Tracy Kidder: Mountains Beyond Mountains

The books I recommend aren’t always “light reading.” So those of you who find my usual literary suggestions a little heady will find this one a breath of fresh air.

Last night I finished Tracy Kidder’s book Mountains Beyond Mountains. (Thanks very much to my dear friend Dave J. for the gift). It’s a biography of Paul Farmer, a Harvard-educated doctor who works among the poorest of the poor in rural Haiti. This is a book anyone can read and enjoy. Then again… if you want to stay inside your comfortable American bubble, you’d best stay away from it.

Mountains is not a “Christian” book. It contains profanity and various other less-than-edifying references. Discerning readers will note some character weaknesses in Farmer himself. But it is a stimulating read, especially for those who would seek to make an impact in the world in the name of Christ. Reading it – and catching Farmer’s vision to create “a preferential option for the poor” – will help you see why world missions as we have traditionally thought of it needs to be revisited.

For the last couple of years, God has been birthing in me a vision of a ‘rifle bullet’ approach to Christian global missions. Instead of sending missionaries all over the place, what if we concentrated on one location, one people group, one village, and tried to holistically meet all their needs in the name of Christ? Not just church planting, but also clean water and sanitation and literacy and education and medical care? What if people in one corner of the world could say, “Because of some Americans and their love for Jesus, everything about my life is better?” Until now, that vision has been a pencil sketch in my mind. Mountains gave it form and substance.

Those of you who are med students: this should be mandatory reading. For the rest of you, if you need some good summer reading, or if you want to follow up on our recent conversations about global mission… pick up this book. May God use it to birth a new paradigm in us for exalting His name in the world!

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