Friday, January 07, 2011

Book Review: Keeping Body and Soul Together by Denis Lane

This is a book written by the Overseas Director of the Overseas Missionary Fellowship, about which I knew nothing before reading this book. I was interested in it because it talks of how this organization has practically balanced meeting the physical and spiritual needs of individuals and populations. Yes, as Christians we should ultimately hope and pray for people to come to know Jesus as their Savior, but we also are called to social justice, mercy, and caring for the physical and emotional needs of others. So what is the balance between these two in a ministry situation? This is an account of one organization’s attempts to find the balance between spiritual and social ministry. 

The book starts with the principles they use for ministry: social and spiritual needs do not necessarily conflict; changing the structures of society does not meet the needs of the Whole Man; the Gospel does have and must have social effects; money is a dangerous commodity; as missionaries we are guests in the countries in which we work. The remainder of the (short) book gives various accounts of these principles in action, mainly in locations in southeast Asia- a Cambodian refugee camp, a Korean tuberculosis hospital, a hospital in Thailand, a program for recovering alcoholics in Japan, etc. It’s a short read and I thought it provided a reasonable and thoughtful perspective on this issue. Interesting to read, for sure. 

Obviously the balance between social and spiritual needs is a massive and multi-faceted issue, one that cannot be adequately addressed in a short book.  But like I said, an interesting look at how one organization has done so. This is also an issue that I will surely be increasingly considering as I delve into the world of global public health, so definitely a good read for me to get the wheels spinnin. 

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