Following Jesus Through the Eye of the Needle by Kent Annan is a book about all the crazy tension that comes when well-intentioned idealism to change the world crashes into the reality. It really is a fish-out-of-water story. It’s a missions memoir, but it’s not your typical missions book. This isn’t the story of how one person overcame obstacles to change the world. It’s raw, and it’s honest, and that’s why I like it.
In 2003, young Kent Annan and his wife joined the organization Beyond Borders and traveled to Haiti. With none of the creature comforts of home, no proficiency in Creole, and money only to cover living expenses, they lived with a peasant Haitian family.
In Annan’s words, “What does Jesus whisper that I must give up so I can become more alive? What’s it like to love–and be loved by–other people in circumstances far different from our own? What are the benefits of trying, as much as it’s possible, to face suffering and find ways to alleviate it?”
In socio-economic terms, there may be no more radical cross-cultural experience than the nation of Haiti. As the author reports, the average American consumes about 150 gallons of water per day (showering, flushing the toilet, running the dishwasher, doing laundry, etc.). The average Haitian has less than two-and-a-half gallons per day for those same activities. Thank about that a minute. Kinda puts a different spin on how you define “normal life,” doesn’t it?
What Annan does best is communicate the tension of living cross-culturally. He craves bacon cheeseburgers, pop music, mindless TV, instant phone conversations with friends and family, all in a world where none of those things exist. He wants safety and security for his wife in a place where he can’t guarantee those. He’s the rich white guy amidst the poorest black people, and they all know it, and he’s painfully self-aware. He wants to live dangerously, but at the same time, wisely.
If you find yourself drawn to missions or social justice, I highly recommend this.
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