Same Kind of Different as Me is actually the best book I’ve read in a long time. OK that’s not saying much because I don’t read many books, but it was good.
It’s the story of two men in America – one a rich white art dealer who calls himself a Christian, and the other a black man who starts off life in virtual slavery and has a very tough existence on the streets.
The book is written by the two men, in roughly alternating short chapters, and is a fascinating spiritual journey for both of them. I don’t want to give away too much of the story, but it is amazing to see God working in and through both of them, through suffering, joy and heartbreak.
I think one of the reasons the book really resonated with me was because of the parallels with what I have experienced in cross-cultural mission. The rich man starts off by thinking he is doing God and the homeless people a favour by giving a few hours a week to help out at a shelter. He has many struggles about the material difference between himself and the homeless people, while they have a hard time trusting someone who doesn’t know what it’s like to live on the streets.
But gradually a friendship is formed, and as it continues the rich man realises that in fact those he is ministering to, and his friend in particular, have spiritual insights that leave him feeling like he’s really the one who is poor.
I have to say the story did make me cry (happy and sad crying in roughly equal amounts), which doesn’t happen very often! And it made me realise once again that God involves us in mission to people who are very different from ourselves not just to bless them, but even more than that to teach us more about who he is.