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.


  1. Aww, nice to be mentioned. Thanks. We are praying for you.

  2. Cool Shelley! I will definitely red Purple Hibiscus. I thought about you and prayed foe you just this afternoon. Thank you for this update! And for your prayers. Love from Erin (and Darian and Paul) :)

  3. (Sorry for the spelling errors! Haha)

  4. Have you read Nervous Conditions yet? I'll need to read a few of your other books. They sound great.