This may just be the longest, or the shortest, book review of my limited career, so please, bear with me. I finished reading this book late last night, and it invaded my dreams and brought back long ago faded memories.
I discovered Lisa McKay's novel through browsing at Christianbook.com, but it wasn't until I read a review on a sister book reviewer's blog that I finally picked up a copy. Then I read the back cover copy, plopped it on my to be read shelf, and there it sat.
Cori is 18, in love, and in a crisis of faith--of sorts. Wanting to just get away and clear her head and her perspective, she signs up for a ten-week missions trip to a remote island in Indonesia to help construct a church.
What she expected to help her gain perspective ends up knocking everything she knows to be true to the ground and forces her to rethink everything. Their adult team leaders face a health crisis that takes them temporarily away from the village, leaving the team under the care of the local pastor.
When the village she is ministering in is caught up in the Muslim/Christian conflict, Cori and her fellow teammates--six teenagers--are forced to flee for their lives into the jungle, with only the pastor's son for a guide.
Everything is tested: her physical strenth, emotional stability, mental stamina, and her relationship with God is tested the most. Friendships are forged, and no one who came will leave the same.
Ummm...that includes the reader.
I briefly tasted a smidge of what Cori experiences on my own short term missions trip. It was nothing in comparison, but it all came back with a flood after reading Lisa McKay's book.
I remembered sitting at the Romanian border, the coils of razor wire and gun towers still occupied by supposed "friendly forces". Being held at the checkpoint for hours, while they held our group leader and passports in their hands.
I remembered having to hide behind an elderly woman's house, for fear of the authorities catching us sharing Christ with her. The tears flooded down her wrinkled face as she desperately wanted to believe the message of hope I shared with her, but the bondage of the Orthodox Catholic Church held her too tightly.
I remember feeling so lost without my translators, and even then feeling like I was the only person on the planet at times.
And I remember coming home...they call it re-entry...and how I struggled to come to terms with the poverty, disease, and political stranglehold I had witnessed...only to come home to abundance that once felt like lack, and the church games that now turned my stomach.
Anyone who wants to do mission work for Christ needs to count the cost...and then go. Because, if we won't, then who will? But in today's political climate, we take our lives and put them in His mighty hands...and isn't that where they belong anyway?
This book is rich, amazing, difficult, and necessary. A part of me wishes I hadn't read it, because now my soul is stirred, and I kind of liked it quiet. But a larger part of me is thrilled that this book crossed my path. A larger perspective than ourselves is necessary in today's church.
I'm not even going to try to rank this book. That seems kind of trivial. Let me just say this is (and I've read A LOT this year) THE most important novel I've read this year...maybe even in my lifetime. And as a lover of words, I don't tend to waste them.
Be warned...you cannot read this novel and come away the same. But I really don't think you'd want to. And pray for our missionaries world-wide...only God knows what they really endure, and only God can reach out to them and be with all of them.
Then again, isn't that the way it's supposed to be...for all of us?