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Essential Reading

Posted on Thursday, May 18, 2023

Welcome to Part Nine of our Goer Essentials Series, where we’ve asked Goers to sound off on the essentials to thriving in life overseas. In today’s article, we cover dealing with culture shock. 

GOER ESSENTIALS - Essentials to Thriving in Life Overseas

For this Goer Essential series, we surveyed Goers who are serving two-year global placements.  These articles are your chance to hear directly from Goers as they share their triumphs, best practices, amusing gaffes, and deep experiences of learning to live, thrive and make an impact while immersed in a new culture!

Part 9: Essential Reading

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.” -Dr. Seuss

While I doubt Dr. Seuss meant that quite so literally I believe the books you read can play a huge role in the places you physically go.  Books don’t just shape our knowledge, they can also shape our skills, passions, and worldviews.  

So we asked Goers to share what books they would recommend to someone before diving into serving cross-culturally.  These are their recommendations.

Some general books for wherever you serve:

"I cannot stress enough how important it is for everyone working in missions to read “When Helping Hurts” by Brian Fikkert and Steve Corbett. At my organization, we have two books by all of our bedsides: the Bible and When Helping Hurts. Read it and let your organization and programs be changed by it.” -Hannah, Zambia

I've been heavily impacted by John Mark Comer's book "The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry," I've already read it twice during my first year on the field. Comer examines the example Jesus sets for us in an unhurried pace of life. His yolk is easy and His burden is light. I think it's so important to learn how to linger with people, to have long, unhurried walks and cups of coffee that form deep bonds in a surface-level, hurried world. This book has helped me to live much more intentionally and deeply, aiding me not only in my ministry context but also in my personal life.  -Angie, Germany

Gospel fluency”! I recently read this book with my team and it was soo good! It relates learning the gospel to learning a new language. If you want to be proficient in the gospel you have to immerse yourself in not only the words but the culture and context. It also helped me see into things I may falsely believe about God at times. I know what the Bible says about God but sometimes my actions and thoughts don’t reflect how powerful and good I know God to be.

-Taylor, Mexico

Apparently, you can’t go wrong with Elisabeth Elliot’s books:

Passion and Purity” by Elisabeth Elliot is a MUST! Especially for single women coming to the field, I think it should be required reading. She has a lot of good stuff to say about waiting on the Lord. She can also speak with authority because she has been through it herself. -McKenna, Central Asia

"Why God Calls Us to Hard Places", "Paths of Loneliness" by Elisabeth Elliot, and Joni Eareckson's autobiography, “Joni

-Allison, East Africa

Find books written by locals:

Allison also recommended finding books written by the people from the culture you’re going to serve.  And if you’re interested in serving Afghan people then Emily has you covered!

In the Land of Blue Burqas” by Kate McCord - a great book for people going to work in Afghanistan or with Afghan people. Through her personal stories, I have been able to glean insight into Afghan culture which has given me a deeper understanding of the people I am forming relationships with.

-Emily, US

Light reading:

Many authors have a knack for using stories to convey ideas at an even deeper level.  So if you’re looking for something a little lighter then check out Mariana’s recommendation.

3 months into starting my position, I read “Quo Vadis” by Henryk Sienkiewicz, and it was a really captivating historical fiction set in Roman times with King Nero and the apostles. It was enlightening to get a better picture of what that time looked like culturally and spiritually and to see the transformation that Jesus made in the lives of some characters, along with how Christianity affected the community. It encouraged me in the testimony a Christian life can be to the glory of Jesus when we follow Christ's teachings in humility. Also just a really fun and interesting read!

-Mariana, Bulgaria



We know this list is by no means exhaustive but wanted you to hear from Goers about books that have encouraged and/or challenged them.  If these books aren’t enough for you then you can also check out our Staff Recommendations here.

We can’t close this blog though without one final book recommendation that all our Goers and C.H. Spurgeon would agree on. 

“Visit many good books, but live in the Bible.” -C.H. Spurgeon


Key Takeaways

  • Leverage your reading time to learn how best to join in God’s global work
  • If you have a particular group on your mind or heart find a book written in their context
  • Do your best to read each book through a biblical lens

Dive Deeper


Check out other blogs in this series here.


From a young age, Luke has had a desire to serve the Lord through missions. After graduating from the University of Alabama in 2012, Luke joined the staff of a small start-up mission organization in Alabama to help with operations. While on staff there, Luke attended a Perspectives class where his understanding of unreached people groups and a passion for getting the Gospel to them deepened. In 2017, Luke moved to Scotland where he served as a mobilizer for just over two years. Now back in Alabama, Luke has joined GoCorps staff to serve in both operations and mobilization. He and his wife, Helen, have a daughter and a son. Luke enjoys traveling, board games, and running.

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