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Assimilate or Go Home: Notes from a Failed Missionary on Rediscovering Faith Paperback – August 16, 2016
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“Mayfield’s breakout book traces a journey from zealous youth to collegiate do-gooder to disillusioned doubter to chastened disciple. With her immersive storytelling… she reminds us that often enough, our trivial, messy ministries matter as kingdom work.” (Christianity Today)
“Mayfield’s new book arrives at a difficult moment in American conversations about refugees, the future of Christianity, and the role of religion in an increasingly secular society. [The book] challenges many preconceptions about evangelicalism, missionary work, and what it means to live a life of social justice and faith.” (Religion Dispatches)
“I have loved watching D.L. Mayfield find her voice in the wild world of Christendom. On these pages it is clear that we are wounded healers, that the path to God is one of downward mobility, and that all the ground is level at the foot of the cross.” (Shane Claiborne, author, activist, and director of Red Letter Christians)
“Assimilate or Go Home is inconvenient and necessary, hopeful and unflinching, humble and wry; it is as ferocious as love. During this age of the Church when we too often worship worldly obvious success, we need to receive D.L. Mayfield’s ministry of subversive truth-telling.” (Sarah Bessey, author of Jesus Feminist and Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith)
“In this beautifully written, emotionally rich memoir… Mayfield’s close observation of the journey of refugees trying to make a new life abroad while desperately missing the homes they were forced to abandon is required reading in an age of increased turmoil surrounding the status of refugees worldwide.” (Publishers Weekly)
“D. L. Mayfield’s voice aches like a psalmist’s; it sings out like the prophets of old. This book is not the next hot new thing. It is ancient wisdom, distilled from the daily grind, rendered in the vernacular of American life.” (Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, author of Strangers at My Door)
“What is the good news? That is the central, vital question in Mayfield’s deeply felt essays. In a season of such great fear of “the other,” her observations and exhortations are especially timely. Mayfield’s heart is huge, her questions important. And at its best, her lovely prose pierced my soul.” (Jeff Chu, author of Does Jesus Really Love Me?)
“In this beautiful, heartbreaking debut, Mayfield pulls back the curtain on her difficult life in the refugee community. A must-read for anyone who dreamt of changing the world for God…and instead discovered that life is much more charged with glory and brokenness than we ever knew.” (Addie Zierman, author of When We Were on Fire and Night Driving)
“This winsome memoir captures the zeal and the vulnerability of Mayfield’s experience living and working among a community of Somali Bantu refugees in Portland, OR.” (Relevant Magazine)
“Mayfield beautifully chronicles her earnest efforts to befriend her refugee neighbors and introduce them to God-only to find that she herself meets God in new, profound ways. Assimilate or Go Home is among the most refreshing books I have read in years: funny, wise, and convicting.” (Matthew Soerens, U.S. Director of Church Mobilization at World Relief and co-author of Seeking Refuge: On the Shores of the Global Refugee Crisis)
“I hope Christians everywhere can follow Mayfield, like falling through the rabbit hole, into the strange and hidden world of refugees. Her daring prose pulls us into the poetics, the adventure, the ecology and the anguish of being a true neighbor today.” (Chris Hoke, author of Wanted: A Spiritual Pursuit Through Jail, Among Outlaws, and Across Borders)
“I cannot get enough of D.L. Mayfield’s rich language, vivid storytelling, and nuanced perspective on faith, poverty, and the ‘ministry of cake,’ which has left me aching for the world she inhabits and the God she loves, and I’m better for it.” (Micha Boyett, author of Found: A Story of Questions, Grace, and Everyday Prayer)
“Assimilate or Go Home is the least American book about Christianity I’ve read by an American evangelical. Like the gospels, it foregrounds the troubles of human frailty, of pain, of not-knowing. Here, Mayfield suggests, perhaps we can replace power with an imperfect attempt at love.” (Kyle Minor, author of Praying Drunk)
About the Author
D. L. MAYFIELD has nearly a decade of experience working with refugee communities in the United States. Mayfield’s work has been published in McSweeneys, Christianity Today, Relevant, Geez, Curator, Reject Apathy, and Conspire!. She lives in Portland, OR with her husband and two small children. Visit her at dlmayfield.com.
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Top Customer Reviews
Assimilate or Go Home is a personal narrative, but much more. Mayfield’s collection of stories explores the myriad of challenges inherent to living cross culturally and bridging the expansive gaps between a Christian Gospel culture and an Other culture, whatever that culture may be. In her case, her Other culture was primarily Somali Bantu refugees and impoverished Americans.
Just how does a privileged white American with every spiritual advantage make a meaningful connection with an impoverished Somali Bantu refugee lacking all the privileges all while making a connection that furthers the Kingdom of God?
That was Mayfield’s journey and her frustration. In story after story, she reflects on the theology, the traditions, the platitudes and (often unconscious) assumptions with which she grew up about how to be a Christian and how to be a missionary…and how none of them actually worked once she first started working outside the church.
In a long process of bold reflection, Mayfield discovered that she was caught up in a pattern of “Do-gooding,” working tireless to do activities and perform services, ostensibly to bring people into the Kingdom of God. She was doing everything her Christian tradition told her she needed to do to be good and to help people. But what she discovered what that her desire to help people was deeply rooted in her own misunderstanding of God’s love, that being as a love she had to earn by being the best damn missionary ever. As long as she was in that mentality, she failed and was frustrated.
Only when she could separate her work from her salvation, did the upside down world make sense.
Along the way, she also learned how her Gospel message was colored by her own status as an American, a white person, an educated person, a person who had been spared the traumas of refugee life. She discovered how easily the true essence of the Gospel is confused with inflicting White American Evangelical Church culture upon a people for whom that same culture is largely oppressive.
Every (prospective) missionary ought to read and reflect on Assimilate or Go Home. Every missionary and ministry person ought to do as Mayfield did and reflect long and hard on the assumptions and paradigms we generally take for granted about Christ, culture, the Gospel, relationship and “Successful ministry.” Unexamined, our spiritually privileged assumptions have high potential to cause more harm than good. If we engage in missions and ministry primarily to earn God’s favor for ourselves, we will probably cause more harm than good, and be perpetually frustrated in the process.
But like Mayfield discovered, if we can truly believe that God already loves us, that He is the one who draws all people to Himself, then we are free to simply sit with our Others and enjoy their company. And in the space between us, the Kingdom takes root.
Author D.L. Mayfield brings readers on her journey of discovering her good intentions weren’t good enough: the savior complex is real and powerful, but it inevitably places distance between the serving and the served. That was the barrier Mayfield fought to overcome, and still does, in hopes that her friendships with the poor, the under-resourced, and the often unwelcomed will change her as much as it might change them.
In a time when immigrants and foreigners are under harsher scrutiny than many of our homegrown citizens, refugees have become a political pawn for both sides of the aisle. Fortunately, more people in faith communities, humanitarian organizations, and the public sphere are speaking out about the stories and struggles of refugees who simply want a safe home, workable jobs, and the chance to show they, too, can be a part of our society. Thanks for writing this, D.L..