Brewster "Bonding" Review

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Book Review:

Brewster Thomas E., and Elizabeth S. Brewster. Bonding and the Missionary Task: Establishing a Sense of Belonging. Pasadena, CA: Lingua House, 1982.

Tom and Betty Sue Brewster were language/culture learning consultants and faculty members at Fuller Theological Seminary. Prior to that, they were missionary language school assistant directors in Mexico, and traveled extensively around the world teaching and consulting. Tom was called home to heaven in 1985 and Betty Sue continues to teach and consult. The thesis of their booklet is that missionaries go through a critical time upon entry into a new culture and ought to bond with insiders during this period so that they themselves become belongers in the culture. Just as babies biologically bond with parents during the first days and weeks of their lives, the Brewsters argue that missionaries face a unique period during their first weeks in a new culture, when they will either become learners from insiders, and gain an understanding of their ways of thinking and feeling and behaving, or they will bond with other missionaries and remain foreigners and outsiders in the culture. Their argument from studies of bonding in nature is very emotive and strikes a common sense chord. Their example of Jesus as an incarnational learner and example add more spiritual authority to the argument. Their numerous examples from real missionary contexts are convincing and give practical helps for going through the bonding process. The alternatives seem unavoidable: either take the plunge and develop a new self who has friends and feels at home in the new culture, or remain an outsider who takes ministry forays into the culture to help and touch peoples’ lives, but will have limited personal satisfaction and probably limited ministry impact. However, in their eagerness to argue the value of bonding, the Brewsters downplay the difficulties involved, simply saying “it is not easy.” They lose some credibility by...
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