Author: Richard Welch
Book Review by Tim Davy, Reviews editor for Encounters and Assistant Lecturer in Biblical Studies, Redcliffe College.
Missionary biographies are often approached with caution. At their best they can inspire, challenge, encourage and inform. At their worst the reader is left feeling intimidated and inadequate as they make their way through a rose-tinted hagiography. Perhaps this is a generational thing but too often missionary biographies feed the myth that cross-cultural workers are a special class of Christian, the likes of which me might aspire but ultimately fail to live up to.
Invisible Servant is the autobiographical account of a pioneer missionary’s life and ministry in Albania during the 1990s and early 2000s. Having grown in his heart for the country and its people, Richard Welch left his job as a civil servant and moved to Albania as part of a project set up by a UK church.
The book is primarily Welch’s personal recollections and reflections. As such it succeeds wonderfully in illustrating the day-to-day living of a very patient man working towards the acceptance of a community. Indeed, the majority of Invisible Servant (and this, I would suggest, is its main strength) concentrates on this process of gradual integration into the community in which he lived and worked.
While the author admits that his book is not an exhaustive account, I would have liked a little more detail on the lead up to his settling in Albania. For example, although he had visited the country a couple of times prior to moving there, he makes no mention of receiving any form of training or preparation. Was this really the case?
Overall, though, many would profit from reading Invisible Servant, not least supporters who would like to get some insight into the nitty-gritty of living and working in another context. Perhaps best of all, the book captures something of the frustration, sadness, joy and humanity encountered when living cross-culturally.
The author makes and interesting point near the end of the book, reflecting on the often unglamorous nature of mission: “In terms of mission life, it’s been our experience that significant developments have only come about as a result of perseverance and mundane duty” (pp.201-203). Richard Welch is an example of just such a patient approach.
Buy Invisible Servant from St Andrew’s Bookshop.
Back to Issue 27