Neighbors and Wise Men by Tony Kriz begins on foreign soil, namely Albania, and early on we read these words: “My last year on the field, I kept this sorrow-secret hidden deep inside me: I had stopped believing.” What happens to a missionary who has lost his faith? That question is asked early on and we’re taken on a journey through the eyes of Tony that allow us to meet real people, who have names, and real impact if you listen to them.The characters are vivid and one of them, Katarina, who confronts the author in a pub in downtown Portland, Oregon, summarizes the thesis of the book when she says, “How dare you shame your story….”
Kriz tells his story in four movements and they are as follows: Living with Muslims, Alone and Away, Learning to Reed, and Coming Home. Within each section are vivid accounts of sacred encounters with people created in the image of God who impact the author in concrete ways. The strength of the book lies in the author’s ability to paint real pictures that show real pain, authentic doubt, true faith, and no easy answers. Conservatives will need to listen all the way through before drawing theological conclusions and liberals will need to ask if they have been equally honest and reflective about their own journey before pointing fingers. Kriz does a solid job of telling his story without insulting yours or mine. Kriz also elevates the everyday conversation to the point of sacred encounter and for that I am grateful. I came away wanting to stay alert, pay attention, and truly listen to people from all walks of life because I simply don’t know what God will teach me in any given moment. Whether it’s in a pub, a liberal arts college, a mission field, or in that lonely deserted place where prayer is a desperate cry, God is real and God meets people where they are, not where they wish to be. And this story of God showing up when we’d rather not, is not only worth reading, it’s worth listening to over and again. You won’t be sorry you spent time with Neighbors and Wise Men—because of it, I am wondering who I’ll meet today that will alter my own story. It might just be someone like you.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. 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 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”