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on March 16, 2010
When people ask me about other books out there that focus on bridge building that I would endorse, I have responded with the same answer every time:

"Unfortunately, and quite sadly, I haven't found another book that I could get behind that I believe is a true bridge building book."

That was my answer until now. Friendship at the Margins: Discovering Mutuality in Service and Mission by Christopher Heuertz and Christine Pohl is as real and honest of a confession of bridge building for the Kingdom to the oppressed as Love Is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation With the Gay Community was to gays and lesbians. Heuertz and Pohl speak clearly and poignantly about true reconciliation; diving deeply into living in tension, personal sacrifice, human dignity and what it means to befriend someone not as an evangelism opportunity but as an opportunity to know freedom in being authentic where authenticity is the last thing expected.

This short book (142 pages) is packed with so much brilliant deep reflection and revelation, that every person needs to not only read it, but soak it in and implement its words. If this is done, I promise our culture will look totally different!

In my opinion, this book is required reading for anyone who yearns to know what it means to live out our faith in tangible ways.

This review is a serious petition because I know this book will make a significant impact for the Kingdom and advance a much needed work in our world. And the unique part to Friendship at the Margins is that "margins" can be whatever group is opposite to yourself, no matter where you're coming from!
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on October 15, 2011
Being a good friend can sometimes be hard. Being a good friend to those who are living on society's margins can be even harder. Those of us who grew up in relatively secure surroundings face difficult questions as we befriend our neighbors who live in poverty or have otherwise been marginalized by society. Close, mutual relationships with those who are homeless, have been the victims of exploitation, or are addicted to drugs and/or starting to exploit others themselves can force us to ask really difficult questions about what it means to be Christ-like in today's society.

But one thing is clear. Christ made friendships with marginalized people a focus of his life on Earth, and we can't say we are his disciples if we are not following in his footsteps. Pohl and Heuertz both have wrestled with these questions for years, and have the theological and practical experience to begin offering wisdom. What does real friendship and mutual service mean between someone who has all their needs met and someone who is struggling to survive? If we are volunteering for a church or working for an agency, how do we befriend those we work with in Christ, rather than treat them like "projects" to fulfill our organization's mission? How do we react when we begin realizing that some of the people we meet are both the victims of exploitation and the exploiters of others? How do we interact with wealthy donors and friends who may want to "help the poor" as well, but don't yet understand them as real people who are equally made in the image of God? And how do we think about or measure "success" when creating honest relationships with real people?

I think this book is most helpful for those who have been practically dealing with these questions already, and who now seek out the wisdom of those who have gone before and wrestled with God in these difficult areas. But anyone who has a heart for loving his neighbors will grow from this book. I am grateful to Pohl and Heuertz for writing it.
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on October 10, 2010
Christopher Heuretz, is the international director of Word Made Flesh. He joins Christine Pohl in reflections on how to befriend those on the margins by practicing hospitality and welcome. This book calls us to a radial reorientation from thinking of "causes" to thinking of people and a mirror to reflect on. This book is not about short term ministry to the poor and then walking away. It rather redefines ministry as the gift of friendship and the building the bridge of hospitality by living among the poor and marginalized and with them.

Very personal examples fill this small book. One of the most moving examples for me was the illustration on Isaiah 3:14-15

"The plunder from the poor is in your houses. What do you mean by crushing my people and grinding the faces of the poor"

Sujana, in Indian has earned less than $1 day to stitch the red button down shirt from the Gap store which our author purchased for $40. Sujana was overjoyed to see Christine wearing her product, but when she asked Christine how much it cost in the US, Christine was so moved she set up a Personal Retail Equality Tax, where she taxed herself 12 % of the price of an item and put it in the bank and at the end of the year she delivers it to Sujana's family. This is just one example of way we as Americans must rethink our very strong desire for possessions and the use of our money.

Other chapters dealt with rethinking those trapped in prostitution. Christine and Christopher volunteered in Mother Theresa's house for the dying, as well as with street children We are given examples of sharing a meal with others like Jesus who ate with the adversaries and outcasts in the community

Lets stop our short-term mission trips which sometimes engage in pictures of cute kids and deplorable slums, a travel voyeur and get to know each individual as real people and friends. We have become morally calloused. Don't miss this IVP book, it will invite others to thirst for life that is really life.
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on September 24, 2013
Overall an excellent read. Focuses on the importance and impact a true friendship with those who live at the margins can make. Friendships void of agendas. Friendships void of paternalism. Relationships that grow each other. I didn't agree with all of the material. As one who lives and works among the poor in Albania, I am not convinced yet that I have come here to make friends. Is that truly my mission? Did I sell everything, quit my job, and leave America to come to Albania to make a bunch of friends? Or, did I come here to make disciples and help the poor? In the Great Commission, Jesus doesn't tell us to go into all the nations and make friends. He tells us to make disciples. And, while I am certain that friendships will be made in my endeavors, I am not convinced that is my priority. However, one thing that I have learned the most from in this book is the importance of doing community with those I am reaching. The importance of getting into their world and allowing them to come into mine. That we are here to serve and love each other, and to grow together in Christ. More importantly, that I need to spend more time with the people I serve and not make them my project.

Overall, this a book that I highly recommend to those who are doing ministry among impoverished people groups. And, as with any book take it with a grain of salt, where I am certain you will glean some wisdom and wonderful insights from this book.
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on March 17, 2010
All our relationships are decided by GOD, we never had the chance to choose our parents, our face, our place of birth, our color or our creed..absolutely nothing but only one relationship which we choose is the 'friendship' and chris in his book has done incredble justice to explain how he carry the friendship through the ages and through all odds. I always wished i had a elder brother like chris... still i have him as my friend and well wisher. Absolute must read!!
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on April 21, 2010
Through this very important book, Chris Heuertz & Christine Pohl help readers to understand Jesus' model for service and mission with fresh eyes and hearts. For those of us who have reaped the benefits of majority, power, and wealth, though, this book can also be pesky. LIke the captivating story about a red button-down shirt which Chris bought at The Gap, only to discover that his friend Sujana in south India labored daily for miserly wages in the factory that produced the shirt. Saddened and convicted, Chris recalls seeing the Isaiah 3:14 injunction against plundering the poor much more vividly, in light of that red shirt. I, in turn, have often found myself thinking back to that red shirt, over the past days.

The authors fearlessly move through many issues that are difficult to frame or discuss, but integral to living life at the margins. Issues like moral callousing, need/solution mentality, hunger pornography, cause-driven models of missions, the career missionary paradigm, the awkward relationship between friendship and possessions, and much more. And rather than lapsing into theory, the authors continually bring the issues down to earth.

The best example is a Personal Retail Equality Tax (PRET) that Chris assesses to himself. He puts aside 12% of all purchases in a fund, which accrues until Chris' next trip to India, when he gives the money to Sujana. He admits that his PRET is symbolic-- just as important for how it affects Chris as for how it helps support Sujana or address systemic poverty. None of the problems, or the suggested solutions, are treated superficially. I know, though, that I am much the better for having been escorted so fearlessly, faithfully, and humbly into the complexity.
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on April 23, 2012
'Friendship at the Margins' has been a profound book in my journey towards learning how to truly befriend and love those in the margins of our world. For years I had a longing to serve among the poor, but my efforts always seemed distant and impersonal. This book comes from a life of friendship with people all over the world, and Chris Heuertz lives what he teaches. His life has been a model and light to our family, and we are now living and serving among the poor in Cape Town, South Africa. We have volunteers and interns frequently come to work with us in our township community, and this book is a MUST READ as they begin to learn to engage the margins. I HIGHLY recommend this incredible work.
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on May 10, 2014
The authors are practitioners and not just academics! How novel! :) Such authenticity comes through clear on each page. So many important critiques of the majority view of mission work and community. Hopeful, insightful & packed full of incredible stories, this book is worth investing twice the amount of time it takes to read!
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on June 12, 2010
I highly recommend this book for followers of Jesus who sense God leading them to service or mission (especially, but not limited to, "at the margins"). I also recommend it highly for formal and informal leaders reflecting on new ways to structure and practice mission.

This is a book about love: knowing the love of God and living a life of love. It emerges from the experiences of Word Made Flesh, a young, relationally organized mission (in the spirit of St. Francis). The members of Word Made Flesh go out in communities and live alongside marginalized people as friends. The authors weave a compelling, truth-filled narrative from their stories, experiences and scripture.

It's not a book that will "should all over you" with the language of guilt and obligations. Thankfully, it's not a book of formulas and methods. But it will offer real challenges and discomfort for Christians involved in mission and service, as it exposes all-too-common assumptions as inherently unloving and just plain wrong.

The book begins with a proposal to view mission through a lens of friendship, a humble thought with big implications. Choosing friendship "increases our sensitivity to the reductionism, commodification, and manipulation" in mission. For those called to the margins, real friends can no longer be treated as "faces of poverty," objects of service or characters in their stories. Genuine friendship carries significant ramifications, which the authors unpack.

I resonated with the emphasis on love at the heart of mission, and I appreciate how the lessons of this book have been lived out by the authors and in Word Made Flesh communities around the world. They have dug deeply into scripture and learned through both successes and failures in practice. They are daily surrounded by tensions and ambiguities in their contexts, but they haven't shrunk back, lost hope or entrenched themselves in rigid roles or structures. They say, "Our protection is not in becoming prim, prudish and obsessed with rules. It is in cultivating a pure heart and the mind of Christ." They embrace and share freedom and life in Christ.

I think it's only fair to include a critique. I would have suggested removing or rewriting chapter two, which pulls back to consider how having friends at the margins will affect our lives and perspectives from a distance and in the big picture. I think stepping back this way goes against the strengths of the book. I would have preferred a chapter about facing over-arching problems and pursuing solutions side-by-side with friends at the local level.

This doesn't undermine my overall evaluation. This is a book from authors and communities following Jesus and growing in process together, and it succeeds by inviting us to join the conversation as fellow friends and travelers.

I think it's a "must read" that I'll be re-reading, loaning out, and quoting from as I journey with friends in Cambodia living loved and loving others in Christ.
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on June 7, 2010
Two decades ago I volunteered regularly at a free lunch program offered by a downtown church in Lubbock, Texas. From one to two hundred people came, mostly from the neighborhood. We `got them through the line, fed and cleaned up' in an hour. For a reason I no longer remember, one day I decided to stand in line, get a plate and sit down at a table and get into a conversation with a couple of people. That was an important milestone in my journey into the heart of what the authors discuss in this book.

Although a relatively short book, it took me a while to read 'Friendship at the Margins'. The authors ask questions I thought I had satisfactorily answered a long time ago, and yet through their graceful interweaving of stories with the insight that comes from praxis, I found myself being challenged at the same time I was nodding in agreement with them. I took stock of some of the friendships I have, and confess I came out wanting. Having recently moved state, I became somewhat uncomfortable as I reflected on whether blossoming friendships here are truly mutual or if I'm still tempted to see certain people as "projects", "potential donors" or "representatives of causes." One of the strengths of the book is the honesty and humility evident throughout, which gently drew forth the same from me.

The book takes an unflinching yet generous look at donor-recipient issues in service and mission; at the unavoidable ambiguities and tensions that arise when we become friends with those outside are own social circles; and at the necessity of long-term commitment to place and people. The last chapter, which asks what kinds of spiritual practices help sustain friendships at the margins, seems particularly important. What will help us sustain long term commitment to each other - where does our hope come from, and how will we nurture it in the midst of our shared brokenness? To that end I'm also looking forward to reading Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life by Chris' wife and partner in mission, Phileena, recently released.

Friendship at the Margins - highly recommended.
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