by Nik Ripkin
Nik Ripkin, with Gregg Lewis, B & H Publishing Group, One Lifeway Plaza, Nashville, TN, 37234, 322 pages, 2012, $14.99.
—Reviewed by Patrick Krayer, executive director, Interserve USA.
Few of us who grow up in the West and the developed East are equipped to face the horror and scope of evil in the hard places of the world. How could it be otherwise? Even though evil exists everywhere, our societies strive to maintain law and order and eliminate evil and injustice. These efforts create stability. Without realizing it, we take this inherent stability in our countries for granted. So, when we offer ourselves to serve the Lord in places of conflict and persecution, we are often poorly prepared emotionally to cope with the enormity of suffering that results from evil unleashed.
Nik Ripkin is one of the many Christian workers who have been overwhelmed by the suffering they encountered. Ripkin was traumatized by his six years of working with Somalis who suffered enormously from the conflict in their country. Then, evil attacked his own home. The Ripkins’ second son, Timothy, died from heart failure after a severe asthma attack. The Insanity of God is Ripkin’s intensely personal account of his journey to find God and make sense out of the seeming senselessness of this ocean of evil.
In the first half of the book, Ripkin gives a transparent portrait of himself and his background; he shares difficulties, frustrations, and encouragements of working in Somalia. Through an engaging series of stories, we walk with him through a tsunami of suffering. He shows us why our presence is so important in such seemingly hopeless situations. People in crisis need much more than food and shelter. They need to know they matter. Our presence and our listening to their stories affirm their value.
Immersed in grief over the death of their son, the Ripkins returned to the U.S. Once back, God met them and helped them arise from the ashes of their grief. They decided to research how God had helped others continue strong in their faith, regardless of the hardships of life.
Ripkin takes us with him as he conducts his research. We hear the stories of living heroes of the faith who faithfully endured persecution. We travel primarily through the ex-Soviet Union and China, yet he also includes a number of snippets from the Muslim world.
This book is valuable for every Christian, but especially for those working in difficult contexts, those considering working in difficult contexts, and those caring for field workers who suffer from primary or secondary trauma. It shows that God is able to carry those who humbly and obediently follow him through whatever situations they face. What the book lacks is a seasoned perspective of suffering and its impact. This lack is discernable by those who have lived for extended periods of time alongside individuals and communities in the contexts of oppression and persecution.
EMQ, Vol. 49, No. 4, pp. 499-501. Copyright © 2013 Billy Graham Center. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.