Friday, April 3, 2015

Holy Week Book Review: "Coffee, Tea, and Holy Water: One Women's Journey to Experience Christianity Around the Globe" by Amanda Hudson

(Thanks for hanging out during Holy Week. We kick off Monday with a review of Dead Wake and talking about my experience at the Erik Larson book signing! Yay!)

*Thanks to Netgalley for the book!*

Amanda Hudson has some questions about Christianity. She identifies herself as a "born again" Christian living in the Southern part of the United States. She mostly has worshiped in the "huge church, praise band with spotlights, big production VBS" kind of churches, but knows that this type of worship and Christianity is not the same kind of worship that is experienced around the world.

She picks 5 countries and goes to experience Christianity and worship like they do: Brazil, Wales, China and Honduras.If I went into extreme detail about each place this would be the longest review ever, so I hope little tidbits will get you interested enough to pick up this book.

First up, the city of Natal in Brazil.

Here's what we learned in Brazil:
-Morning services in the area she visited don't do well in the morning. They usually have one service in the evening.
-80% of Brazil's population live on the eastern coastline of the country.
-Spiritism can be a big component of Brazilian culture and can be really scary in some cases. People seem much more open to have unexplained supernatural religious encounters than we would be here.

Next, Wales. I didn't write down the city but it's in a place nicknamed Mumbles.

I thought this was interesting: there was a survey done in Europe and it asked: Does religion occupy an important place in your life? Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Czech Republic were the top responders who said no. (between 83% and 75% of respondents). The UK was following closely at 71%. Czech republic I kind of get because they were under Communism other oppressive regiems for so long. And the other countries are more well known for not being religious.  But the UK? Fewer countries have a history more shaped by religion than they. (Not always in a good way).

Wales has the lowest church attendance out of the 4 regions of Great Britain. Amanda really dug to try to find out the root cause of this decline of church attendance in a formally really religious part of the world. Her best guess was apathy (CS Lewis also predicted this happening in Great Britain, by the way)

Next, Tanzania. Where the local salary is about $2 a day and the candy bars in grocery stores by the check outs are kept under glass like expensive watches in a department store. She visits and stays with doctors who run the Tanzanian Christian Clinic. The most common maladies are stomach worms, infections and mostly preventable maladies.

The most intersting part of this section had really nothing to do with church  but with 2 schools of thought regarding international aid.

First up, paternalism. This is basically saying "hey, let's build a medical clinic. It needs running water and electricity and air conditioning. It'll kind of be like we have in our developed country that we are coming from."

The other, indigenous. They say "hey, let's build a medical clinic. But we want it to be developed all internally. If the locals live in places with dirt floors and oil lamps, that's what we will make this clinic like because it's more in keeping with what is here and we don't want to bring in too many outside influences."

(This is me COMPLETELY oversimplifying, but the point is still there.)


The most interesting part in this chapter for me is the difference between churches that are registered with the government and house churches.

Registered churches aren't able to openly evangelize (hand out pamphlets, go door to door) but they are allowed to worship with very little government harassment. But some of the churches have to compromise with the government and it's philosophies to keep the harmony (like some churches deny miracles or the virgin birth). Home churches meet in, uh, homes and don't register with the government. They want the ability to teach their theology without compromising it with the government. And they want the ability to spread the gospel to others (even if it's quietly and not in a grandiose fashion) There's also a scene about a Chinese wedding that is so very different than what we do here!

Finally, Honduras.

Amanda joins a medical mission that goes into rural Honduras. Here, like in Tanzania, a lot of the common complaints are things that we could solve easily with some clean water, some tylenol or a quick doctor visit. The thing that would make the most difference to them medicinally would be readily available clean water. The most interesting part of this trip were the people on the trip with her and their stories.

(Sorry Honduras, you're last and this review is long)

I wish she would have talked a little more about how she picked the countries. I think it came down to where there was connections, in the case of Honduras who needed help with their medical mission. I just am curious. Obviously her couple of experiences at a few churches in these countries are not going to be duplicated all over that country. I wish that she could have spent even longer, and experienced even more at each of the countries to get a wider sample. But hey, we are all slaves to budget and time restraints. I get it. I give this book a 3.5 out of 5 stars! Also, I'd like to go to Wales. I always thought this would be a pretty place to visit, and the descriptions seem to confirm!

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