Talk about a front-row seat for a revolution! Tim Bascom reluctantly left Kansas at the beginning of his high school years to move with his family back to Ethiopia, where his father, a Baptist missionary, would serve as a doctor. In Running to the Fire, Tim reflects, decades later, on his experiences there. Living in Addis Ababa, going to a boarding school for missionary kids, he was somewhat protected. Through the fence, though, and while on outings, he saw the fruits of the Marxist uprising in the checkpoints, the dead victims on the road, the changes in the streets.
Running to the Fire is a nice mix of Ethiopian history, reflections on the missionary life, and of coming of age as a Christian. To Bascom, the verdict is mixed. The Marxists were pretty bad, but in some ways the Orthodox church's persecution of other Christians was worse. He appreciated his parents, the sacrifices they made, and seemed to admire their work, but he ponders Western arrogance and the sometimes negative impact of Western missions in the developing world. And his own faith--well, it's clear that the legalism of his upbringing pushed him away. He is still a Christian, but exhibits a healthy skepticism: "Skepticism sweeps over me when people seem to have an unwarranted conviction about what God wants--what exactly is God's desire or plan. . . . I continue to doubt when others act convinced by their own special revelation."
I would encourage anyone involved in foreign missions to pick up Running to the Fire, especially if they have kids on the field, and even more especially if they are in a more legalistic, conservative tradition. I'm not a missionary, but I appreciated his perspective as a teen in a rigorous religious tradition. I want to encourage my teens to be involved in church, to practice spiritual disciplines, and develop their own faith. I don't want my actions and words to lead my kids to say my encouragement "lowered the very thing it claimed to elevate--shrank my eagerness into reluctant obedience" the way Bascom responded to one of the missionary school teacher's chiding him for missing morning devotionals. Whether in a war zone or a comfortable American suburb, raising children to be faithful Christians can be a challenging adventure.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!
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