The reviews just keep on coming

The reviews of Grace at the Garbage Dump are coming quickly now.

There’s a new one in Pastoral Staff, the newspaper of the Diocese of Western Massachusetts:

Jesse tells his story beautifully in Grace. As he used his ingenuity with the schoolchildren, he used it as well to learn Xhosa, to reach out to women dying of HIV and serve as their advocate. He learned, even, to talk to teenagers and women about safe sex, about avoiding pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease, about keeping their options for education open.

(Pastoral Staff is published online as a pdf document. The full review is on p. 14. For kicks, you can read the interview with me that follows the review.)

Have you bought your copy of Grace at the Garbage Dump yet? You can find all the information on doing so here.

And if you’re not ready to buy, remember you can always read the first chapter for free on Amazon.

If you’re planning to be at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, I’ll be selling and signing books (at a special Convention-only price!) on Sunday, July 8. Details are here.

“Puts real flesh and real blood on what mission looks like”

There’s a new review of my book Grace at the Garbage Dump from Episcopal Digital Network. You can read the whole thing, or read the extracts here:

The struggles [Zink] has as he lives and learns and serves in a situation of desperate poverty and horrible disease make Grace at the Garbage Dump a highly valuable tool for exploring a new sense of mission….

Zink is an engaging writer who tells stories well, and stories are the heart and soul of the book…. Zink excels at both drawing you in compassionately to the individuals and analyzing the social and political structures that contribute to an unjust world that leaves some living short lives on a garbage heap.

The book is a primer on the two-thirds world, the world of the vast majority of the global population…. His description of the ravages of AIDS – which affects directly or indirectly everyone he serves – is particularly instructing to those of us for whom this disease can be (though should not be) regarded as less prevalent…. The book would make an excellent study in a Christian Education program, if only to help people from the one-third world understand the desperate needs of the rest of the world.

Making sense of mission is our important new challenge as disciples of Christ. This book’s greatest strength is that it puts real flesh and real blood on what the missio dei looks like on the ground today.

Read the whole thing.

Have you bought your copy of Grace at the Garbage Dump yet? You can find all the information on doing so here.

And if you’re not ready to buy, remember you can always read the first chapter for free on Amazon.

If you’re planning to be at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, I’ll be selling and signing books (at a special Convention-only price!) on Sunday, July 8. Stay tuned for details.

New extract of Grace at the Garbage Dump

Episcopal Cafe’s Daily Episcopalian has an extract of my new bookGrace at the Garbage Dump.

The word mission is more and more a part of conversations about the future of the Episcopal Church. As I’ve watched the conversation unfold, I think back to my weeks driving Pakama to her never-ending string of appointments. Mission begins when difference is engaged—whether on a garbage dump in South Africa or just down the street. Where it ends up, we cannot control. But it is the fact that we are willing to render ourselves vulnerable to God’s guidance on a journey whose destination we may not know that makes our life as Christians missional. None of us will ever live to see the perfect peace of the kingdom of God on earth. But perhaps if we set out on the journey, we’ll find that the journey of mission truly is its destination.

Read the whole thing.

Purchased your copy of Grace at the Garbage Dump yet? All the ordering information is here.

Not sure you want to buy it yet? Read the first two chapters for free on Amazon.

Selling books to Alaska Natives: new book interview on KNOM

My old friends at KNOM in Nome, Alaska wanted to hear all about my new book, Grace at the Garbage Dump. So I told them all about it. An interview we did recently is now posted online.

You can listen to it at this link. It’s about 7:30 long.

Don’t have your copy yet? All the ordering information for Grace at the Garbage Dump is here.

Not sure you want to buy it yet? Read the first two chapters for free on Amazon.

I used to work in radio. Even won some awards. But you might not guess it from this picture.


Last Thursday, the shantytown community in South Africa in which I used to work—the place I wrote a book about—was demolished.

You can read an account from one of my successors, Karen.

There are many factors at work here, many complicated, and I’m still trying to untangle all of them. For now, though, consider this picture I took in 2007.

Now consider this picture of the same place Karen took the other day.

Have a look at this image of a woman I knew well when I worked in Itipini.

Look at this one taken by Karen of the same woman with all her belongings.

Whatever the reasons, whatever the intent, whatever the plan, the impact of this move is absolutely devastating. It is a man-made disaster.

Please pray for the residents of Itipini. Details to follow as I track them down.

UPDATE: My two part (part one and part two) account of some of the background to this is now online. For more background on Itipini, you can read the first two chapters of my book on Itipini for free on Amazon.

Brand new review of Grace at the Garbage Dump

Pastor Julia at RevGalBlogPals has a new review of my book Grace at the Garbage Dump:

I highly recommend Grace at the Garbage Dump for your personal reading, if not for your church book club or any Christian education class from high school and up. In particular, if you are in a denomination that talks about the conservatism of the churches in Africa, this book is for you and yours. What does it mean to be the body of Christ with limbs across the world? A body with limbs that are dying from AIDS, TB, and malnutrition? A body that is schizophrenic about social issues and divides against itself? We cannot undo that we have been made one in Christ because it was not our doing. Thus, we are God’s mission- a mission of relationship and reconciliation. The goal of that mission for us, according to Zink, is to learn to spot grace. Everywhere. Even at the dump.

Read the whole thing.

Have you bought your copy yet? If you’re looking for multiple copies for your book discussion group at church or elsewhere, contact the publisher directly for discounts on larger orders. They’re very helpful and friendly!

Don’t forget: if you want to read the first two chapters for free, you can do so on Amazon. Also, if you want a complimentary review copy for your electronic or media publication, contact James Stock at the publisher—james [at] wipfandstock [dot] com. Or, let me know, and I can set you up.

“What we have here is a failure to communicate!”

Here is a story that should come as no surprise to anyone:

The Anglican Communion faces a shortage of qualified communicators, according to an international Working Group on communications. The group—consisting of communications professionals from five continents—concluded that the Communion life was at risk of being detrimentally affected by some Provinces’ inability to source and share their news and stories widely.

In my travels around the world church, I routinely encounter fascinating, inspiring, and transformative work that is going on—and realize almost no one else knows about it. I’m convinced that communications is part of the church’s missional witness to the world but we’re not doing a great job of it.

Here are at least some of the reasons why I think this is happening:

  • English is the de facto language of the Communion. If you are among the majority of Anglicans who do not speak English as a first language, you might not want to write down your story and share it. Many Anglicans, I’ve learned, are eager to talk in person about what they are doing but reluctant to commit those same thoughts to paper, at least in part, I think, because they think they lack the ability to do so.
  • Folks engaged in the most fascinating ministry around the world often spend so much of their time in ministry that they don’t make the time to tell their story. This is a perfectly understandable impulse but it is one that drives me crazy. We want to hear your story! We want to be able to pray for you and support you and we can’t do that unless you tell us what is going on.
  • People are humble. This is wonderful. Lots of people I’ve met engaged in transformative ministry around the world just don’t think that what they’re doing is all that important and can’t see why anyone else would want to know about what they’re doing. Humility is a great Christian virtue—but a little well deserved tooting of one’s own horn wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

And so we get stuck in the position we are in now: no one really knows what else is going on around the world church. The loudest, shrillest, and most destructive voices dominate the conversation. And everyone thinks we’re falling apart. But we’re not. I’m really convinced of that. We just need to tell the story better.

Part of the reason I wrote my book, Grace at the Garbage Dump, is to counter exactly this tendency towards miscommunication. It tells the story of work in one diocese in one particular province. But books like it could be written of the work in countless dioceses around the world.

WHMP Interview: “Moving, funny, and edifying”

My interview on WHMP yesterday is now a podcast. The link is here. The interview starts at about 18:00 and ends about 15 minutes later. They call it “moving, funny, and edifying.” I have my doubts but listen and see what you think.

One of my answers surprised me. It was the one on the big lesson I take away from my time in South Africa. I said it was learning about my own helplessness. It just sort of came out but I think it’s right. There’s something to be said for confronting—again and again—one’s own inability to change the world on one’s own. It teaches us something about who we are and our inherent limitations. But it doesn’t end there. It’s only once you’ve realized your own helplessness that you can truly realize God’s never-ending and abundant grace.

Read the book if you want to hear more: it’s called Grace at the Garbage Dump for a reason.

Isn’t it great…

…when you have a book signing and it’s standing room only?

That’s what Stephen Register and I had today at the Student Book Supply at Yale Divinity School. Each of us read from our books—his is Meantime: The Aesthetics of Soldiering, mine is Grace at the Garbage Dump: Making Sense of Mission in the Twenty-First Century—and then started signing… and just kept on going. We sold out the stock the store had on hand (fortunately I had some extra copies handy, which had sold out by the end of the day. They will be re-stocked in the morning if you still haven’t got your copy.). I was especially grateful so many people came out at such a busy time of the semester.

It was a particularly sweet moment since both Stephen and I were in the same spiritual writing course last spring. Now, here we were signing books together. (That’s Stephen on the left; I wish I looked that good in seersucker.) That course, incidentally, was taught by Lauren Winner, who also has a new book out this spring: Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis. (We read it in draft form in class and it is excellent.)

And the really encouraging thing is that there were ten other people in that class, all of whom are exceptional writers working on fascinating projects. I hope that today’s is not the last book signing to come out of that class!

I’ll next be signing and selling books at the Global Episcopal Mission Network’s annual conference in Ivoryton, Connecticut on Friday, May 4. I’ll also be selling books in Hendersonville, North Carolina as part of African Medical Mission’s fundraising weekend, May 5 and 6. (Details of events beyond that weekend are here.)

Want to set up an event? Let’s talk: jessezink [at] gmail [dot] com.

Two Great Books, One Great Place

I’ll be reading from and signing copies of my new book, Grace at the Garbage Dump, at the Yale Divinity School bookstore on Tuesday, April 17, at 12:30pm.

What makes this a particularly special event is that it is a joint event with my friend and fellow author, Stephen Register. Stephen’s new book is Meantime: The Aesthetics of Soldiering, and is about his journey from military service in Iraq to Yale Divinity School. Stephen and I were in the same writing group and have read each other’s work in draft form. So it’s a delight to see his work published—his writing is vivid and honest, and gives those of us who haven’t served an honest window into the life of a soldier. It is well worth the read, particularly as the country begins to grapple with the sheer number of returning veterans in our midst.

Tuesday, April 17, 12:30pm, Yale Divinity School bookstore, 409 Prospect St. Free pizza while it lasts!