The short-term mission trip is a familiar experience to Christian teens. Either they have been on one or they know someone who has. That’s one of the reasons I think Found in Translation (Barbour Publishing, Inc., 2011) will delight and intrigue teens. This novel by Roger Bruner and his daughter, Kristi Rae, unpacks one such life-changing trip and tells it with authenticity, humor, and great heart.

When the reader first meets eighteen-year-old Kim Hartlinger, she has just missed her connecting flight to San Diego where she is to join her mission team. Kim is just this side of a blonde joke. She thinks the airline can put her on another plane—a faster one. The curious part about her misunderstandings, her excuses, and her less-than-grace-under-pressure attitude is that she begins to feel familiar. Oops!

Kim does board another flight, (the reader senses that God intervenes). However, her late arrival in San Diego costs the group valuable orientation time and people are less than pleased. Their irritation, however, is a minor difficulty for Kim compared to what she learns next. The mission project has changed. (She doesn’t know about the change because she didn’t read the emails.) Instead of evangelizing with a local church in a Mexican town, the team will be building houses in a village recently hit by a tornado. The tiny village is poor, remote and didn’t even have electricity, plumbing or running water before the disaster. Kim has not come prepared for such an experience. When she blurts out her dismay and frustration, the team leaders offer to refund her money and help her get a flight home. To everyone’s surprise, including her own, Kim decides to go with the team. She believes God wants her on the trip.

God does have a reason for Kim being on the trip. More than one. The authors show Him using even her missteps and mishaps and making them the needed elements to bring about His good purposes. During the two weeks Kim learns to lean on God more, to seek His plans over her own, and to obey Him even when what He is telling her to do doesn’t seem right to her.

This theme of trusting God is not the only theme the Bruners explore. They also dig into the need for forgiveness and restoration. They come at it from several angles, enriching the reader with understanding and inspiration. The Bruners  also look at teamwork and how relationships support or hinder us.

Found in Translation is a great read for Christian teens, particularly girls. I think they will enjoy Kim and her spiritual journey. Her story will encourage and inspire them. Her relationship with Aleesha may cause them to long for a friend like Aleesha or maybe even to be a friend like Aleesha. The wise way Kim handles her relationship with Geoff will remind teens to be discerning and prayerful in their relationships. Kim’s sweet relationship with little Angelita, the disabled child from the village, will warm their hearts and open their eyes wider to the riches that can be found in serving others.

Nancy Ellen Hird is a mom, a writer, and a credentialed teacher. (She taught seventh grade and preschool.) Two of her published works for children are Marty’s Monster and Jessica Jacobs Did What?  For several years she was a freelance reviewer of children’s and teen’s literature for the Focus on the Family website.

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