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The Ordinary in the Midst of the Extraordinary

The Space between Memories: Recollections from a 21st Century Missionary by David Joannes. Within Reach Global, 2016, 288 pages. ISBN-10: 0692757074, ISBN-13: 978-0692757079; paperback $14.99, Kindle $9.99 at Amazon; iBooks $9.99 at iTunes.

David Joannes is a self-proclaimed “missionary,” trailblazer, and ragamuffin whose newly released memoir, The Space Between Memories, chronicles twenty years of pioneering work among the minorities of Southwest China.

At once a travelogue, a love story, and a profound reflection on the evangelistic task, David’s memoir narrates an intense odyssey of the heart. In the process he captures a pivotal time in China’s recent history as paddy fields gave way to skyscrapers and a fledgling persecuted church matured into an outward looking movement with a heart for the nations.

David’s journey, from the streets of Hong Kong to the jungles of Yunnan and beyond, brings you face to face with the unvarnished realities of frontier evangelism as the gospel breaks through geographical, cultural and political barriers. He relates in poignant detail the joys and struggles of ministry among the Yao, a hitherto unreached people group in which David witnessed God’s sovereign work despite many apparent setbacks. David’s missiological reflections go beyond textbook theory and probe deep into the question of what it means to have a heart for the unreached and a lifestyle to match.

The intensity of David’s arduous journey is offset by his determination to seize the “space between memories” and enjoy the moment, whether in picking flowers to be lovingly pressed and sent to his future wife, pausing to take in the urban drama unfolding on the busy streets of Kunming, or, more recently, watching his young daughter skipping across the lawn in a neighborhood park. He confesses his own tendency to dwell on former glories as he recalls, during a particularly difficult time of transition, his realization that, “God had greater things in store for us. He would bring us from glory to glory, His spectacular purposes revealed along our journey in even greater measure.”

David’s vivid descriptions of people, places and events are peppered with insightful observations growing out of his own rich and varied life experiences. Here are a few nuggets:

Poverty, like an onion, has many layers. And every layer, from its flaky outer shell to its sweetish center, will make you cry….Yet, something strange started to take place within me as I spent time among the marginalized. Compassion began to bud and grow inside my heart. The more I focused on the poor, the more I loved them.

The kingdom of God was everywhere, all around me, coursing through the city streets; down unfrequented back lanes; up hidden stairways, and into the alcoves and crannies at dead end alleyways. And I began to understand a deeper truth: that wherever my feet strode, there, too, went the kingdom.

I was like a blind man playing Pictionary with a group of distinguished painters (describing his experience as the only non-Asian in his Chinese class).

Though I felt strangely at home in Southeast Asia, the acute clashing of cultural differences brought with it the cognizance of my sheer foreignness. It was a poignant reminder of how I was simply a sojourner on the earth, longing for a more permanent eternal home.

[O]ver six-thousand distinct ethnic people groups remain untouched by a Christian presence. The Buddhist, animist, Hindu, Islamic, and unaffiliated blocs of the earth’s population are there, waiting at the other end of our obedience.

The Space between Memories is both inspirational and informative, a personal narrative that speaks to the heart and an in-depth look at God’s work among the peoples of China during the past two decades.

Brent Fulton

Brent Fulton

Brent Fulton is the founder of ChinaSource.  Prior to assuming his current position, he served from 1995 to 2000 as the managing director of the Institute for Chinese Studies at Wheaton College. From 1987 to 1995 he served as founding US director of China Ministries International, and from 1985 to... View Full Bio