With breaktaking honesty, Steps of the Callejon takes us through the painfully beautiful, complex reality that is missions. Set in the barrios of Caracas, Venezuela, this collection of vignettes weaves together the brokenness, frustration, danger, insecurity and loneliness of Joyce Chen, a missionary seeking to help ohers while fumbling toward her own redemption....
|Title||:||Steps of the Callejon|
|Number of Pages||:||188 Pages|
|Status||:||Available For Download|
|Last checked||:||21 Minutes ago!|
Steps of the Callejon Reviews
First-time author Jane Zhang's fictionalized account about modern-day missionaries in an impoverished community of Venezuela is a quick, yet at times emotionally troubling read. Through a series of vignettes she explores the complexities of missionary work, primarily through the lens of character Joyce Chen. From the beginning Zhang tackles complex issues around class, privilege, race, gender, and religion as Joyce reflects on the impact of her team's efforts to spread Christianity.Among the challenges are trying to address people's spiritual needs when they're more concerned about tangible issues such as having enough to eat or keeping their families safe from criminals. With the transitory nature of short-term missionary work it's hard to create intimate, trusting relationships as locals are asked to continually open their homes to strangers who often aren't fluent with the language or local customs, unintentionally creating a burden on them. Nonetheless, bonds are built, spiritual growth is made, and the transition to local life is aided by a Catholic priest who urges his own flock to move beyond rhetoric and visit with the sick and poor.Although this book is clearly written from a missionary's perspective, Zhang makes efforts to include the voice of locals, adding some complexity to the tale. But while there's no question that poverty and its accompanying problems dominate people's lives the book would've been stronger if the poverty had been placed in a larger context of Venezuelan society and Latin America development. The extreme poverty the missionaries experience are the results of systemic political and economic decisions, which aren't mentioned, although the personal shortcomings of individual characters, both local and missionaries, are. Furthermore, the book would've benefited from a more complex look at religion and the complicated history of Christianity in Latin America. Joyce casually dismisses charismatic evangelicals, high-holiday Catholics and santeros and brujas, with vignettes associating the latter with demons and Satan. Neatly dividing the world into right and wrong and good versus evil is convenient but doesn't take into account that most people and societies operate on a spectrum. It seems that imposing one's beliefs on others without understanding their decisions and traditions would impede the work of genuine conversion. The strength of Streets of the Callejon revolves around Joyce's self-reflection about her work, her identity, and even questions about her faith. Through her proxy, Zhang wrestles with what it truly means to be Christian in both action and spirit. Can her faith and values hold up when removed from the relatively sanitized and controlled environment of home or will they be strengthened? Most telling, one of Joyce's takeaways is a desire to move beyond the idea of God and to an intimate awareness and internalization of God's power and teachings. Moving forward, "it is not the saber of God but the conocer of God she wants to minister from." As with all good books, Zhang leaves reader with food for thought that continues after the last page ends.
Jane Zhang’s Steps of Callejon is a fictionalized, personal reflection of her time as a bright-eyed—and at times—naïve missionary in the barrios of Caracas, Venezuela. I read Steps of Callejon in one sitting, on a flight across the country for a business trip. Zhang’s storytelling through the lens of the book’s protagonist Joyce Chen was enthralling. She has a rare gift that only natural storytellers possess: Zhang makes sense of and weaves a coherent narrative around complex and intersecting issues of class, race, culture, gender and religion in the everyday lives of the barrios’ inhabitants. While a missionary like all missionaries who are eager to share and impart religion, Zhang’s Joyce Chen is instinctively cognizant that religion is more than doctrines and platitudes. The reader is taken on a journey, along with Joyce, to learn that true religion is about creating intimate, trusting relationships and living among the sick and poor.Zhang tells stories of the barrios—Caracas’s San Juanito, Las Redoma, La Invasion, Calle Diecinueve, Las Colinas and San Miguel—in the form of vignettes. One particular vignette is forever etched in my mind and heart. Joyce and her team leader, Thomas, have been meeting with Sarah and Adan—once-host parents of Joyce—studying a series of ten Bible stories that highlight the main concepts of the Christian faith. This particular study was about the story of Moses in Exodus 3. Thomas asks, “We know that God chose Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. My question for you is this: Why did God choose Moses? What character trait did Moses possess that qualified him to be chosen?” After much baffling, Adan answers, “...God must have chosen him because of some special characteristic he had.”Exactly, I thought to myself as I read Adan’s response.I have read Bible stories about Moses before. I read Zhang’s vignette and wondered along with Adan what exactly God saw in Moses. I too thought “Moses must have been a righteous man, or had some characteristic that made him a good leader.”Yet, Joyce reminded Adan (and me) that “...[Moses] was a rash man...we learn that he ran away from Egypt, we see that he impulsively killed a man out of anger…we learned that Moses was not confident in himself because he told God that he was not the right person for the job.” “Nada,” Adan finally says as he lays down the Bible… “Moses had no special attributes that made him a better candidate to lead the Israelites out of Egypt.”God chose Moses “Because he is God,” Adan finally says with conviction. “…God chooses us not because we merit it, but because he is God!”This was a powerful realization for me, as I sat reading Steps of Callejon on the plane ride to an important professional meeting where I had been invited to present on my latest research. Zhang's special gift as a writer drew me into the barrios and into the home of Sarah and Adan, and I am so grateful for this journey.