by Alexis Kenny
Paul Bechtold Library Publications, 2015.
—Reviewed by Ken Wiggers, retired from HR Administration and Management Training, Wycliffe Bible Translators.
Some of the best ‘help’ literature grows out of encountering challenges. This is the case of Alexis Kenny’s handbook, Married in Mission. Upon returning to the U.S. from a very ‘intense’ 13-month, cross-cultural orphanage ministry, Ali and her husband were disappointed because they could not find readily available resources to assist them in processing their mission experience as a couple. Where this ‘dead end’ stopped, Ali’s research started.
Ali created, disseminated, and analyzed two multi-organizational surveys: one for married missioners and the second for ministry staff. She also conducted correspondence interviews with still other individuals. Her findings and perspective are assembled into this very useful, broad-based handbook. It is focused on the wide range of issues many couples undergo at various stages within their ministry involvement.
Kenny has identified seven different phases within an extended, international mission commitment: the pre-departure periods of (1) discernment and (2) preparation; the (3) beginning, (4) middle, and (5) end of the abroad experience itself; and finally, the post-assignment stages of (6) reentry and (7) integration. Each chapter is dedicated to one of these seven phases, and includes three interactive exercises “concerning marriage and service…(as) a means for individuals to purposefully engage with their vocational roles as both spouses and missioners.”
This is not a book you read through and file on your bookshelf. It is truly a workbook to keep at one’s side throughout ministry. While the handbook concentrates on spousal dynamics, concepts presented and exercises offered can be effective for any two or more people serving in close proximity. Gleanings from this material could be utilized in a variety of contexts: team building, marriage seminars, and even personal self-discovery.
While she writes from a Catholic experience and perspective, Ali makes this resource one that is accessible across ministerial theological boundaries. This handbook is about growth in relationships, minimizing the more unpleasant surprises that can occur in ministry, and holistic development (spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually).
Both Ali and her husband, Patrick, are enrolled in James Madison University’s Doctoral Program of Psychology. Their shared drive to serve with and for others will challenge you when you avail yourself of this valuable resource.
Check these titles:
Bridges, William. 2003. Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change. Cambridge: Da Capo Press,
Gottman, John M. and Silver, Nan Silver. 1999. The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc.
Kohls, Robert L. 1984. Survival Kit for Overseas Living: For Americans Planning to Live and Work Abroad. Yarmouth: Intercultural Press, Inc.
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EMQ, Vol. 52, No. 2 pp. 221-222. Copyright © 2016 Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMQ editors.