by David A. Livermore
Serving with Eyes Wide Open helps short-termers understand cultural pitfalls and gain cultural intelligence.
Baker Books, P.O. Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516-6287, 2006, 188 pages, $12.99.
—Reviewed by James E. Plueddemann, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois.
“The world is crawling with foreigners,” exclaimed a student in one of my cross-cultural communication classes. Cultural intelligence is often missing in the over one million Americans who travel abroad each year to do short-term mission work. While there are several good resources to help short-term missionaries know how to apply for a passport and where to get yellow fever shots, Serving with Eyes Wide Open is based on solid research and fills an important gap in the literature. It provides examples to help short-termers understand cultural pitfalls and gain cultural intelligence.
David Livermore begins with a succinct overview of the world and the global Church. It is important for short-term missionaries to realize that the Church outside of the United States is growing rapidly, often faces persecution, recognizes spiritual warfare and is becoming a major sending force. Such an overview may help overcome the “here-I-am-you-lucky-people” complex.
I am impressed with the balance in the section that looks at the motivation for short-term missions. Livermore points out the shallow motivation that drives many short-term missionaries. He gives sad but humorous examples of what pastors from the US thought they were teaching and compares it to what the national pastors actually thought of the teaching. He describes misunderstandings between short-termers and host people in the use of time, the urgency of the task and oversimplification of complex situations.
“Open your eyes!” is the continual challenge of this book. Readers will find practical steps for gaining cultural understanding in different areas. Short-term missionaries need to gain knowledge of basic cultural differences. Using this knowledge they can interpret cues about what is really going on in the other culture. Livermore encourages perseverance as short-termers deal with confusing situations and gives practical advice on how to behave while applying the above three principles in another culture.
Livermore concludes with a powerful chapter, “The Heart of the Matter,” on doing missions out of a genuine love for people and for God. If short-term missionaries can love the people to whom they minister, they will treat them with dignity and respect. If they serve because of their love for the Lord, they will avoid a self-serving motivation and focus on genuine service.
Finally I have an accessible book on short-term missions that I can use as a textbook and also give to our youth director as she prepares a group from our church to spend two weeks in Brazil. The book is grounded in research by respected theorists such as Geert Hofstede, Robert Levine, Edward T. Hall and Robert Kohls, yet the book is written for the layperson with compelling examples and insights from practical experience. Serving with Eyes Wide Open is written with a perceptive understanding of the dangers and problems of short-term missions. It also gives a sense of hope by encouraging godly motivation and cultural intelligence.
Check these titles:
David Mays. CD. Trip Stuff: Stuff You Need to Know about Doing Mission Trips in Your Church. Accessed June 2, 2006 from www.davidmays.org/Resources/resmays.html.
Elmer, Duane. 2006. Cross-Cultural Servanthood: Serving the World in Christlike Humility. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.
Judge, Cindy. 2000. Before You Pack Your Bag, Prepare Your Heart: 12 Bible Studies for Short-Term Mission Preparation. Wheaton, Ill.: Campfire Resources.
Copyright © 2006 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS). All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.