Friendship at the Margins: Discovering Mutuality in Service and Mission (Resources for Reconciliation)

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9780830834549: Friendship at the Margins: Discovering Mutuality in Service and Mission (Resources for Reconciliation)

In our anonymous and dehumanized world, the simple practice of friendship is radically countercultural. But sometimes Christians inadvertently marginalize and objectify the very ones they most want to serve. Chris Heuertz, international director of Word Made Flesh, and theologian and ethicist Christine Pohl show how friendship is a Christian vocation that can bring reconciliation and healing to our broken world. They contend that unlikely friendships are at the center of an alternative paradigm for mission, where people are not objectified as potential converts but encountered in a relationship of mutuality and reciprocity. When we befriend those on the margins of society by practicing hospitality and welcome, we create communities where righteousness and justice can be lived out. Heuertz and Pohl's reflections offer fresh insight into Christian mission and what it means to be the church in the world today.

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About the Author:

Christopher L. Heuertz is founding partner of Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism, which exists to nurture the integral connection between Christian spirituality and activism. He and his wife Phileena Heuertz spent nearly twenty years traveling to over seventy countries working for women and children victimized by human traffickers in the commercial sex industry with Word Made Flesh, an organization that serves Jesus among the poorest of the world's poor and for which Chris served as International Director. Heuertz began his journey with social justice ministry in 1993, when he volunteered for several months in Kolkata, India, with Mother Theresa and the Missionaries of Charity. Heuertz married Phileena in 1996 they moved from India to Omaha, Nebraska, the headquarters of WMF where they now live. They then founded Gravity in 2012 to support the development of Christian consciousness by making contemplative practice accessible to individuals, communities and organizations who engage the challenging social justice perils of our time. Heuertz has shared his knowledge and experience with Christian culture at large through his books Simple Spirituality and Friendship at the Margins, coauthored with Christine Pohl. He has also been asked to speak at numerous conferences including Catalyst, Urban Youth Workers Institute, Passion, and Faith, Film and Justice. He has participated with Lausanne, Urbana, and To Write Love on Her Arms. Heuertz has written articles for Christianity Today, The Other Journal, and Lausanne World Pulse. In addition to his public speaking and writing, Heuertz is an ordained minister through the Association of Evangelical Churches and Ministries and an adjunct professor at Lakeview Seminary in Chennai.

Christine D. Pohl (Ph.D., Emory University) is professor of social ethics at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky.

Review:

"An approachable combination of theory and practice, Friendship at the Margins invites the reader to question how his life would look different if he were motivated by pure friendship. . . . This is not a book for those who want a meal delivered but instead for those willing to accept a seat offered at the table with all the ambiguity and potential it holds." (Wendy West, Missiology, 2011)

"Don't miss this IVP book, it will invite others to thirst for life that is really life." (Jan Arkills, Lamplighter Reviews, September 2010)

"Heuertz and Pohl show how friendship is a Christian vocation that can bring reconciliation and healing to our broken world. They explain how unlikely friendships are at the center of an alternative paradigm for mission, where people aren't objectified as potential converts, but rather encountered in a reciprocal relationship (friendship). (CBA Retailers & Resources, April 2010)

"Friendship at the Margins weaves together masterfully the life of contemplative activists, friendships, spirituality, simplicity and community to create a refreshingly demystified understanding of mission. The book deals with some 'pain points' in Christian missions like career, community and popular approaches which have become the order of the day in the mission field, unfortunately. The book presents friendship not merely as a manipulative method, but as the heart of mission itself. The authors through the book provide rich insights into their passion and experience." (Jayakumar Christian, National Director, World Vision India)

"Friendship at the Margins is an important book arising at a time when our culture values success and objects more than relationships. This book is an important challenge that theology must be both received and lived and that our faith requires the ongoing struggle and joy of what may be at times difficult friendships. Calling for substance over form in our actions of justice, Chris Heuertz and Christine Pohl remind us that the living out of God's justice is a two-way street of giving and receiving." (Soong-Chan Rah, Milton B. Engebretson Associate Professor of Church Growth and Evangelism, North Park Theological Seminary, and author of The Next Evangelicalism)

"Friendship at the Margins brings the simple concept of friendship and adds a nuance that challenges current mission models. Its stories bring clarity to the difficulties brought on by relationships with people in precarious situations. But it ultimately paints a startling picture of sustained journeying with Jesus. A thoughtful and inspiring read." (Nikki Toyama-Szeto, program director, Urbana, and coeditor, More Than Serving Tea)

"This book will challenge you to the core. It is refreshing to see mission and ministry described as worship. This changes the conversation in a most needed way." (Chris Tomlin, singer/songwriter)

"A must-read book. My good friend Chris Heuertz shares the story of Word Made Flesh, an incredible ministry serving the poorest of the poor around the world, by providing practical examples of what it means to live out reconciliation, mission and ministry to the poor through deep friendships. There is a major difference between 'ministry' to the poor and truly being in community with them, and you'll learn what that really looks like. "Included are amazing stories of living out Jesus' radical truth of friendship with the least of these. And this ultimately is the story of WMF. Most think ministry to the poor and least of these means 'reaching out' and then walking away. But Chris defines ministry to the poor as the gift of friendship and building the bridge of hospitality by living among them and with them. I highly recommend you not only read this book, but get involved and learn more about the incredible work of Word Made Flesh." (Brad Lomenick, director, Catalyst)

"The religious authorities thought that they were insulting Jesus by calling him a 'friend of tax collectors and sinners' (Mt 11:19). Jesus retorted by claiming that his practice of friendship with such 'undesirables' would be vindicated. Writing to his somewhat difficult friends in Corinth, whom he loved as a father (1 Cor 4:15; 16:24; 2 Cor 2:4), Paul reminded them that he had gotten to know them when they were sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, practicing homosexuals, thieves, greedy, drunkards, slanderers and swindlers before they were washed, sanctified and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of God (1 Cor 5:9-10; 6:9-11). Friendship at the Margins shares learning from following the path of Jesus and Paul of befriending people at the margins of 'respectable' society today. This is no ivory tower theology but theology worked out in the bittersweet experience of becoming friends with those we respectable people call the 'poor.' There is much here to inspire those of us who think of mission in terms of both telling and serving. In fact I would go further and say that this book is about the essence of Christian mission." (Dewi Hughes, theological adviser, Tearfund)

"The loud may get the most attention, but more often than not it's the gentle, humble and highly relational that will change the world. Chris Heuertz is one of those people--listen carefully; he has much to say!" (Margaret Feinberg (www.margaretfeinberg.com), author of The Organic God and Scouting the Divine)

"Without question you will be challenged and inspired by the words written in Friendship at the Margins. The words, insights and challenge put forth by Chris and Christine will help each one of us truly experience what it means to be a follower of Jesus." (Mike Foster, senior creative principal, PlainJoe Studios, and cofounder, People of the Second Chance and XXXchurch.com)

"Friendship at the Margins calls for a radical reorientation from thinking about 'causes' to thinking about people. We don't just want to help 'the poor,' we want to help Sujana, Madu and Adalina. And in helping and serving, we discover how much we receive from relationships that stretch beyond our normal social circles. I could not more strongly recommend this book to anyone who wants to make a difference in our world." (Peter Greer, president, HOPE International, and coauthor of The Poor Will Be Glad)

"In a world of aggressive economics, cynical politics and excessive ideological certitude, everyone is an adversary. Such aggression, cynicism and certitude, moreover, produce unbearable alienation. Here Heuertz and Pohl offer a quiet, honest probe of generous friendship as an antidote to the great social pathology that devours us. With narrative particularity and acute neighborly sensibility, they witness to the cost and risk of friendship, which at its best cannot be done wholesale. This account concerns the truth of human life made fleshly--immediate, face-to-face, dangerous and transformative. They offer much to ponder about how, in a world of too many adversaries, the practice of friendship among the weak and unnoticed may be our hope for the future. A tall order, likely our only alternative!" (Walter Brueggemann, Columbia Theological Seminary)

"I have needed this book for a long time. That is, I have long needed the clarification it has brought to my own thinking about 'the destitute and impoverished other' and about how, in company with Christ, we all can both engage and bridge the us-them gulf that separates us one from another. So list me first as a grateful recipient of its instruction, and only after that, quote me as having said that Friendship at the Margins is about as readable, instructive and credible a book on missiology and faithful service as I have ever seen or ever even hope to see." (Phyllis Tickle, author of The Great Emergence)

"This book astutely butchers some of the most bloated old sacred cows of missionary work and evangelism, and offers an alternative third way. It is a vital and urgent appeal to return to the way of Jesus, the way of friendship and relationship. I highly recommend it." (Craig Greenfield, activist, author of The Urban Halo, and international coordinator of Servants to Asia's Urban Poor)

"Don't miss this book! Heuertz and Pohl extend a gracious invitation to all those of us who thirst for life that really is life. Friendship at the Margins welcomes readers to participate in kingdom friendships which refresh the hearts of all who will drink deeply. Expect to be nourished, challenged and transformed by this book." (Margot Starbuck, author of The Girl in the Orange Dress)

"One only needs to meet the author (Chris Heuertz) to know all they need to know about how Christians should treat the world, and each other. There is no better author alive to write about the importance of friendship, community and hospitality; not only is he educated on such topics, but his life is living testimony to those character traits. Friendship at the Margins is not only an insight into the world of community but penned words that will inspire and challenge everything we know on the subject." "For far to long we have talked about loving the widows and orphans, but Chris shows us that that does not mean simply throwing money at the problem, but building a bond with them, extending not only a lending hand but a loving heart to those the world would deem unlovable or unwanted. We need to strive to be 'Not Prim but Pure,' we need to drop the facade of a 'holier than thou' church and get in the trenches and gutters with the hurting world around us. "I do not travel on the mission field as often as Chris, but the chapter that really spoke to me was 'choosing grace-filled simplicity,' for me it is hard to move 'in and out of worlds' as well, I need to take a step back and assess my life constantly; do I own my possessions, or do my possessions own me? This insightful book is not something that I am going to skim through, but a mirror to reflect upon from time to time for the rest of my life." (Stephen Christian, cofounder, Faceless International, and singer, Anberlin/Anchor & Braille)

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