Family Accountability in Missions: Korean and Western Case Studies

by Jonathan J. Bonk, ed., Dwight P. Baker, J. Nelson Jennings, Jin Bong Kim, and Steve Sang-Cheol Moon, associate editors

 OMSC Publications

Reviewed by Robert L. Gallagher, associate professor of intercultural studies, Department of Intercultural Studies, Wheaton College Graduate School

THIS 28-CHAPTER VOLUME offers papers and responses, as well as Bible and case studies, given at the Second Korean Global Mission Leadership Forum held at the Overseas Ministries Study Center in New Haven, Connecticut on June 11–14, 2013. Sixty mission executives, practitioners, and scholars from Germany, Singapore, South Korea, and the United States met for this historic conference focusing on issues of family accountability.

Jonathan Bonk, OMSC executive director emeritus and the forum’s convener, wrote in the preface,

Since families are at the core of Protestant evangelical missionary endeavor, mission agencies, sending churches, and families with ministries in a variety of cultural, linguistic, and economic contexts all over the world face a range of expected and sometimes unexpected challenges in regard to the nurture, care, and education of children, the retirement of missionaries, and so on. In addition, missionary families find themselves on the cutting edge of identity issues as their children are reared and educated in cultures quite alien to their home cultures, sometimes marrying across cultures and nationalities, resulting in families scattered across the globe. (p. xiv)

The book deals with the complex issues (especially in areas of family life) that missionaries face when living in cross-cultural societies.Pervasive throughout the volume is the belief that safeguarding healthy mission families should be a primary concern of both sending churches and mission agencies. Further, a better understanding of the dynamics of missionary families and employing trained professionals who specialize in family member care will help achieve this goal.

These ideas appear as a diversity of essays: twelve case studies and twelve responses. Family Accountability in Missions begins with a case study of a Korean missionary family in Nigeria followed by a response. Three chapters dealing with the biblical theology of family, marriage, and children based on the Pauline letters follow. Chapters 6 to 27 unfold a variety of topics with Korean and Western case studies, such as the education of missionary children, mental and emotional health in missionary families, and the realities and concerns of mission finance.

Yong Joong Cho and J. Nelson Jennings conclude by supplying an integrative analysis of the proceedings. In addition, there are three appendices considering the educational needs of Korean missionary children, Korean missionary retirement, and implications for the care of transcultural missionary children. An extensive 11-page bibliography completes the project.

Certainly, the book would benefit from a structural outline to guide readers, and less meandering narratives, which surely reflects the nature of a four-day conference, as well as the editors’ desire to allow Western ears to hear Majority World voices. The volume is not a meticulously-crafted academic volume, yet does provide credible pictures of contemporary real-life issues of families experiencing intercultural encounters that are both sobering and informative.

Check these titles:
Baker, Dwight P. and Douglas Hayward, eds. 2010. Serving Jesus with Integrity: Ethics and Accountability in Mission. Pasadena, Calif.: William Carey Library.

Bonk, Jonathan J. ed. 2011. Accountability in Missions: Korean and Western Case Studies. Eugene, Ore.: Wipf & Stock.

O’Donnell, Kelly. 2011. Global Member Care: The Pearls and Perils of Good Practice. Pasadena, Calif.: William Carey Library.


EMQ, Vol. 51, No. 1 pp. 1114-116. Copyright  © 2015 Billy Graham Center for Evangelism.  All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMQ editors.

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