I made it through two very different history books this past month from two very different periods of time and parts of the world. Looking towards the end of the year, I've realized that I won't hit my goal of 50 books in 2016 but I might get to 40. Stay tuned!
The War That Forged a Nation: Why the Civil War Still Matters
So many books have been written on the American Civil War and I have read nearly none of them, so this looked like a good place to start. This book is a collection of various essays about the Civil War by respected Civil War historian James McPherson. Each chapter contains one stand-alone essay so you don’t need to read them in order if you don’t want. Each chapter was thoroughly engaging, discussing topics like Lincoln as commander-in-chief, the role of slaves in their own emancipation, the importance of naval warfare, the role and perspective of Europe on the American Civil War, and theories about just war as related to this particular war. McPherson has a pleasant readable style, with plenty of detail and flavor, without getting bogged down in the details.
Beyond Ourselves: OMF in Thailand, The First 60 Years, 1951-2012
This book is about the history of the mission organization I serve with in Thailand, so I was very interested to read about its history from the 1950s up through the present. I have heard bits and pieces about various missionaries, ministry, events, and changes since first coming to Thailand with OMF in 1999, but this book helped me to put together the disparate parts and better understand its ethos and internal organizational values.
I wasn’t sure what I would find when I opened the book, but I imagined that it would be like many other missionary histories, namely personal stories of missionaries enduring hardship and heartache but finally seeing people coming to Christ and churches planted. And this book did include that general narrative but I was surprised to find that it was more of a history of OMF Thailand as an organization as a whole than it was the personal stories of individual missionaries. In fact, in many instances the names of the missionaries involved in various events are not named at all, and stories that sound intriguing in their own right are passed over quickly, leaving me wanting to know more.
The major strength of the book is the way in which the authors, both long-time missionaries with OMF Thailand, chronicle the changes and development in mission strategies and priorities over time. Extensive use of minutes and reports from national and regional OMF leaders’ meetings, as well as interviews and correspondence with current and former missionaries, paint a revealing picture of how the organization has changed over time, from the boom days of medical missions to a more refined focus on church planting in the present. The authors were surprisingly candid in places, as they told of how OMF Thailand started its own church denomination in spite of not wanting to do so, or of internal tensions as the mission struggled to move forward in unity when not all missionaries agreed on what the priorities and strategy of the mission should be.
“Beyond Ourselves” is a valuable and informative book for anyone wanting to understand the changing landscape of missionary work in Thailand, as seen through the eyes of a organization that has been a major player in evangelical missionary work in this nation for more than half a century.
If would like a copy of “Beyond Ourselves”, please contact OMF Thailand.