The Insanity of God by Nik Ripken (with Gregg Lewis) is a soul-searching book that surpasses some missionary books and blogs I have read by its raw delivery.
Nik Ripken is a pseudonym. Some of the names in his stories have been made-up to protect those Christians in persecuted countries from discovery by their governments. It’s a book that takes us around the world as Nik interviews believers from countries hostile to Christianity. Intermixed in the book is his testimony.
Nik grew up a non-believer. He didn’t have the traditional church background like his wife, Ruth. He became a believer, dated Ruth, and their marriage began with a commitment to follow Jesus. Nik almost made me cry on page 54 when at Nik and Ruth’s wedding, Nik’s mom intended to divorce Nik’s father. Coming from a committed Christian family, Ruth felt shock.
Ruth and Nik’s mutual commitment to follow Jesus at all costs took them to the Horn of Africa. The early part of the book speaks about their beginnings and their work in learning a variety of African languages. Nik’s focus though became the country of Somalia, and in the early nineties it was war torn. Ruth and Nik were a team and after moving around the Horn of Africa learning to be missionaries, they settled in Nairobi and formed a relief organization of their own.
Nik made many trips into Somalia, staying sometimes for days to map out the needs, making local contacts, and researching how their new relief organization could help, but Somali caught Nik unaware. The starvation, the deaths, and the inward fighting left Nik feeling helpless. His Americanized faith did not prepare him for spreading the Gospel in a country that had maybe one or two believers in it. Persecution was common.
When Nik’s organization air dropped aid supplies to Somalia, villages would flock to it. The next day Muslims would arrive in the village, beat the men and rape the women for simply taking western aid. The Muslims warned the village that if aid was accepted again worse would happen. Nik found this frustrating how evil seemed to have the upper hand. In several areas Nik spoke about what was happening in Somalia as evil. Never have I read a missionary’s story that read so intense. The last one I read felt glossed over in what they experienced as if the area was not that dangerous. Nik effectively communicates and describes his experiences in Somalia, Nairobi, China, former Eastern Block countries, and Russia without padding anything. It doesn’t feel like he is holding anything back.
Nik was in Somalia at the time when the events of “Black Hawk Down” occurred. Nik worked in Somalia for a month at a time, spending the in-between times in Nairobi with his family. Nik struggled to cope with the starvation he witnessed and the frustration of only serving the Somalians physical needs. Many events challenged Nik.
A woman in a village tried to force her child on him. He wrote, “I was overwhelmed with the desperation of those mothers. I wondered what I would have done if it was my family that was starving. Would I consider giving away my son if that was the only possible way that he would live? The questions haunted me.” (pg. 58).
Then, Nik’s son, Tim, dies from an asthma caused cardiac arrest. Tim was a teenager. This event triggered Nik’s questions. He and Ruth had always wondered just how far they would go for Jesus. Wasn’t faith supposed to be easier?
Tim’s death was the catalyst in Nik’s worldwide search for answers. At first, the purpose was to find out how Christians in countries hostile to Christianity survived for purposes of learning how to reach Nik’s beloved Somali’s. In all actuality, the wound caused by the death of Tim made Nik reach out to believers in other countries.
He went to Russia and the Ukraine to interview people who once lived under the Iron Curtain. God showed up supernaturally in every country in ways that could make even the most disbelieving human being question his own atheism. This happened in China and the other countries he visited, too.
What struck me was when God spoke to him in an underground church in China. The hard truth Nik spoke would have in this country brought on accusations of being judgemental to these underground churches. Nik wanted to help them financially, but God silenced him literally. Out of the millions of believers, a few hundred were struggling, starving families. God instead asked Nik to relay this message:
“If ten million believers in your movement cannot take care of four hundred families, do you have the right to call yourselves the Body of Christ, the Church, or even followers of Jesus?”
The shock the underground church displayed melted into conviction. They swore to take care of the four hundred hurting families. The underlying theme in the book got through to me.
Most believing Christians in hostile countries embrace persecution as normal, “like the sun rising in the east.” Hearing stories of God moving worldwide like in Old and New Testament times reminded me how Americans are soft when it comes to their faith and how we take the Bible for granted. In China, a leader of an underground church is not trusted until they’ve been to prison at least once. Tales of Muslims encouraged through visions and dreams to seek Jesus and finding Bibles, even in an Islamic book store, was amazing.
The Insanity of God woke up my faith.
Even though there were times when the change of font was distracting and I felt that the end of the book lacked the punch it had throughout, going on too long towards the end, I gave this book five stars. I’ve never heard a missionary speak like this in person or in any book or blog I’ve read. It’s always been about support raising or I felt missionaries were holding back in some way, but The Insanity of God made me realize how much I take God for granted. Even though I’ve witnessed some supernatural answer to prayer, living in America can make you complacent.
And why not? Some of our churches are as large as college campuses. We don’t worry about being shot, bombed, or imprisoned here. In fact, we try to do things ourselves without inviting God into it or letting Him show us He can handle our situations. This book made me re-think my faith.
* Book given by publisher to review.