Planning on serving overseas as a mission worker? If you come from a ‘western’ background this is a great resource. Made up of 113 micro chapters arranged into ten chapter length groups they cover practical pointers to help you prepare, travel and thrive in a mission context. Written by Elizabeth and Jonathan Trotter, who edit / write for the ‘A life Overseas’ blog, most of the book’s content started out as blog posts written over the last seven years they have been based in Southeast Asia.
The book is easy to read, partly because it is made up of very short ‘blog post’ sections. This is both its strength and its weakness. Short sections result in repetition and, although they are grouped into ten sections, nowhere does the book have space to develop the themes. The emphasis is on the practical but it also contains numerous insights from Jonathan’s work as a counsellor. These challenge you to think about self-care but are also helpful in encouraging you to develop a deeper relationship with God (the short prayers and pieces of poetry help with this as well). The authors are from the US and some of that cultural evangelicalism shines through (for example the acceptance of home schooling as a preferred way of educating children) but they are also self-critical of parts of it. However, the book is real, honest and easy to relate to; it touches many of the challenges that arise from living overseas….. and even if you don’t experience all of them, many of your colleagues will. Having both husband and wife write different parts makes the book feel a bit uneven but their two different styles create something of a dialogue – which Lori and I found helpful as witnessed by the fact that both of us have read and talked about the book (almost unheard of in our marriage!)
Is this book sufficient to prepare you for a life overseas? No. But if you are going this book should be on your list as part of your preparation. And as you go through the emotional rollercoaster of the early months (and years) it will both remind you that your experiences are not unusual and give you some hints about how to thrive (sometimes with pointers to other resources to help). The book will also be helpful to mission support groups and others who want a flavour of some of the issues that people face living overseas.
Elizabeth & Jonathan Trotter Serving Well: Help for the Wannabe, Newbie, or Weary Cross-cultural Christian Worker Resource Publications / Wipf and Stock, 2019