Read this Book: The Unlikely Missionary

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“Where are You Going?”

I asked that question one day of a woman at my church who had just announced that she’d be away, travelling, for the next few weeks.

“Sierra Leone,” she told me. 

“Sierra Leone,” I repeated. “Um, by Liberia?”

“Yup. I’m going on a mission trip.”

I’ve often wondered how regular people end up making mission trips. Aren’t missionaries people who spend years in a foreign land, sharing medical care, clean water, agricultural tips, and the Gospel?
Now that I’ve read The Unlikely Missionary: From Pew-Warmer to Poverty Fighter  (Dan King. 2011) I know better. The ebook is set for release tomorrow, and I hope you’ll read it. 
King doesn’t run a non-profit organization. He hasn’t been to seminary.
He has been to Kenya and Uganda, providing training to help people lift themselves out of poverty. People like you and me, except they don’t own shoes. 
Or live in houses with plumbing. 
Or have adequate food to eat.
He made this trip in 2009, with Five Talents, an organization focused on “empowering the poor in developing countries through innovative savings and microcredit programs, business training and spiritual development” (from their web site). This book is the story of how he got there and what happened once he arrived. 
King’s blog,, took him to Africa. It happened this way:

  • He began the blog.
  • He participated in the 2008 Blog Action Day project, writing on the prompt “poverty.”
  • What he learned while researching the topic broke his heart. 
  • He wrote a post about Five Talents. 
  • The communications director at Five Talents put King on her press release list. 
  • He wrote more posts about their microfinance projects.
  • His contact at Five Talents called him and invited him to travel with them to Kenya and Uganda. 
And the next thing we know, King is recording video of bedtime stories for his son to watch in his absence, receiving vaccinations, and off to Nairobi. It’s amazing.
He shares stories of individual people whose lives have changed. He tells us about women like Irene, who tells him that her small second-hand clothing shop in Kenya provides money to buy “extras” for her children:

As a father I could totally identify with that. I love to buy things for my son! Looking for points of connection I asked her what kinds of things she buys.

Irene said, “Meat. And Bread.” (from [Trip Journal] Day Three: Visiting the Clients)

He tells us of  his first day of teaching, wherein he meets Bishop Renison Mbogo of Embu, Kenya, who had traveled for several hours to attend the Five Talents training session:

It weighed heavily on me as I taught my sessions. This wasn’t one of those trips that would make me feel good about myself. There are real people out there who are “not okay,” and they are looking to the rest of us to give them a hand.

They’re not interested in handouts. You don’t hitch hike for seven hours because a man you’ve never met might buy you a meal. No. Renison was hungry for something much deeper. (from [Trip Journal] Day Four: First Day of Teaching)

Interspersed with the travelog, the hopelog, of his trip, King shares practical suggestions for readers who want to turn from what he calls “lukewarm” Christianity to a life of service. You can do these things. I can do these things.  Most of the praxis sets include a writing step. Don’t let that turn you away from following his suggestions. You needn’t be a great writer to do what he describes.

You see, King would be the first to tell you that he doesn’t write because words enthrall him the way clay engages a sculptor or watercolors captivate a painter. He writes because he has something to say. Humble about his literary art, he asked Marcus Goodyear, his colleague at The High Calling, to edit his manuscript. 
His simple, straightforward style will charm you and encourage you. He tells us about his struggles with leaving his wife and child behind for a few weeks. He shares the horror of learning that starving pastors are sometimes lured, unwittingly, into the service of sex traffickers. He is honest about his own limitations. 

This book is genuine. It will make you want to get out of your chair and serve. 
13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Galatians 5:13-14 (NIV)
Note: I am affiliated with The High Calling and with BibleDude. Dan King and Marcus Goodyear are men whom I’m proud to count as friends. I was provided with an advance review copy of this book so I could tell you about it. 
And I mean every word I’ve written here about it. 


  1. This is really good, Sheila. You make me want to read Dan’s book.

  2. Thanks, Megan.

    My mission here is accomplished 🙂

  3. Sheila, this is an awesome post.

    You may want to consider entering a blog hop or two with this post.

    Shanda has a missionary heart and has lived in Africa with missionary parents and has served as a missionary herself.
    Her blog: A Pause on the Path
    On Your Heart Tuesday’s Blog Hop Opens Monday 8:00 PM PST

  4. Hazel,
    Thank you.
    And thanks for the lead! I’ll do that.

  5. My copy is waiting for download. Anxious to read it (in a good way) but maybe a little afraid . . .

  6. Sandy,

    Dan does an amazing job of illustrating how light the yoke really is!

    Fear not, dear friend.

  7. Mine is sitting on my cybershelf waiting for me to read too! This makes it even more inviting, Sheila. Dan’s humility is such a special characteristic of his life and his writing. He has a servant-heart. Can’t wait to read more about it.

  8. Laura,
    Hasn’t he? I think you’ll love it!

  9. This review and the comments are just incredible! Sheila, you rock! Even if I set aside the fact that this is MY book that you’re talking about, your review is insightful and challenging. It makes me want to go buy the book that you’re talking about!

    And to everyone else commenting here… I cannot tell you how encouraging your comments and support are! This has been a very special project for me and I’m pumped to hear the excitement that surrounds it!

    Thank you all!

  10. Dan,
    I was hoping you’d stop by and bring that great big heart of yours with you!

    I need to learn the standard for citation from an ebook…no page numbers, you know.

    Thank you for writing this book, Dan. I hope LOTS of people read it.

  11. Awesome. Thanks for the great review, Sheila!

  12. Sheila, I was curious about this book, and now I am definitely bying it.
    God is also moving my heart towards this direction, and I’ve been praying about a short term mission that I could join.
    Reading the headlines about this book made me feel very identified with it.
    Thanks for sharing your review with us.

  13. Cris,
    It was my privilege. Thank you for your kind words. I hope the book blesses you as it did me.

  14. I saw your review, along with those of others, pop up on my blogroll over the past few days, but I’ve avoided reading them. Today I couldn’t wait any longer and started reading them all. Then I bought Dan’s book. Looking forward to reading it for myself. And, yes, he really does have a great big heart!

  15. Nancy, was it a bit like Christmas morning, diving into all those reviews?

  16. Thanks for introducing me to this author. I will have to search out this book.

  17. You’re welcome, Yolanda. You can find it through the link inside my review. Or on Amazon for your Kindle. 🙂

  18. Thanks for encouraging Dan! He’s a great guy with a real gift for enthusiasm. You can’t fake the kind of heart and passion Dan has.

    His book is a good story of what missions can look like, how they can help locals, and how they can change the hearts of the missionaries.

  19. I’m privileged to do so, Marcus. He’s a special, special guy.

    He’s got a pretty awesome editor, too. 🙂