If someone’s sick, it doesn’t matter how good intentioned their doctor is; if she doesn’t get the diagnoses right, no one’s getting better. So it goes with missions. Bottom line is, international ministry takes more than just a heart for it.
Side note (if you don’t like rants, please skip this paragraph): When you say all it takes is a heart for ministry to be successful, you’re doing yourself and those around you a huge disservice. All it takes TO GET STARTED is a heart for ministry. If you have a real heart for ministry, you’ll devour all the training, mentorship, and education you possibly can. Rant over.
There are an overwhelming amount of books on this topic. It doesn’t matter if you’re brand new to missions or if you’re a seasoned missionary who can speak multiple languages, go to the bathroom in multiple positions, and eat with a variety of utensils. This list of resources is a great place to learn or to check your work; are you lining up with what the leaders in your “industry” are saying? Here’s a list of my favorite books about international development work.
WHEN HELPING HURTS – One of my favorites when it comes to introducing someone (or a group of people) to the idea that aid, the way we’ve been doing it, isn’t really working. The book does a great job of identifying a huge problem but it doesn’t offer many solutions for moving forward. It’s a very easy read that will make anyone put on the right filters for doing international work.
DEAD AID – Unlike When Helping Hurts, this book is not written from a Christian perspective. It’s an incredible look at how international aid has actually negatively impacted Africa. This is one of those books that’s about a super boring subject (international economics), but the author does an incredible job of making the complex, simple. It’s an easy read that will really help you put complex economic systems into a perspective that’s understandable.
SERVING WITH EYES WIDE OPEN – This book is geared for people who are going on short term mission trips or organizations that host them. Again, it’s a very easy read. It’s premise is that before anyone leaves America soil they need to seek cultural intelligence and be prepared for the culture they are hoping to engage with.
THE HOLE IN OUR GOSPEL – After you’ve read through some of the other books and you’ve tried to implement their ideas, you’re bound to get discouraged. The reality is, this line of work is never easy. If you think it’s easy, you’re probably doing it wrong. This book is perfect for those times when you’re questioning if you’re even making a difference. It stays away from practical how-to writing and focuses on philosophy. This is the book that you read when you want to be reminded why you went into this work in the first place.
POOR ECONOMICS – This is probably the most complex read on this list. It’s also not written from a Christian perspective. If you’ve ever wanted an overview on the various debates going on in the world of international aid and development, this is your book. It’s incredibly balanced and well researched. Keep it mind, it is ultimately a book on economics; it’s not a leisurely read. That said, it’s one of the best books I’ve seen for helping you understand the real economic struggles normal people face all around the world.
CHE Network – Being a part of the CHE Network has been the single greatest resource I can think of for Christian international development work. 500+ organizations around the world are a part of it. It’s the most comprehensive set of principles, best practices, and resources for people in this line of work.
Honorary mentions: Toxic Charity and With Justice For All are both incredible books about this topic as well and definitely worth reading. Of course, how do what I do without mentioning the Bible, It has a surprising amount to say about serving than poor, defending the weak, and standing up for the oppressed.
You know what I haven’t found as a resource about this? Some good blogs. I’m huge fan of A Life Overseas, though it’s geared towards individual missionaries more so than general development work.
How about you? What resources would you add to this list? What book is on your shelf that you looking forward to starting soon?