Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Book Review: This Our Exile by James Martin, SJ

You can't go wrong with a book by James Martin, SJ! If you haven't heard of James Martin, well, you haven't read much! Martin is an editor at America Magazine as well as a commentator for NPR and the Huffington Post. He is often interviewed my national media when the Catholic Church is in the news. He is also the author of numerous books, most recently The Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything (Harper Collins).

This Our Exile: A Spiritual Journey with the Refugees of East Africa (Orbis Publishers) is a re-issued book. The book was first published in 1999.

This Our Exile is part theology, part travelogue, part memoir, part guide on vocation and ministry. Since Martin is a Jesuit he was assigned to a special ministry, in his case, Kenya. For two years Martin spent time in Kenya assisting the local peoples, Kenyans as well as refugees from Rwanda in their daily survival. We hear about their poverty, lack of resources, poor education, and lack of care. Missionaries from around the world try to help the people by digging wells and assisting with basic life skills.

Yet Martin goes deeper. This is not just a "I did this and then I did that...." type of book. He weaves personal stories and anecdotes into the narrative. Most people think that missionaries bring God to the un-Churched. Martin found out that actually his role was to witness what God was doing already. God was in Kenya way before Martin arrived back in the early 1990's.

If you want to learn more about missionaries in Africa and how we, as baptized Christians, are all called to be missionaries to the people around us, then take and read This Our Exile. You won't be disappointed!!!

For those who want to read more from James Martin, make sure to order his new book Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor, and Laughter Are At the Heart of the Spiritual Life (Harper Colllins, 2011). Just from reading this title I can see that it's probably going to be a great read!