Aug 29, 2011

In This Place: An Interview with Author Kim Abernethy

Third in a series

I read missionary Kim L. Abernethy's In This Place pretty much straight through on three carefree sunny days alonside the Atlantic.  I thought it would be light reading, a great book for the beach.  Kim lulled me into her world so completely that I felt like I had gone to Africa with her, that she had tucked me in her suitcase, had kept me by her nighstand and whispered secrets about her day every night before bed.  Upon closing the book, I knew I'd catch up with Kim one day, curl up beside her and gather more pieces of her story.   I didn't know it would be so soon.

20 days and 175 miles later, Kim and I curled up in a Starbucks corner so I could hear more.  I figured I wasn't alone in my reaction to In This Place.  So many things about this book touched me, "Kim," I started, "What are you hearing back from people who have read your book?"   She smiled slowly, gazed off and answered me in a hushed tone.  "Testimonies.  By cards, facebook comments, more than I expected.  From missionary ladies, young moms, retired missionaries, co-workers, strangers...."  She turned back and looked me straight on......

"I had three purposes for writing this book." She continued,
"1.  A legacy for my children.  They were little girls, young when this was happening.  They don't remember much.  I would love for them to write down their thoughts as they read it.  For my parents, too, so they could see all that teaching and praying they did was not in vain.  They are reading this now in their older years, it's good that it's separated by years -- if they had known all that back then!

 2.  To be transparent enough for it to help other missionaries.  I want to be transparent and realistic for them to listen and to learn.    For the women to be able to read this, even if they are not going to Africa, to know that whatever the struggle is that they are having, it's OK.  You're human, things are going to happen and here's a way to handle it and a way not to handle it.  The next book is going to be a little more on the marriage dynamics.

3.  For the rest of the crowd -- people that are fascinated by missionaries but don't know what to do with it.  By the time they finish reading, what I'm hearing is 'I am amazed how much we are alike.  I had no idea that the struggles that I had were the same struggles you had just on another continent.'  That's the best I could give to the general public."

Kim leans in and speaks candidly, "One reaction that I never thought about is the evangelistic nature of the book.  It wasn't my main thrust, but God has used this book to provoke and convict.  I put the gospel there in my testimony and the story about the Muslim girl dieing.  This book has opened conversations that I had no idea I would ever have with unsaved students and unbelievers everywehere.  I had no idea about this facet.  This was one of God's designs, not Kim's."

That is what I loved about the book.  She is so stinkin' candid.  She, the missionary, wrestles with things just like all of us.  She puts them right out there, too.  I wrestled through some of her situations right there with her!  I squinted in dismay when she discussed riding a vehicle to church while the village ladies walked the two miles.  I grimaced and debated the ethics.  When I turned back to the book, there was Kim, wrestling with it, debating the ethics, apologizing, loving, praying.

I looked up at her.  "Did you struggle with how candid to be?"

"Only on three stories.  One made it in the book, two were taken out.  No, I didn't struggle, it's just me.  These books were not written flippantly, they were written with everything that was in me. All my energy, emotions  it was exhausting to write, but it was right.  Going back through these things was painful.  I was exhausted after writing some of this stuff.  We tend to think that if something is draining or exhausting, it isn't right, you shouldn't be doing that, but I don't think that's true.  Sometimes I felt lonely and out of touch, needed encouragement....  I'd try to generate encouragement.  Then God would come through.  It was a growing experience for me, just the writing. God would tell me you know you are supposed to do this."

If you haven't read In This Place, I encourage you to do so.   In Every Place, the second part of Kim's autobiography, is coming out in January, 2012.

Charlotte, NC,is the home of the Abernethy's new ministry – CBFI (Campus Bible Fellowship International) at UNCC -- Sit back in the next few weeks and read as I share a hint of Kim's next book and more about her life and faith with you in a series of blogposts.  Here's Kim at a book signing party:

1st in this series:  In This Place book review.

I received nothing in exchange for any of my reviews of Kim's books.  Her stories were brought to my attention by my nephew who attends her Charlotte UNCC ministry.

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