When we stop learning we become stagnant.
There are so many wonderful things to learn about ministering cross-culturally. Whether you’re a newbie to missions partnerships or helped write the manuals now used to impart 20+ years of working experience and knowledge, there is always more to add to our personal tool bag in cross-cultural ministry. Even though our Vineyard values always remain central, as society stretches and changes, best practices change too.
The Vineyard Missions USA Learning Community Team has reviewed hundreds of books and recommends the resources that have been most impactful to their cross-cultural engagement. Our goal of working cross-culturally is always to join the Father in what He is already doing in a particular place and bring God greater glory. We recommend these resources for inspiration, for practical how-to guides, or for personal discipleship.
They are not in any particular must-read order. Pick up a resource the Holy Spirit highlights for where you are on your journey to the next level of effectiveness and joy in missions.
We would love to hear from you and perhaps share how these books or others have helped you on your journey of understanding.
Facing Danger: A Guide Through Risk by Dr. Anna E. Hampton
Recommended by our own Dr. Jerry Reddix, this 2016 release is a must-read for cross-cultural workers in high-risk areas and the pastoral staff who send and support them there. Author Anna E. Hampton has 25 years of ministry experience in 60+ nations. She raised her family for nearly a decade in war-torn Afghanistan and has insights on a theology of risk to share from personal experience and deep, professional research.
Back of the book: “After living for almost a decade in the high-risk and dangerous environment of Afghanistan, Facing Danger works through how Anna attempted to raise her children without emotional and long-term trauma while simultaneously living out her calling...this is the real world where a biblical understanding of risk must work.”
In her own words: “In general we see that people go to the field more broken than in any other generation, but from cultures increasingly adverse to risk. We teach them to avoid risk, but then encourage them to go risk for the Gospel, and wonder why more folks can't be resilient and thrive on the field.” She wrote the book to be “a suggested spiritual and practical understanding of biblical risk.”
Recommended by dozens of experts, such as Leonard C. Cerny PhD who says it is, “Well-referenced with rich notes, checklists, diagrams, compelling personal stories, presentation outlines,charts, and other practical tools for risk analysis and management, this book may be read far beyond the intended audience...a rich treasure trove of practical, field-tested wisdom…”
The Insanity of God: A True Story of Faith Resurrected by Nik Ripkin
“The Insanity of God is the personal and lifelong journey of an ordinary couple from rural Kentucky who thought they were going on just your ordinary missionary pilgrimage, but discovered it would be anything but. After six hard years doing relief work in Somalia, and experiencing life where it looked like God had turned away completely and He was clueless about the tragedies of life, the couple had a crisis of faith and left Africa asking God, "Does the gospel work anywhere when it is really a hard place? It sure didn't work in Somalia.”
Nik recalls, “God had always been so real to me, to Ruth, and to our boys. But was He enough, for the utter weariness of soul I experienced at that time, in that place, under those circumstances?” It is a question that many have asked and one that, if answered, can lead us to a whole new world of faith.
The Insanity of God tells a story—the human story of the Ripkens’ own spiritual and emotional odyssey into some of the toughest places on earth, combined with sobering and insightful stories of the remarkable people of faith Nik and Ruth encountered on their journeys, will serve as a powerful course of revelation, growth, and challenge for anyone who wants to know whether God truly is enough.”
When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor and Yourself
By Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert
With more than 300,000 copies in print, When Helping Hurts is a paradigm-forming contemporary classic on the subject of poverty alleviation.
Poverty is much more than simply a lack of material resources, and it takes much more than donations and handouts to solve it. When Helping Hurts shows how some alleviation efforts, failing to consider the complexities of poverty, have actually (and unintentionally) done more harm than good.
But [good help] looks ahead. It encourages us to see the dignity in everyone, to empower the materially poor, and to know that we are all uniquely needy—and that God in the gospel is reconciling all things to himself.
Focusing on both North American and Majority World contexts, When Helping Hurts provides proven strategies for effective poverty alleviation, catalyzing the idea that sustainable change comes not from the outside in, but from the inside out.
Coming Home: Reentry Devotional Bible Studies for a Successful Return
by Howard & Bonnie Lisech
Inverness Vineyard has been using this 72-page booklet for years to ease the reentry process for our short-term teams between their plane landing at home and the team debriefing dinner two weeks later. Each family receives a book to share, and it works well on an individual level as well as for getting a family talking. Using questions based around the stress-curve and journaling, cross-cultural workers begin to adjust to their new normal at home, and team leaders can begin developing a list of questions to process at the official team debrief based on how the specific team is handling this particular trip’s reentry. Coming Home helps the leader disciple the team to their personal next level with God.
We’ve also seen success and healthy care for our long-term cross cultural workers home on sabbatical using this book to view the previous “chapter” of their service time and debrief. While best used as near to returning home as possible, Coming Home can be used years after returning from a short or long term trip that was never properly debriefed to help the worker observe the things God was doing in their individual lives.
This book can be found only in a used condition on Amazon, but you can order directly from the authors on their website:
In the case of more extreme reentry stress, an extraction for political unrest, or emergency we recommend a longer, more in-depth review of Returning Well: Your Guide to Thriving Back “Home” After Serving Cross-Culturally by Melissa Chaplin.
by Adam Mosley
What if our missionary myths are false? Tales of breathtaking adventures, harrowing expeditions, and close encounters of the bug kind - these are the stories we expect to hear from missionaries. Like a Hollywood blockbuster, we want action, tension, and in the end, a happily-ever-after, complete with smiling children and the sense that we’ve contributed to the betterment of humanity. But what if missionary life is not like that?
In Missions Unmasked, Vineyard’s own Adam Mosley peels back the facade shrouding the realities of that world, as he offers an inside look into the life of a missionary and an exploration of the challenges and issues facing global missionaries and those who care for them. Adam is the pastor of Trinity Vineyard Church Nakuru, a multi-cultural, theologically-diverse, international church in Nakuru, Kenya - a church made up of people from over a dozen different nations and five continents.
Ministering Cross-Culturally: An Incarnational Model of Personal Relationships (2003)
by Sherwood Lingenfelter and Marvin Mayer
For beginners to ministering across cultures, this book is a must read according to the Vineyard Missions Learning Community. How can a person minister effectively in another culture before identifying his/her own “cultural prison”? Jesus needed to learn…
Included in this future-classic book is a quiz to help readers identify their personal bent in 12 major areas of cultural values. Lingenfelter and Mayer reveal ways to change thinking that can be harmful as Westerners cross cultures if differences are assigned “moral value.”
From the amazon description by the author or publisher: “Jesus needed to learn and understand the culture in which he lived before he could undertake his public ministry. The authors examine how this can help us better understand what it means to establish relationships of grace with those from different cultural and social backgrounds. With more than 70,000 copies of the first edition in print, this incarnational model of ministry has proven successful for many people...Drawing from the authors' rich experience on the mission field, this book will benefit anyone who wants to be salt and light in a multicultural and multiethnic world.”
Supporting your VM efforts: If you follow the link provided in the synopsis, VM will receive an “advertising fee” of 3-5% from Amazon (on your whole basket)! That money will be funneled back into missions, and it doesn’t cost you anything extra.