Five Books That Spoke to Me Overseas

God blessed us with many life-giving companions in our journey overseas, and for that I’m thankful. Some of those companions were in paper form. If you’re looking for some encouragement as you minister abroad, maybe these will hit the spot:

When God Interrupts: Finding New Life Through Unwanted Change, M. Craig Barnes

I have to admit, simply the title of this book put me off it. I sincerely hoped God would never interrupt my carefully laid plans. He did, though, (over and over) and thoughts from this book returned to me often when He brought us through new transitions. My favorite? “If we have focused too narrowly on the dream we thought the Savior would give us, then it is the dream that has become the savior, not Jesus.” Ouch.

Keep a Quiet Heart, by Elisabeth Elliot

Would any cross-cultural journey be complete without some good words from the Elliots? This book was second only to my Bible while on a service trip to Trinidad, whirling from the loss of a relationship (one of those “focused too narrowly on” kind of dreams). Her words called me to simple, on-going trust that whatever comes in life is from a good Father. In that I could find rest. Her words, “this is assigned” rang in my head during those difficult, “I can’t believe this is happening” cross-cultural moments.

Strong Women, Soft Hearts: A Woman’s Guide to Cultivating a Wise Heart and a Passionate Life, by Paula Rinehart

This book wasn’t written about transition, but it is the one I have given to every friend going through one. During our five years in Singapore, I read it at least five times, including leading a small group based on it. Through topics like desire, pain, control, trust, and vulnerability, it encouraged me to fully embrace whatever season God brought me into because there is always life to be found there.

Abba’s Child, by Brennan Manning

One of the greatest lessons God taught me overseas is the importance of building my identity in the solid place of who I am in Him as His beloved child. I passed through a season of insecurity in Singapore when I found myself looking anywhere but to Him for evidence of my value. This book, as well as several by Henri Nouwen (honorable mention: Inner Voice of Love) called me back to rest in God as my source of life and love. I have a whole journal of quotes from books like this telling me who I am, like this one, “God’s love for you and His choice of you constitute your worth. Accept that and let it become the most important thing in your life.”

Brave Hearts: Unlocking the Courage to Love with Abandon, by Sharon Hersh

While God did indeed bless us with many wonderful (human) companions overseas, I still struggled with expectations on relationships, knowing what it looks like to love well, and moving toward others with vulnerability. This book is a beautiful encouragement to own our whole hearts, honor our God-given desire for relationships, and to respond to our hearts with grace and compassion. It transformed how I interacted with the people God put in our lives and helped me live more wholeheartedly. It was in this book that I was introduced to The Message version of 1 Corinthians 13:13, “Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly.”

The cross-cultural life journey can be a challenging one; God longs to encourage us in it. I hold these books as dear friends God gave me to strengthen me on the way. Through them He taught me to hold loosely to my ways of seeing life, while calling me to embrace His perspective and the life He was giving me wholeheartedly. He used them to show me to look to Him for my worth, and to believe that He had good for me in every season and every relationship, if I was willing to keep my heart open to Him and others. Maybe one of them will provide the words you need to carry on in your walk with Him.

What books have especially spoken to you while overseas?

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6 Comments

  1. Jenilee June 29, 2016

    This is a very good list! I’m loving good, solid, helpful books right now. Thank you!

    1. Gina June 29, 2016

      What are you reading Jenilee? I’m always looking for new books!

  2. Jodie June 29, 2016

    I’ve read four of them and wholeheartedly agree with your selection! I want to look up the Elisabeth Elliot one because I hadn’t heard of it before. The Path of Loneliness is one of hers that I read multiple times while we were in an isolated setting. And my teenage kids even chose that one off the shelf to read as well. Thanks for sharing these books and your highlights from them!

    1. Gina June 29, 2016

      You’re very welcome!

  3. Grace L June 30, 2016

    I have read many books while living overseas, usually on my Kindle. But one that stands out to me because of the impact it had on me at the time is a book written by a cross cultural worker based in South America. Dalaina May wrote “Yielded Captive”, a novel in which a young wife is taken captive along with her infant son by the very tribe they had been seeking to reach. It focuses a lot on her relationship with God as she endures this life within the tribe and being forced to “marry” one of the tribal leaders. I was challenged to wonder if I would be able to endure in that situation and what my relationship with God would be like. It is available on Amazon and I highly recommend it.

    1. Gina June 30, 2016

      Grace – that sounds good! It reminds me of The Heavenly Man by Brother Yun and Paul Hattaway. Amazing story of how God used Brother Yun to be instrumental in starting the house church system in China.

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