by Rebecca Kim
Oxford University Press, 2015.
—Reviewed by Pam Arlund, director of training, All Nations Family, Kansas City, MO.
Missions “from everywhere to everywhere” is a common catch phrase in missions today, yet little is empirically known about missions from the Global South to the rest of the world. Rebecca Kim does an excellent job of filling this gap with this book. Although Kim only analyzes one mission group sending missionaries from South Korea to the United States, this book should be a welcome and interesting read to anyone interested in cross-cultural missions in general. Indeed, the problems that the Korean missionaries encounter have some uniqueness to them, but many are the same problems that missionaries of all kinds encounter. As such, this book should be of interest to anyone training, sending, or becoming missionaries from anywhere to anywhere.
Kim’s research into the University Bible Fellowship (UBF’s) launching of missionaries from South Korea to the campuses of North America may at first blush seem small and not of universal interest. Indeed, Kim’s own interest began through family connections. As such, she takes great care in the introduction to ground the book in the broader discussions of the changing face of Christianity (see Philip Jenkins and Michael Pocock). The introduction is the most academic part of the book and might initially make one feel that the book is difficult to read. However, subsequent chapters are easy and interesting to read, although a bit repetitive.
Chapters one and two give background and general information about the group being examined (the UBF). While chapters three to five analyze specific themes such as: soldier spirit, sacrifice, and privileging whites. Next, chapters six and seven demonstrate how the UBF responded to these challenges. Finally, the conclusion once again places this rather narrow study into a global picture.
By far, the most interesting chapters were three to five. In each case, I felt the tug of the Korean’s desire to adapt to U.S. culture while at the same time I felt that they were bringing values like soldier spirit and sacrifice that the U.S. Church needs. These chapters raised some fundamental missiological questions about adaptation to local culture while maintaining non-negotiable values. For example, how much adaptation is too much adaptation? This is a question far bigger than just the UBF. Likewise, the issues raised about how people from lower socio-economic backgrounds can find a voice and serve in wealthier countries will become more and more relevant. These issues were immensely interesting, stimulating, and applicable in a broad context.
The final paradox of the book sums up where the book leads us to: “Paradoxically, greater Americanization has made it harder, not easier to evangelize Americans.” This statement alone challenges much of our thinking about missions in general and provides rich food for thought. Indeed, I suspect that this book will become classroom reading for many and will become the basis of much edifying discussion for many others.
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EMQ, Vol. 52, No. 2 pp. 223-224. 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.