had not found her yet. And, now that I have found her, I am going to be telling everybody to READ HER BOOK!

The book, essentially, is Jamie’s story. It covers her personal religious background, which is unique. And, then, her teen pregnancy and marriage to her husband (they’re still together). It was during these trying years as a young mom that she became involved in The Church (capital “C” on purpose) and was wholeheartedly invested in mom’s groups and what have you. After her husband embraced The Church, they became the go-to couple for church service and spent time working with the youth. After serving as youth group leaders, they felt called (or so they thought) to be missionaries. They ended up working as missionaries in Costa Rica for several years.

It was during these years on the mission field where Jamie began to really address some tough faith questions and general concerns about Christian missions as a whole. She came to discover that maybe what she was doing was not so helpful after all, and she began to feel concerned about being a cog in the Christian missions machine.

Aside from the memoir part of the book, Jamie’s reflections on her personal journey, marriage, and the Christian community are at times hilarious and profound. She stays true to her faith, but she raises challenging questions about why the North American Christian community does some of the things it does. But, while she pokes fun at some of the ultra-churchy experiences she had, she also makes fun of herself. And, she treats those who do some of the same things gently acknowledging that those moms’ groups were vital to her.

And, for anyone new to her writing, she does not hold back. She is crass and uses plenty of colorful language. Anyone easily offended by four-letter words should pass on this one – but you will be missing out. Then again, maybe these are the same people who would withdraw financial support because a four-letter word means you can’t serve (such as happened to the author). Or, if you don’t want to find out about how North American missions are often viewed by those who live in foreign countries, you might want to pass.

After they left Costa Rica, her husband took on a church leadership role where he works to advise churches about missions, and Jamie advocates for the changes that need to be made. So, this is not a book about bashing missions. It is a book that tells one couple’s experiences and lessons they learned and what they want to change.

To give you a better idea, here are some of my favorite quotes (I practically highlighted the whole book):

“It’s because our beliefs tend to change over time, so much that in many ways I’m not even the same person I was when I first fell in love with Jesus. I mean, if I met 1998 Christian me, with her gold-cross necklace and her mom bob and her cheap, cheesy platitudes today? I’d probably give her the finger.”

“It was only a theory, as I was still pretty new to this Christianity thing, but I suspected that Jesus might have leaned more toward meeting the felt needs of the poor and the suffering, and less toward providing flavored coffee, comfortable chairs, and acres of accessible parking for throngs of upper-middle-class suburbanites.”

“Costa Rican Christians didn’t need North American Christians to teach them how to follow Jesus, and Costa Rican people didn’t need any more well-intentioned foreigners to come and “help” them. They were just fine before we got there, and they’d be just fine when we left.”

“Our calling is not what we do as much as it is who we are while we do it.”

“When we do what we were designed, equipped, and educated to do best, in the company of a God who continually nudges us in the direction of love, I think that’s when we find ourselves in the most productive, most compassionate, most life-changing spaces.”

* I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

* It was released this week, so go ahead and order it or put it on hold at your local library! For my Spartanburg friends, the audio is available on Hoopla. Hooray!

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