These chapters are the crux of several crises that Peterson has been hinting at: changes in plans, dashed hopes, a longing to be understood, and a crisis of faith. Where is God when bad things happen? These issues are a normal and natural part of life, and no one can predict when or how exactly this question will become vital. I appreciate how Peterson compares and contrasts her grief at her dramatic change in plans–including her fears for Veronica and worries about her own future–the to grief of people in Cambodia after the genocide. Her grief was not the same, but it was still grief that needed to be felt. Reading her detailed accounts of time in Cambodia felt like a jump inside a person experiencing culture shock and depression in such a vivid way.
These various crises eventually culminate in Peterson finding herself in a place where she is not able to earn God’s love and must be able to receive it as grace. She speaks of finding strength and solidarity with her mission organization, and also in her relationship with Jack. For me, the culmination of this section came when Jack and Amy are discussing how they would both likely be heading back to the States after teaching overseas for two years. When Amy asks Jack what he wants out of life, he declares he wants to be a grandfather and sit on a porch and drink sweet tea. He wants a small life lived well with faithfulness, the very opposite of a savior complex. To me this is the central metaphor for the end of the book: how do we imagine a life of faithfulness, lived to the very end? The answers we come up with speak volumes about ourselves.
Did you grow up like Peterson, wanting to live a big life for God? Has that desire changed at all–and if so, how?
What do you make of the word missionary? In the beginning, it was linked to Catholic men who were directly tied to political expansion (think of Spain or France or Portugal–heck, think of Christopher Columbus and the Americas). It was expanded to include men and women who went overseas to spread the Christian gospel. Then, as Peterson states, it became “the most spiritual vocation” that was held up to generations of young Christians. “No vocation is more spiritual than another. And every Christian is called to share the good news.” (235). What do you think? Do we need to retire the word? Or work to establish a new meaning that fits more with the cause of Christ (and not imperialism). St. John of the cross says that God’s mission is “to put love where love is not.” How would you describe God’s mission?(I will put my answer in the comments).
In this section, Peterson goes through several of her concerns about continuing her work in a foreign land. Can cross-cultural relationships be bridged in short amounts of time? What is the most effective use of an American in a country that isn’t closed? What are the ethics of support raising as an outsider? What about the power differentials, specifically between teacher and student, and how those can affect evangelism? Have you ever considered any of these questions? If so, please share your thoughts in the comments!
Next week we will be wrapping up our discussion of Dangerous Territory. I am so grateful to everyone to has commented/shared.
Send me any questions you have for Amy! On Monday, November 27th I will publish an interview with her, highlighting what we have talked about in this group.
Catch up on previous entries here: