From the Inside Out: Reimagining Missions, Recreating the World by Ryan Kuja
Ryan Kuja grew up watching cartoons interrupted by commercials from the Christian Children’s Fund. I remember those commercials from my childhood as well. Young children, starving to death with distended bellies, surrounded by flies and narrated by compassionate voices designed to elicit a donation. Some organizations asked for a donation, others wanted you to join the organization, make a monthly pledge, sometimes in exchange for pictures or letters from a child you would personally sponsor. As a 7-year-old watching cartoons, Ryan Kuja wanted to do something. Adults either look away, change the channel, or do the good Christian thing and write a check (or today use their credit/debit card or PayPal from their phones).
I have often said that American Christianity is its own unique animal. I have some blogger friends in other parts of the world that know this to be true. I taught world and US History, while serving as a stateside missionary, for several years. Some of the lessons Kuja shares in his book I taught in the classroom to high school students: The lessons of how imperial Rome used Christianity, or a perversion thereof, to promote its empire based on economic and political control; Lessons of how Columbus and other Europeans explorers colonized North and South America, killing hundreds of thousands with sword and disease and claiming victories for the cause of Christ and church planting. I often told students, in class and at BCM meetings, the same thing I tell adults and seniors today: America is not the whole world.
The value of Inside Out is that it opens the eyes (or has the potential) of American Christians to the damage that is still done today by the missionaries of American Christianity. The mission of working in orphanages, digging wells and taking modern medicine to remote parts of the world is admirable. But the mindset we sometimes take with us prevents the healing, transformational power of the gospel from being effective. The work started by Jesus and continued by his followers for 300 years is very different from the Christianity of the Roman Empire and European colonizers. Those engaged in cross-cultural missions must be aware of the differences, many of them unseen from the surface unless one knows where to look. Or knows to look.
Kuja describes in his book a doctor doing mission work I believe in Haiti. He used his medical knowledge and wealth to do much good but his status and ego were equally served as he received the credit for his good works. A few chapters later he explains how the Apostle Paul understood culture. Paul could travel far from Jerusalem into the Greco-Roman world of Athens and understand their mindset, their worldview, and present the gospel to them from that point of view. Paul explains in his own epistles that he was ethnically Jewish but a Roman citizen by birth. He was educated, particularly in the Jewish faith, and he used that background to share Jesus as the Messiah (Christ) that Jews were looking for. But he did not share Jesus in the same Jewish Messiah way with those of other cultures who had not read the Hebrew scriptures and were not waiting for said Messiah.
Kuja describes what he calls McMission, the American capitalist desire to get in, accomplish objectives and get out. That’s the American way; goal oriented, immediate results, address the problem and fix it. That’s not how Jesus operates in the Gospel narratives, not how the early Christian church functioned, and ultimately not what God calls Christian to do on the mission field today. Mailing a check soothes our conscience because we feel like we’ve done something. The type of transformation in our thinking the Ryan Kuja writes about is a process, not a destination. Building relationships with individuals may not change the world in a big way, but it is what many of us are called to.
Ryan Kuja relates many personal stories, not just of the people and places he traveled to on his missionary journeys but of the soul searching and questions those trips caused. I recommend From the Inside Out to anyone ready to take their first steps into a larger world. Here are some links to follow:
From the Inside Out available from Amazon.
Here is Ryan Kuja’s website.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.