That’s the stereotypical worst fear when a person gives his life to God, isn’t it? That God will send him to Africa to be a missionary.
For Kim Abernethy, that’s actually what happened. She knew it before she accepted it, and her journey from wayward daughter to obedient wife and mother is detailed in her book In This Place. The book reads more like a journal than a story, but Abernethy’s personal experiences would be a helpful resource for anyone planning to serve as a missionary, especially in Africa.
She holds nothing back — her fears (malaria and tapeworms, among them); her cultural missteps (blowing the generator on the mission compound running too many electrical items at one time); and her weaknesses (spitting out a bite of porcupine stew, and the Liberian “chocolates” after drinking the water).
Read on for an author interview and a link for a chance to win the book.
We understand that you kept rather detailed journals as a young missionary woman in Liberia, West Africa. What prompted you to do that?
My husband and I, along with our 2 1/2 year old daughter, Michelle, were absorbed deeply into the Liberian jungle (180 miles from the capital city Monrovia) at a time when communicating with the “outside” world was still an anomaly. In the mid 1980’s, our key communication source to our family in America was through ham radio operators and by that means, we usually talked to our families only once a month.
There was never enough time to tell them all the cultural things we were learning or share the cute things about
their granddaughter, so I felt the need to supplement with journals. I would handwrite the journals as events happened, but then would use my Selectric II typewriter (during electricity time – you’ll understand that more if you read the book) to type out the journals and mail them off. My mother wisely put the journals into a large manila envelope and saved them. She and my father knew my hankering for writing and prayed that I would one day use those journals to write a book.
How (exactly) did you go about writing the book? Did you take your journal entries and just add more details?
I wrote the first couple of chapters almost six years ago. Between a busy college ministry and an active family, it was difficult for me to know how to carve out the time I needed to make the writing effective. Of course, I always tried to give myself a self-imposed deadline, but being new at the writing and knowing I was going to self-publish did not help my need for discipline so lacking in the early formation of this book. Two years ago, after constantly reaming myself out for not getting serious and lamenting to my husband and family that I needed to get this book done, they rallied around and helped me carve out more substantial amounts of time for serious writing.
Not having any template on how to write from detailed journals, I just decided to dig into the coffers of the journals, make notes about the stories I wanted to use, and then started writing. There were times I found that I could not improve on how I had said something in my journal so I gave myself permission to quote directly from the journal.
What helped you make the decision of which stories to include and which stories to leave out?
That was not an easy task. Taking the advice of several friends and other writers, I stopped the constant editing and analyzing of what I had already written and just wrote the story. It soon started to weave itself into somewhat of a continuum.
After I had completely written the story, I went back and read the entire book, critically, as through the eyes of those who might read it but not really know me very well. I prayed much that God would give me the grace to know when to “let go” of a story, especially when it seemed that it was completely self-serving. Grant it, I struggled with God over at least two particular stories that I really wanted to keep in there, but no matter how hard I tried, they did not fit the spirit of what the book had become.
Honestly, I do not believe that I could have written this book in as God-honoring of a way ten years ago. While I am no where near what I need to be in Christ, I do know that He has taken more of the ME out of the story and inserted much more of the HIM in it.
Can you give us a brief synopsis of this story?
In 1985 I, along with my husband, Jeff, followed a call from God to minister in the small West African country of Liberia. From learning how to effectively communicate with the Liberian workers in my jungle home to witnessing the painful death of a young woman in childbirth, I write candidly. I tell stories of every day happenings in the life of jungle living, but also plod through the painful: when one of my daughter’s fell from an 18-foot balcony and when my husband was exposed to Lassa fever. One of my favorite things to write about were the chronicles of my husband’s adventures of being a bush pilot in the jungle of Liberia.
Inside this book you will find disbelief, tragedy, fear, anxiety, discontentment, and confusion, but there is also humor, delight, amazement, wonder, surrender, and a deep-seated joy as you watch how God – little by little – chipped away at the walls of pride, unbelief, stubbornness, and independence that had always held me captive to myself. You may find yourself in these stories.
What was your key inspirational force in writing and publishing your first book?
My three daughters were the primary inspirations. Our oldest, Michelle, was 2 1/2 when we first went to Liberia. Stefanie, our second, was born in the middle of the jungle after we had only been in Liberia for ten months. Third daughter Lauren was born during the tumultuous time after our first evacuation from our ministry & home in Liberia. I wanted them to have a written account of their parents’ missionary journey in West Africa and beyond. It is one thing to be a Missionary Kid and live the life in your “home away from home”, but as they are all now young women in their twenties, I wanted them to see God in a bigger way. To always have a reason to keep trusting Him – no matter what.
Another motivation for writing this book were young missionary couples (particularly the women) who may wonder what they can expect as they enter their field of service. Though the country and circumstances may be different, I want the book to be a cultural, spiritual, and practical guide to those who will come behind us.
The third reason was for those that have always been interested in the intrinsic details of foreign missionary lives. I offer this candid missionary memoir as a means to open the door to seeing us as human, exposing struggles and sharing victories.
Where can we find out more about you and your books?
Please visit my website at www.kimlabernethy.com.
I was given a complimentary copy of this book from the author in exchange for posting the author’s interview on my blog. This blog tour is managed by Christian Speaker Services (www.ChristianSpeakerServices.com).