The Middle of Everywhere–Book Recommendation

This is one of my all-time favorite, and probably most frequently recommended, books. Mary Pipher, probably best known as the author of Reviving Ophelia, turns her pen here to her experience working with refugee communities who have been resettled in her hometown of Lincoln, Nebraska.

Mary Pipher’s book The Middle of Everywhere: Helping Refugees Enter the American Community  is a highly readable account of the resiliency of refugee peoples, as well as  describing the many ways that we can engage in helping them in their transition to their new life. Pipher, a family therapist, looks at psychological sociological, and cultural issues through the stories she shares of individuals and families she has met in her professional life as well as her volunteer work. This isn’t a textbook. Rather, it is full of stories–wonderful stories, heartbreaking stories, frustrating stories, and stories of hope, all revealing the lives behind the facts, and drawing us into the daily experiences of people who are doing their best to rebuild.

Whenever I meet someone who is new to volunteering with refugee and immigrant communities, I recommend this as required reading! I have read it myself a couple of times, and even after being immersed in refugee ministries for several years I still find helpful insights and reminders. This is one to have on your book list, even if you aren’t a volunteer with refugee communities. The insights you gain into family systems under duress, and how to help others build their own capacity for resilience, are helpful for everyone to learn. Besides, Pipher is an excellent writer and it is just a very good read.

The Middle of Everywhere: Helping Refugees Enter the American Community, by Mary Pipher, (Mariner Books, 2003)



COTAAN–Communicating with the Congregation

(One of the questions we had asked Rev. Christine Smith to address in these blog posts was, “Why and how are you communicating about the work of the ministry with your congregation?” Sometimes a church will launch a ministry and then assume everyone knows what’s going on; they forget to keep the congregation engaged in the process. When this occurs, the result can be that it becomes just a small handful of people carrying the ministry on. Communication is crucial to the success of a ministry, so we asked Rev. Smith to talk to us about COTAAN’s experience in this area.)

COTAAN is still in the infancy stages.  Honestly, COTAAN will help our church to clearly understand the “doing” of ministry.  Other than raising money to send to overseas missions or missionaries, and doing nursing home visitations or assisting in a soup kitchen on Thanksgiving, my congregation (unfortunately) did not have a history of hands on, community, “in-your-face” ministry.  For some, “ministry over there”–in other words, when money is sent off to people we probably will never have to touch, see, or feel, except in pictures–for some that has been more comfortable.  For me, it is a social justice issue.  Jesus wants us to “do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God,” (Micah 6:8)

As we launch COTAAN, our congregation will be invited to participate in various ways: assisting with Bible study, building maintenance, moral support, and so forth.  There are so many points of intersection for people of a variety of skills and availability. A few of our members will sit on the board and one of our associate ministers will serve as the director.  COTAAN is a wonderful opportunity for our congregation to learn how to minister in tangible ways to the hurting, struggling, and renewing in our midst.

The COTAAN blog posts are contributed by Rev. Christine A. Smith, pastor of Covenant Baptist Church in Wickliffe, OH, Stay tuned for more on this story!

COTAAN is a grant project of AB Women’s Ministries. For more information about COTAAN , including how you could help support this ministry, click here.