Book Review: Witness

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Witness: True Events From A Society Living, Working, and Dying In Trash is a new book by Brett Durbin and Jim Congdon. Brett is the founder and Director of Trash Mountain Project, a ministry focused on creating self-sustaining Christ-centered environments for people in trash dump communities. Jim Congdon is the well-respected pastor of Topeka Bible Church. The book chronicles the start and formation of the ministry Trash Mountain Project.

Brett does most of the speaking. The book very much has his “voice” as he takes us on his journey from being a self-consumed mess of a man to a Christ-consumed mess of a man. Brett lays bare what many in ministry wrestle with but few have the courage to tackle – the ministry to ‘the least of these.’

Jim Congdon interrupts the book occasionally to unpack key phrases or add some theological insight to what is going on in the story. At first I thought this would be a major distraction to the storytelling. The danger being the “Theologian” comes across as proud and detached, always with an answer. I couldn’t have been more wrong. This setup not only works, it adds so much to the book. My only problem with it was they abandoned this setup for the last 3 chapters of the book. I wanted one more interruption in the final chapter but I didn’t get it. Jim’s gentle, quirky sense of humor as well as his keen insight into the Scriptures comes across perfectly.

The book is a story. It’s not a “how to do missions” or “how to find your call” book. It’s the kind of storytelling that the further in you go, the more you realize you want in on this story.

It takes the introduction and first chapter and a half for Brett to find his voice. The last few pages of chapter 2, he locks into telling us the story of how Trash Mountain started and it soars from there.

Those that are close to Trash Mountain – have gone on a trip or will go – this is a must read. Chances are that you know or will get to know many of the faces in this book. For those who are wondering – is there anyone out there ministering to the forgotten of the forgotten? Read this and be encouraged.

The Huge Disclaimer
I was given this book not to review but as a gift from Brett himself. It’s not even funny how many different ways I’m compromised when it comes to reviewing this book.

Brett is a friend. Not just any friend but a text each other at 3 am in the morning friend. I am convinced that Brett has no idea what time it is in Topeka. Ever. I’m not complaining. It’s an honor to pray in the middle of these stories when they are happening.

I’ve been to the Philippines and walked in these places – Smokey Mountain, San Mateo, Payatas, and Tanza 1. I’ve met, prayed, ate, laughed, sweat, and worshipped with most of the names you will read – Jon DeMeo, Pastor Reynixon, Pastor Joemar, Don-Don, Marivick, Pastor Stanley, his wife Noreen, Rick, the crazy van driver, and even Eugene. My church supports Trash Mountain. My wife and son will travel with Trash Mountain this summer.

I am utterly, completely compromised when it comes to Trash Mountain. There will be no unbiased review from me.

My prayer is that this book will make you compromised as well. That it will move you to be a part of the story that is ministering to the forgotten of the forgotten.

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