Monday, July 25, 2011

Love in a Fearful Land - Review

Here's another Nouwen book.   It's fairly short with a generous dose of photographs, so I finished it on the bus ride before the retreat officially began.
Love in a Fearful Land is the story of two Catholic priests in Guatemala.  Father Stanley Rother a missionary priest from Oklahoma City was assigned to a poor Mayan village in the mountains of Guatemala.  He learned their language and served with steady integrity and compassion for 12 years.  He invested his life in helping the people understand God and become more self-reliant and healthy.  Eventually, this nonpolitical commitment to serve his community was viewed as political resistance to the corrupt and oppressive Guatemalan military regime.  (For more on the political situation in Latin America in the 1970's and 1980's see yesterday's post.)  After being threatened in a variety of ways, he was finally killed in his bedroom in 1981.
Three years later Father John Vesey felt called to replace Stan as the priest of this little town - despite all the risks.  Vesey asked his good friend Henri Nouwen to come and pray for him as he adapted to his new assignment.  When Nouwen was leaving, he asked how he could help.  This book is the result.
What I learned from this book is pretty similar to what I learned from Gracias!.  Sometimes doing even simple and obviously good things leads to conflict and persecution.  Once again, I felt grateful to be in a place where there is no threat of physical persecution.  And once again, I felt encouraged to persevere with humility and patience.
In this book, Nouwen is not at his best, but as he explains, he is coming off a drought of a year and a half of writers' block.  Also, this is not his standard topic.  However, even in the midst of the martyrdom and difficulty, this book is a glowing depiction of simple love in Jesus' way.  By telling the story, Nouwen calls us to the same simple and persistent love for all - no matter the cost.
The Josh rating: JJJ.
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