Book Review by Gina Burgess
Caleb Bislow wrote a book about his calling. He is a farm boy from Nebraska, and went from a restless life as a Christian youth pastor in the Midwest, to quitting his job, emptying his bank account, and traveling deep into Africa. He took a long flight plus a two-day, bumpy car ride with a translator – to tell the Maasai people about Jesus. Was he a fool or was he courageous? Caleb wondered which it was with very little idea of what he was doing when he took his first steps as a missionary. Since that first trip, he has gone on to minister around the world, often to places he calls “despised, dangerous, and dark,” including the Congo, and Guatemala’s Pavon Prison, which is literally run by the inmates.
I thought it was going to be sort of a missions story on steroids. I was not even close. Caleb’s life is far more than a missions story. This is a story about calling. This is a story about God going about His business using His children who are ready, willing, and able to listen to His urgings and obey His commands.
Caleb Bislow listened to God’s voice, and obeyed the call, “As you go make disciples.” He followed Paul’s example by discipling a few, then challenging them to “Go make disciples.” Only Caleb did it with some dangerous people in despicable places.
Caleb writes that his first experience in Africa, which led to a church being planted there, “wrecked” him, and set him on a course to raise $50,000 in order to conduct more work among the Maasai. He says,
As we hiked back up a trail, my mind raced. How many years had this village been waiting to hear the Gospel? How many generations had come and gone without Christ? A sense of brokenness came over me. It was as if these people had just been waiting for someone to come and bring them the Good News. Just waiting. I found myself angry that no one had ever taken the Gospel to these people. That all of the churches and people with Jesus bumper stickers on their cars had forgotten [them] . . . I was even angry with myself.
Caleb describes the 13th floor as the place in society that no one wants to engage; it is more than just leaving your comfort zone. Not everyone is called to the most dangerous places on earth. Not everyone is called to the 13th floor. But for Christians, we are called to reach out to those outside the camp and draw them into safety.
In 1 Kings 17, the story is told of a poor widow doing the daily survival thing of gathering wood. But this time it would be for her son’s and her last meal of a handful of flour and a bit of oil. Then along comes a homeless man who was also in survival mode, living off the land that was in a God-ordained drought. She opened her home to him. As the days walked into weeks, she saw huge blessings and miracles that this man wrought. She was wonderfully blessed because the jar of flour and the jug of oil were never empty as long as the drought lasted. Not long after that, Elijah became famous as the Lord’s prophet. Caleb includes this story as an example of how people being obedient to God’s calling make decisive and enormous impact by reaching out to draw the outsider inside the camp, but not necessarily having to go to dangerous places. He emphasizes that God’s calling is individual, and God equips those individuals for His own specific purpose whether it be next door or to the opposite side of the globe.
It struck me that Caleb highlights in numerous ways how many Christians see the problems rather than the opportunities. People see sinful places, but don’t look past those to the precious faces of real people. Jesus took special pains to see the downtrodden, the infected, the enslaved, the marginalized. One instance of this is where Luke records a conversation Jesus had with Simon the Pharisee at dinner one evening,
“Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave Me no kiss but she has not stopped kissing My feet.” (Luke 7:44-45)
Earlier, Simon had said under his breath, “If He were truly a prophet, He would know what kind of woman sits at His feet.” Jesus did know. Jesus saw the person, the repentant heart, and the love she poured out.
Yes, the book is graphic in places, but God’s work is not always G-rated. The hurting, the downtrodden, the lost are not found in clinically clean places, sitting around waiting for some good Christian to come along and share the Gospel. Jesus ate with the prostitutes, the demon-possessed, and the tax collectors. We should do no less. Funny how Christians think setting on pews hatching out nothing is doing God’s will. Where is the fruit? Frankly, God did not call us to sit on our duffs. He called us to work His good works.
Caleb describes the heart-wrenching and the hand-wringing he and his wife suffered making the decision to withdraw their life savings to take that first trip to Africa. The burning desire to go there kept him awake at night tossing and turning. Finally, that deep desire burned far more brightly than the fear of stepping out into the unknown, so he went, covered in his wife’s prayers.
Dangerous: Engaging the People and Places No One Else Will is a great tool to use for many situations in your church group.
Any problems in your church?
- Complacent church members – tell them some of these stories.
- Shy youth – challenge them with some of these Bible verses and the illustrative true stories.
- Daredevil young men – let them read of some dark, dangerous, and despised places – places that burdened the heart of Caleb Bislow.
Caleb Bislow’s debut book, Dangerous (Bethany House, September 2013), written with Ted Kluck, is part inspirational memoir, part devotional, and part field guide for the aspiring evangelist. Since that first trip to Africa, he has founded a missionary organization called Unusual Soldiers that trains American Christians, and increasingly foreign nationals, to minister at home or abroad and almost always under adverse circumstances. His vision for the organization is to take humanitarian concern and Christian teaching to places that have no Christian contact.
Caleb has been humbled to advance God’s kingdom on every inhabited continent in the world. He was trained in survival by former British commandos, and is the director of Unusual Soldiers training events. He is a speaker through Kingdom Building Ministries. Caleb and his wife, Jessica, and their three children call Franklin, Nebraska, their home.
Learn more about Caleb and his ministry at www.unusualsoldiers.com.