This Is Our Exile

Please support the mission of
the Dominican Friars.

1st Impressions CD's
Stories Seldom Heard
Faith Book
General Intercessions
Volume II
Come and See!
Homilías Dominicales
Palabras - Domingo
Catholic Women Preach
Homilias Breves
Daily Reflections
Daily Homilette
Daily Preaching
Face to Face
Book Reviews
Justice Preaching
Dominican Preaching
Preaching Essay
The Author


This Our Exile:  A Spiritual Journey with the Refugees of East Africa by James Martin, S.J.;  Maryknoll, NY; Orbis Books.   219 pp. Paper $18.00

                 Each of the twenty-nine chapters in this book reads like a short short story, a vignette in the two-year ministry of Jesuit Brother James Martin in Nairobi, Kenya.   We meet missionaries and refugees; we gain insight into the struggle of refugees to survive and thrive; we travel to distant villages; we watch Brother Jim’s spirit deepen and broaden.

                 Brother Jim worked with the Jesuit Relief Service, with the assignment to help refugees set up small businesses.  Refugees came from Somalia, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, Mozambique and Liberia.  Assistance consisted of supplying tools and raw materials, help in managing money, and finding markets. 

                 We share Brother Jim’s initiation into the ways of the poor—searching through garbage, for example, for useful or precious items.   After throwing some magazines and some Jesuit community newsletters into the trash, and lighting the already smoldering garbage heap with eucalyptus leaves (for odor control), he noticed the community’s watchman scavenging the burning dump.  Later, he found pictures of Jesuits torn from a newsletter on the wall of Joseph’s shack.  “I am so happy,” he said, “to be having your friends in my house.”

                 This incident reminded me of two learning experiences I had.  One was in a rural area in Nicaragua.  I was with the women making tortillas, and thought to try my hand at it. I failed, and we all laughed at the clumsy gringa.  As I left, I picked up the small squares of waxed paper used to separate the patties of dough, and threw them into the garbage.  In my peripheral vision, I saw a woman retrieve them, wipe them clean, and place them with other squares for future use.   A second incident occurred in a street in Kabul, where garbage was heaped up.   I saw a man search the heap, and hold up a piece of lettuce, which he ate.  

                 Is it important for preachers to read of these realities—or better yet, experience them?   Can they be reserves for preaching to us comfortable middle-class citizens of the United States?  Of course, there are plenty of similar stories in pockets of our own country.

                 Brother Jim, it seems, never stopped learning.  On one occasion, he scolded Specie Kantegwa, a Rwandese refugee, for selling the sewing machine she had received from the JRS to begin a business.   Specie explained that the Maasai watchman of their slum, in a fit of rage, had slit the throat of her sister, and she was left to care for her niece.   She had no money for food, and sold the machine to raise money.    “After Specie finished her story, she lifted her face from her nursing child and turned toward me.  ‘Now Brother,’ she said calmly, ‘That is why I sold my machine.  May I have a new Singer so I can be starting over?’”

                 The book includes lush descriptions of Kenya’s countryside as Jim and three Jesuit friends travel to Mombasa, an eight-hour, bumpy ride from Nairobi.   And, in contrast, it contains graphic descriptions of Nairobi’s slums, complete with evocation of the smell.

                 This is a good bedside book.   The chapters are short, and their resonance remains in a reader’s mind and imagination.  Maybe best of all, James Martin has an enviable gift for story telling.

Pat Chaffee, OP

Racine, Wisconsin

Book Review Archive

Just click on a book title below to read the review.
(The latest submissions are listed first.)


• Mark's Passion Narrative •
• Jesus: A Gospel Portrait •
• How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row •
• Christ and the Spirit: Catholic Perspectives Through the Ages •
• The Council and the Making of the Ultramontane Church •
• A Joint Review •
• St. Dominic: A Story of a Preaching Friar •
• Moses in Pharaoh's House •
• ...and the Mountains Echoed •
• Behind the Beautiful Forevers •
• Preaching the Mystery of Faith: The Sunday Homily •
• The Rhythm of Being... •
• Remi De Roo - Chronicles of a Vatican II Bishop •
• Redeeming the Past •
• Abraham Joshua Heschel: Essential Writings •
• This Is Our Exile •
• Compassion: Loving Our Neighbor in and Age of Globalization •
• True and False Reform In the Church •
• Adult Faith •
• The Mystical Way In Everyday Life •
• Racial Justice and the Catholic Church •
• Let the Great World Spin •
• The Priesthood Of the Faithful •
• Living With Wisdom •
• Where the Pure Water Flows •
• Best Advice For Preaching •
• We Speak the Word Of the Lord •
• Great World Religions: Islam •
• Of Books and Preparation •
• After Sunday: A Theology of Work •
• A Captive Voice: The Liberation of Preaching •
• Written Text Becomes Living Word... •
• Voicing the Vision: Imagination & Prophetic Preaching •
• The Death of Innocents •

HOME Contact Us Site Map St. Dominic

©Copyright 1999 - 2024Dominican Friars