Monday, November 3, 2014

She told me her story...

Angelina, WATS student
She told me she did not know the date of her birth, but that she was baptized in the Roman Catholic Church as an infant in 1973. This is how an incredible and inspiring story began to unfold during one of my mentoring sessions with one of the ladies of my Tuesday morning group. 

A soft-spoken and humble Hausa woman, Angelina was given an English name because of her baptism. Her story was so moving to me that I asked her for permission to share it with you, and she kindly said yes...

Angelina's father had four wives. She was born to the third wife, and she was the only one to survive out of the 12 children her mother bore. 

Life as a child was extremely difficult for Angelina. She grew up in Plateau State, a Christian among many Muslims. 

It was especially hard because she would have to tend sheep as a young child, taking them to pasture early in the morning and staying with them in the field all day until it was time to take them back home. There was no time to go to school. 

Perhaps the hardest part of her childhood, as she described for me, was working in the fields. It was back-breaking labor in extreme heat for hours and hours at a time. Her father did farming and she had to help. Again, for this child and preteen, there was no time for school.

For some unexplainable reason (other than the mercy of God), Angelina was eventually given the opportunity to go to school when she turned 14 years old. Since she had never been to school prior to this, however, she found herself in a very difficult situation: she could not read or write, not even her name. Nor did she know any English. School was very challenging and frustrating for her, but she worked hard at her lessons when she was not in demand at home.

When Angelina turned 19 she also learned to sew, thinking that would help her to be able to earn money for herself as an adult. It was during this time she met the young man who became her husband. 
Angelina grew up in Plateau State
Angelina was happy to marry a man whom she loved and who loved her! He was the one who introduced her to the personal, peaceful, and powerful love of Jesus. He was preparing to be a pastor as their first child, Joy, was born. As the years went by, Jeremiah, Grace, and Benjamin were born into the family. 

News from her home village was not good, though. Something terrible happened to her mother. One of Angelina's half sisters died and the mother of the deceased (one of the four wives of her father) blamed it on Angelina's mother, accusing her of being a witch. Angelina's mother was tortured (gasoline was poured on her and she was burned) and sent away to live in the village where she had lived as a child. Angelina's mother was shamed and labeled a witch. The father told Angelina that the daughter of a witch must also be a witch, and so Angelina was cut off from her entire family.The brutal treatment of her mother also meant that if Angelina tried to visit her mother, she might face the same fate. 

Again, she told me that because of the mercy of God, she has been able to be in contact with her mother. And in the face of it all, her husband has been a wonderful source of comfort and encouragement. In fact, her husband even supported Angelina's desire to continue her education. So, she went back to school, landing in what we (in the U.S.) would consider high school right along side her daughter, Joy! They studied together, did homework together, and finished secondary school together! English was very hard for Angelina, though, whose first language is Hausa. But, with perseverance, she finished secondary school along with her daughter.

She soon entered into an institution of post-secondary education even though English still plagued her. Her husband was working on his bachelors degree, and he supported Angelina in her desires to do the same. They were studying in the north when her husband's church (he had become a pastor) sent him to Lagos. Therefore, Angelina had to leave the school where she was studying. As she moved to Lagos with her family, she began praying and seeking information about where she might transfer as an undergraduate student and continue her studies. She found WATS two years ago, and has been studying very hard ever since then, working toward a bachelors degree.
Angelina in class along with her fellow students at WATS
She requests prayer for her ability to understand English well enough to succeed at WATS. She still speaks Hausa at home, and even speaks at women's conferences in Hausa. She gets tutoring from friends, and she humbly asks for your prayers!

Angelina wants to work alongside her husband in the church he pastors, heading up a variety of ministries, no doubt helping other young women from similar backgrounds in the north. Being fluent in Hausa will be a tremendous help as she reaches out to other young women in similar situations. This is the kind of work I would not be able to do, but Angelina can! And, she wants to do so. I am moved by her perseverance and commitment to help others who have had similar backgrounds as hers.

I am honored to know Angelina. She inspires me. we are part of her story! 

To all of you who are supporting me financially and with prayers, please know that you are helping Angelina. You are here with me, and I am working hard to find ways to help Angelina to persevere in her academics so that she, in turn, can help others who have similar stories.

Please join me in thanking God for His mercy extended to Angelina and in praying for her that she will soon be very fluent in English, enabling her to complete her studies at WATS successfully. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Encouragement for the The Healing Process

Just Some of the Cards and Notes from Kansas and GA

How does one begin the healing process from a traumatic experience?

One thing for sure, it is not alone. 

Encouragement from You
Many people reached out to us to help in the midst of pain and loss. I am grateful for all of you--for your messages via Facebook, emails, and all the wonderful cards and notes that arrived with our counselors when they came (having traveled through Kansas).I have taken my time to read over them many times--all the cards from my church and my LIFE group in Kansas, as well as from special people in Georgia! Many people from my home church wrote to Jennifer, too, when they did not even know her personally. She was deeply touched!

I want you all to know that I cherish every card and note I received, every email message, every message on Facebook, and every prayer you have prayed on our behalf. 

I was especially touched by the Scripture passages that many of you sent, as well as the words of the cards you carefully picked out (or handmade) as well as all the affirming comments. Each encouraging word and every prayer served as a force to buoy my faith and stamina upward.

Encouragement from our Counselors

We were so blessed to have our counselors (Ned and Marlene McGrady from WGM) arrive from the U.S. to be with us for four days. (In the picture to the right you see Ned when he first arrived at the Lagos airport, wearing a clerical collar to help speed through immigration and customs. And, he really is an ordained minister. It sure helped!) We spent the first day in Lekki, away from our home, debriefing. The second day, we traveled in to Ipaja to the Guest House (where the robbery took place). We were with our counselors as we went in and processed what it was like to be back. On the third and fourth days we also had sessions with our friends at WATS, many of whom were also hurting greatly. Nigerians care very much about their guests. To have their guests harmed in any way grieved them deeply. Our counselors sought to serve the officials at WATS as well as us.

Our counselors helped us to engage in a holistic way of processing the acute post-traumatic stress. We reflected upon how we are doing cognitively, emotionally, behaviorally, and spiritually. This was a very helpful way to begin to work  through the stress.

Encouragement from our Regional Directors
Jon and Vera Steury, pictured on the left, have been in the U.S. and in Kenya during this past month since the robbery. But, they have been virtually by our side each step of the way in our recovery process. They will arrive this Friday, the 22nd of August, to spend five days with us and to go with us back to the Guest House as we move back to live there full-time again. Their Skype sessions have been invaluable throughout the last month and we are so happy they are coming soon. 

Encouragement from Security Improvements
Seeing concrete changes in security efforts also serves as an encouragement. Alarms (with panic buttons), two-way radios, as well as new training for security guards and structural changes in the house (installing a bullet-proof door at the base of the steps that lead to our rooms) all serve as an encouragement that an intrusion such as we experienced should not happen again. 

We are still staying in a safe location while security improvements are completed. At the suggestion of our counselors, we are going back to work gradually, 2 days last week, 3 days this week and next week, full-time. We are commuting from Ikoyi this week.

Encouragement from Progress
Our counselors explained that while going through acute post-traumatic stress as we have been experiencing, we should sense a lessening of stress in frequency and intensity. For instance, we should have fewer and fewer flashbacks to that night. And the flashbacks should begin to fade and not be so intense. Anxiety over being in our bedrooms should lessen in the same way over time. I believe this is, indeed, happening for us. 

I am also experiencing less intensity and frequency of physical pain. I had a set-back last week when I developed costochondritis--an inflammation of the cartilage between the sternum and ribs (see picture above). This condition is from the blunt force trauma to my ribs I experienced during the assault. It should go away in a week or so, but it has  been very painful. Jennifer has been an excellent doctor to diagnose and treat it. I sense that I am getting a little better each day--a lessening of the frequency and intensity of the pain!

Encouragement from the Work Ahead
Jennifer and I are energized by the work ahead. We are eager to go back, to rejoin our friends at WATS on a full-time basis because we know this work is meaningful,  important, and urgent. Students are waiting to take the course I had to postpone. Even though I need to recreate all the materials I had prepared for that course that was on the stolen computer, I am eager to get to it. Scripture tells us to work now while we can. 

The time is coming when no one can work. The doctor I saw in a Nigerian hospital told me that since the thieves were angry that they did not find a bigger treasure in our missionary compound, they might have easily killed us. I am very aware of the fact that my life is like a mist or a vapor that is here today and gone soon. I want to make the most of all the days I have on this earth. 

Encouragement from the Word 
In the early 90s, I remember reading the message on a T-shirt that a young college student was wearing. It was long ago, but I can see that T-shirt clearly in my mind's eye. It said, "Life is short. Read the Book. Pray hard."

As I "Read the Book, (the Bible)" I am encouraged. Kristey Wiebers, a good friend from my LIFE Group in Kansas, sent me a card that has key things that God wants me to remember. She said inside the card that she is sure I know these things, but that it is good to have a visual reminder. She is so right. Here are some of those things I will remember from God's Word which encourages me: God says to me

            • I am for you.
            • I love you.
            • I believe in you.
            • I will not fail you.
            • I will provide for you.
            • I will be with you.
            • I will bless you.
            • I will give you rest.
            • I will strengthen you.
            • I will answer you.
In the 17th chapter of Gospel of Luke, we read that 10 lepers called out to Jesus for Him to heal them. He gave them a command--Go and show yourselves to the priest. This command required them to believe they would be healed as they went because the job of the priest was to look at their healed bodies and pronounce them clean. The 10 men had to believe their healing would come as they walked to the priest. The Scripture says that they were healed as they went.

I am not totally healed. But, I am encouraged, and I believe I will be healed as I go. 

Thank you for your prayers, well wishes, notes, email messages, and cards. They were like a life line to me. May God return the blessing upon you in the same way you have blessed me. 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Facing Trauma: Courage, Pain, and Life

                                              July 17
On July 17, I had a traumatic experience. Three armed intruders overpowered the security guard at the Guest House (where I live) and invaded our home. We were physically injured, threatened to be killed, and robbed of our money and technological devices and equipment.

World Gospel Mission (WGM), our sending agency, moved quickly to support us in every way, initiating a crisis protocol that includes ministering to our families, sending counselors to Nigeria to be with us here, and issuing a call for prayer among WGM missionaries and staff around the world. Westview Community Church, my sending church in Manhattan, Kansas, also responded with heartfelt support and issued an urgent message to my church family and physically reached out to my daughter, Lynn, who is there. My LIFE Group family (the small group I was privileged to be part of in Kansas) also responded with warmth, love, support, and prayer. New Beginnings International Church, my church in Nigeria, has literally embraced us with compassion and practical help including providing safe temporary places for us to stay (I am writing from one of those places now) and raising a large amount of funds to replace our stolen equipment. The leaders of West Africa Theological Seminary (WATS) entered into our journey of grief, pain, and loss by carefully acknowledging the seriousness of the matter and extending their heartfelt love and compassion, not to mention their prayers without ceasing. Our pain is clearly their pain. And, they are working hard to improve the security system.

My three adult children worked tirelessly to try to contact me to speak words of love and support. This was a challenge since we had no phone or computer in the first couple days after the attack. As a parent, I was keenly aware of the role reversal I was experiencing. How many times have I comforted them in their hours of difficulty? They were there for me.

Jennifer Bennett, my co-missionary also with WGM, is a Nurse Practitioner. Even though she was also a victim, she kindly attended to my physical needs and made sure I have been as comfortable as possible each day since.

I need to pause here and say thank you to everyone. I am truly blessed to have so many people in my life who care. May God richly bless each of you for your kindness extended to me.

At the core of human existence is a desire to make meaning of our experiences. When we have an experience that does not fit neatly into our existing schema, we struggle to create new ways of understanding what happened. This blog post describes how I choose to understand what has happened, as well as how I hope to go forward.

On New Year’s Day, my daughter, Lynn, and I choose one word that we feel captures our focus for the upcoming year. We give this selection much thought and prayer. Last year, I said I was “stepping out of the boat” (as Peter did to walk to Jesus), so my word was “faith.” I needed faith to believe I would have the funding and support I needed to leave the U.S. for service in Africa. This year, I selected “courage.” I needed courage to say goodbyes, to enter a new culture, to live in a new environment, and to embrace all that comes with becoming a missionary in a developing country. Several friends (without knowing) affirmed this word for me by giving me gifts or cards with references to courage or being courageous. I embraced each one as a gift from my Lord who has asked me to embark on a journey that requires…courage. What I did not know is how much my courage would be put to the test. It will take courage to go back to the setting where I was on July 17th. If anything, this event validates even more the impression I had from the Holy Spirit on January first.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you or forsake you. Deuteronomy 31:6

The Word does not say that we will be free from danger, but that He will be with us. I must have courage to act on this belief.

As with any traumatic experience, there was and is pain. I suffered bruises to my arms, legs, and ribs. Psychologically, there is pain, too. Then there is the pain of loss. 

The men who burst through my bedroom door at 8:30 that night were thieves.

We could have been killed. Watching my possessions and money being taken away was painful. My room looked like destruction. My privacy and space were violated. My comfort and ease were destroyed.

Some well-intentioned Christians have sought to understand this pain in a different way than I understand it. “The safest place to be is in the center of God’s will” they say. I respectfully disagree. I agree with Michele Phoenix's blog post on the “Safety Myth: Feel Good Ignorance.”

Jim Elliott and his friends were slaughtered while in the center of God’s will.  Corrie Ten Boom was brutalized in a concentration camp while in the center of God’s will.  Countless Christian men and women, doing exactly what God had asked of them and in no way deserving of their fate, have suffered and died in abominable ways while in the center of God’s will.

I would add to that list Keith Green, Stephen (the first martyr), and even Jesus Christ, Himself who was most certainly in the center of His Father’s will as he suffered a cruel and painful death on the cross.

When Jesus spoke of the thief referenced in John 10:10, he was referring to the enemy of our souls. Juxtaposed against Jesus as the Good Shepherd, there is an enemy who would try to steal, kill, and destroy our souls and our work. This enemy wants to destroy my work in Nigeria; wants me to quit and go home.

­­­­That said, I am not ignorant of the fact that I am “rich” by the standards of the community in which I serve. I am white and privileged. To that I respond in this way:

To whom much is given, much is required. Luke 12:48

By God’s grace and strength, I will remain here to work. As Phoenix says in her blog post, the center of God’s will may not be the safest place to be, but it is the best place to be.

The enemy destroys, but Jesus gives abundant life.

I have come that they might have life and have it to the full. John 10:10b

The supernatural experience of knowing God in an intimate and personal way gives life, and that life is full and complete. Nothing else is needed to bring satisfaction in life. It feels like a great big breath of fresh air after being cooped up for a long time with stale air. When He speaks, whether through the still small voice of God or through the written Word, the Holy Spirit bears witness with my spirit and I feel infused with life.

This “full” life or “abundant” life is the kind of life that overcomes stealing, killing, and destroying. It overcomes fear and intimidation. It overcomes race and class struggle and evil in the world. The ultimate victory will be in the last day. But for now, I am here. We are in the world, but not of it. My calling is to teach what Jesus taught his disciples. He gives me life (and I have a new found gratitude for my physical life!) to fulfill that calling. I choose to stay because of that life that God has breathed into me and because of the calling God has given to me.

I know the road ahead may be challenging in many ways. He is with me. 

This is how I choose understand my traumatic experience of July 17. I am still alive, and I still have the opportunity to work here. I must be courageous in the face of pain. I know I will benefit greatly from meeting with my expert counselors when they arrive here soon--they will help me to process the experience and prepare to return. I need to draw from Christ the healing, spiritual life, and vitality that I need to work in and for the Kingdom of God. 

I welcome your prayers for healing, safety, and peace, as well as for effectiveness in service.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A Little Trip Down (Food) Memory Lane

Well, I have been in Nigeria almost two months now. Every now and then I have a strange hankering for some different kind of food, something from my past. For instance, a couple weeks ago I craved celery, of all things! Most of the things I write about here I would not eat today even if I could because I have been mostly gluten, sugar, and dairy free for almost 6 years now. But, here are some of the crazy food thoughts that have popped in my head lately. Let me know if you remember any of these...

1. Baltimore: "Jack's corned beef sandwich" from Lombard Street downtown  (now Lenny's Deli). Note the large Kosher pickle on the right of the sandwich in the picture--a must. My parents loved to go down to Jack's to get this as a special treat. It was a real "Balmore treat, hon"!! :)

2. South Carolina: Skin Thrasher's famous hot dogs with chili. Started in Anderson (in the beautiful upstate), I would frequent the restaurant in Clemson. I have fond memories of running out to get some "skins" with my friend Betty. These reminded me of Pete's hot dogs with everything on them. Who remembers Pete's in Catonsville, Maryland? I can still taste those hot dogs from my childhood.

3. Kansas: Bison Burger from the Wahoo Fire and Ice Grill in Manhattan. I would get this with no bun or cheese, and wow was it good. Yay for buffalo meat! Delicious and nutritious.

4. Catonsville: My good friend and co-missionary here in Nigeria, Jennifer, just cannot understand what I mean when I talk about steamed crabs. I guess she will just have to experience them (she's from Georgia and thinks "snow crabs" are crabs!!). I had terrific crabs back in March at Ship's Cafe in Catonsville, thanks to my good friend, Faye.

5. Grand Cayman: Corita's Copper Kettle's conch burger. I also miss conch stew, plaintain tarts, turtle steak, and Chef John's beach barbecue chicken dinner. I had delicious turtle steak there once. Have any of you eaten at Chef John's on the 7-Mile Beach? It does not get any better than that!

Here in Nigeria, I have had wonderful chicken kabob with rice at Chicken Republic in Lekki (Thanks, Gary Maxey!). I also have the opportunity here to eat these fresh foods which I can get in abundance and rather inexpensively: Avocados, Nigerian sweet pineapples (much better than what we get in the U.S.), mangoes, papaya, plantain, and all sorts of vegetables and other fruits. Going to the market can be exciting!

I have tried the rice jollof, foo foo, and gari, and it is all very spicey! (See photo at right). But, of course, I love rice and fried plantain!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Back to the Future: My Message to Myself from When I Was 21

Did you ever wonder what it would be like to actually hear yourself speak way back when you were only 21 years old? For me, that would be 37 years ago.

As I cleared out a desk drawer in preparation to leave for Nigeria, I found a surprise. Here it is...
Cassette tape of my college valedictorian address
I must explain first that this address was at a Bible College and that I was valedictorian of a class of only 6 people! Nonetheless, I quickly began to look for a cassette player so that I could hear what was on my heart all those years ago. I remembered the no-longer-used cassette tape player in my 2003 CRV.

As I listened to it, tears streamed down from my eyes. It seems as if God knew I would find this speech almost four decades later and listen to it a matter of days before departing for Nigeria for full-time missionary work. As I face daunting challenges ahead, what better to find than my own voice reminding me of my call, of God's goodness, and of the seriousness of it all.

It is odd that even though I was so young when I wrote this speech, and even though so much of life has transpired, and even though I am about to go to a culture that is greatly unknown to me, the words of this speech touched me deeply, inspired me to carry on, and brought deep encouragement. I have to think that God knew that when He helped me write the speech the most important person listening to it would be me all these years later.

Here is an excerpt, the ending of the speech:
Here we raise our Ebeneezer. Hither by God's help we have come, and by His help we shall proceed. As we leave, Jesus will go with us. We have heard that Jesus is a Friend who is closer than a brother.
Our greatest ambitions are not for success or fame; we want only to do the will of the Father. Redeeming the time, walking worthy of our vocation, and making every day count, we shall endeavor to fulfill our divine commission: Go therefore and teach all nations to observe what I have commanded you.
We go forth without fear because we know that Jesus has all power in heaven and earth, and He has promised to be with us always--even to the end of the world.
We came here to learn more about God. We leave to tell others about God, that they, too, may know more about God. 
And now, going forth in the name of Him whom to know is life eternal, we the class of 1977, bid you farewell.
I think you can see how I can apply these words to my life today. May God help me to carry on...

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

7 Books that Helped to Prepare My Soul for the Work Ahead

In my last post, I described some of the readings I have done in the past year to prepare my mind for the culture change I am about to experience. In this post, I'd like to share the titles of some books that have helped me to prepare my soul for the work ahead.

1. Radical: Taking Back your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt

This book is an extreme motivator, not for the faint of heart! I read it on my way to visit WATS a year ago. This stood out--the American Dream is about making much of ourselves. The Kingdom of God is about making much of God. Big difference--life changing difference.

2. Thou Givest...They Gather: Truths Gleaned from the Word of God by Amy Carmichael
Special thanks to my good friends, Don and Vicki Bridner for sending this gem of a book to me in the mail one day! It is now one of my favorite devotionals of all time! Written by a missionary who suffered much for the cause of Christ, I am both inspired and encouraged each time I read it!

3. Soul Shift: The Measure of a Life Transformed by Steve DeNeff and David Drury
The premise of this book is that we need certain paradigm shifts for our soul. My favorite chapters were on the following shifts: From Me to You, From Consumer to Steward, and From Sheep to Shepherd.  

4. 58: Fast Living: How the Church Will End Extreme Poverty by Scott C. Todd 
The author challenges the common interpretation of "the poor you will always have with you." This is a completely different way of looking at poverty and what we can do about it.

5. Jesus Among Other Gods: The Absolute Claims of the Christian Message  by Ravi Zecharias 
A contemporary apologetic, this book was helpful as I prepare to live in a country where almost half of the people are either Muslim or people who practice African Traditional Religion (ATR). Syncretism can also be a problem for many of the students who come to WATS. 

6. Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: A Reader Edited by Ralph Winter
This is a large volume on the Biblical and Historical, as well as the Cultural and Strategic perspectives on Christian missionary work. It was my textbook for the Perspectives course I took last spring, but I loved the text so much that it will find its way into my luggage!!

7. A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael by Elizabeth Elliott
I am reading this now. How awesome to read a book about a wonderful missionary written by another wonderful missionary. By the way, when I first picked up the book I thought the reference "to die" was about dying physically. I was wrong. The reference is to dying daily, to dying to self, to taking up our cross... In my mind, I have changed the title to "The Courage to Die..."

Of course, the Word of God is the most important source of all to provide me with encouragement, peace, guidance, and strength. Recently, I find myself focusing on the following passages:
Philippians 1:6, 3:12, 4:12
Matthew 28:`18-20
Matthew 5-7

I'd love to hear your thoughts on the books listed above. Perhaps you have one or two you'd recommend to me, too.

Friday, March 14, 2014

What Missionaries Do Before They Get to Their Place of Work

Update: Preparation for a Different Culture

I used to wonder what missionaries did while they were preparing to go to the field. I was not skeptical; just curious. Now I know. 

First and foremost, I have had the wonderful opportunity to spend time with many of you. In the same way that I ask you to become part of my life by supporting and praying for this ministry to WATS, I want to be a part of your life. I want to carry your burdens and pray for your needs. I am blessed because of all the wonderful relationships that have begun or have been strengthened over the past year. Please know that as I go, I will continue to pray for you. I will have a time set aside each week to pray for all of you. 

The second thing I did to prepare to go to Nigeria was to fulfill all the educational and training requirements set by WGM. (I still have one more to do in the month of April.)

The third thing I did to prepare to go to Nigeria is to follow a good friend's advice. Mark Hower and his wife were Peace Corps Volunteers to Africa for a good number of years. His advice to me was to read as much as possible to start to immerse myself in the culture. He warned me that in a lot of ways, there is no way to prepare myself for the vastly different culture I am about to experience. And, he says, reading will help. So, what did I read? Here is a taste:

  • Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (re-read). This classic novel tells the story of an Igbo family during 1895. 
  • Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. In a very interesting comparison, this novel portrays an Igbo family about a hundred years later.  

  • There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra by Chinua Achebe. Do you remember the Biafran War? Biafra was Igboland. The Igbos were the Biafrans. This book, written from the eyes of a world renowned Igbo, gives that perspective in helpful detail.
  • Folk Stories from Southern Nigeria, West Africa by Elphinstone Dayrell. These stories are great. And if I remember correctly, it was a free download from the ibooks store. 
  • Dead Aid: Why Aid is not Working and How There is a Better Way for Africa by Dambisa Moyo. Thanks to my friend, Wendell Barnett, for this recommendation. Brace yourself, if you read it.
  • Bridging Cultural Conflicts: A New Approach for a Changing World by Michelle LeBaron. This will be my field book to navigate cultural differences and to help me change my perspectives as needed.
These are the books I have read to prepare me for the new culture. It is not enough, and I'll continue to read. But, it was a start. 

If you were to pick any of the above to read for yourself, I would say that Purple Hibiscus might be the most engaging and compelling. Let me know what you think.