Getz, Howard G. The CoMission: One View. Privately published. 2003.
Reviewed by Perry L. Glanzer.
Howard Getz’s self-published book on the CoMission covers ground previously not chronicled in other books about the largest missiological partnership of the twentieth century (Paul Eshleman’s The Touch of Jesus, New Life Publishers, and my own The Quest for Russia’s Soul: Western Evangelicals and Moral Education in Post-Communist Russia, Baylor University Press). Getz’s account tells the tale of the CoMission from the perspective of a small mission agency (World Team) involved with this outreach. Consequently, Getz provides a great service by detailing the missiological side of the CoMission experience.
This account describes a range of “nuts and bolts” issues involved in all 12 cycles of the CoMission including recruitment and training of teams, the set-up process of the World Team mission, support of teams on the fields, and various stories of individuals from the field. In fact, he offers a bit more detail than needed. For example, he writes about what each World Team group did during their vacation time in Switzerland, who met someone at the airport on certain trips, and other unnecessary details.
Since Getz did not stay in the country as an actual CoMission member, the book contains only a small number of personal stories of relationships with Russians, ministry activity, or training of Russian teachers that would make the book of broader interest to outsiders wanting to learn more about missions in Russia. Indeed, the best nuggets in this account come from prayer-letter excerpts from ground-level participants that describe such interactions. These narratives also include a number of the quirky incidents and events foreign travelers to Russia often experience which make the movie “Trains, Planes, and Automobiles” seem tame by comparison.
Since Getz helped manage teams, his account does provide an honest and accurate account of the general difficulties experienced by the average CoMission participant. He describes difficult living situations, team disagreements, emotional ups and downs, health problems (depression, injuries, etc.), cross-cultural adjustments, and housing/food issues that CoMissioners faced. If not for the unnecessary details, the book would serve as a good source for future Russian missionaries and workers.
Despite Getz’s honesty about the difficulties of working in Russia, he does not add reflections about the lessons mission agencies might learn about using teams for missions, forming large mission partnerships, working with government entities, or undertaking missions in Russia. For example, he uncritically relates stories detailing CoMissioners teaching in the classroom. These are actions prohibited in the CoMission agreement with the Russian Ministry of Education. In fact, the Russian Ministry of Education eventually revoked its agreement with the CoMission because of such actions in another city.
Getz remains satisfied to tell the story as accurately and in as great detail as possible without offering any further reflections. Consequently, in light of the book’s dearth of stories related to ground-level ministry, its overly detailed narrative, and the lack of critical analysis, it is doubtful the book will be of interest to a wide audience. The book will primarily prove interesting to World Team and other CoMission participants as a wonderful resource for bringing back memories of a unique historical and missiological experience.
Perry L. Glanzer is an assistant professor in the School of Education, Baylor University, Waco, TX.
Editor’s Note: Orders for The CoMission: One View by Howard G. Getz may be sent to the following address: 609 Glen Avenue, Morton, IL 61550; 309-266-9603; firstname.lastname@example.org. Cost: $5.00.
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© 2004 East-West Church and Ministry Report