by Marguerite G. Kraft, editor
How are North American women to move beyond perseverance in cross-cultural work to creativity, satisfaction and effectiveness?
Edited by Marguerite G Kraft. William Carey Library, P.O. Box 40129; Pasadena, CA 91114, 2003, 226 pages, $16.99.
—Reviewed by Victoria R. Gascho, director of mission-wide preparation and training, Greater Europe Mission, and board member of Women of the Harvest.
How are North American women to move beyond perseverance in cross-cultural work to creativity, satisfaction and effectiveness? Moreover, how will they view, interpret and reconcile their own Western mindsets, their sending agencies and partners, the disparate expectations by themselves and others, various gender role views, and their own unique sets of personality, giftedness, passion, place and circumstance? How can they look at the whole and say with conviction, “Yes, this is valuable for the Kingdom, and this is right for me?”
Moving far beyond commonly rehearsed themes of cross-cultural integration, family responsibilities or job descriptions, the ten authors address carefully chosen issues that women in missions must confront. Most of the writers ground their work in substantive research; at the same time, they speak out of acute personal experience, reflection and personal transformation.
Frontline Women primarily addresses women in cross-cultural ministry. However, it also confronts in broad, significant ways the entire missions community with profound concerns such as relationship to leaders, singleness and sexuality, loss, loneliness, ministry role confusion, emotional health and negotiating cultural differences. Mission leaders, member care workers, missionaries-in-training, and both women and men on the frontlines are well served by the writings that approach those common issues with articulate and fresh voices.
Rather than issuing one-size answers for dilemmas missionaries encounter, most of the authors offer strategies to guide women in constructing their own principled decisions and journeys. Donna Downes provides a particularly good example of a helpful strategy in her discussion of ways to negotiate existing or new roles. Marla Campbell’s conversation concerning forming realistic expectations serves a similar purpose, as does Diane Collard’s discussion on response to loss, and Ruth Ann Graybill’s approach to meeting emotional needs.
Readers may argue with some of the generalizations or be disturbed by certain theological approaches of the writers. However, since missionary practitioners should be among the most versed in exploring strategic issues and cultural nuances with open minds, most will be able to re-phrase, re-think and adapt the more controversial themes to their own milieus. Each chapter is worthy of good consideration. Let none of them be wasted!
Check these titles:
Cunningham, Loren and David J. Hamilton. 2000. Why Not Women? A Biblical Study of Women in Missions, Ministry and Leadership. Seattle, Wash.: YWAM.
Foyle, Marjory. 2001. Honorably Wounded. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Monarch.
Gilligan, Carol. 1982. In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women’s Development. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University.
Hales, Dianne. 1999. Just Like a Woman: How Gender Science is Redefining What Makes Us Female. New York: Bantam.
Robert, Dana L., ed. 2002. Gospel Bearers, Gender Barriers: Missionary Women in the Twentieth Century. Pasadena, Calif.: William Carey Library.
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