Neighbors and Wise Men: A Review

Tony Kriz writes that he was raised in a two-team world. “My two-team world was one of the spiritual haves and have-nots. The ‘haves’ were Christians. The ‘have-nots’ were everybody else” (13). Kriz was working as a missionary in predominantly Muslim Albania when his notion of a two-team world was shattered. He encountered people who did not behave and believe the way he thought they would. Eventually, he came to a place where he felt his soul was dead. This book is the story of that experience, and also his experience of regaining faith, but a faith that was different from the one he grew up with. It takes the reader from Albania, to Kriz’s experience in seminary (and finding community in a pub), to Reed College, and finally to north Portland.

Neighbors and Wise Men is a lively and interesting read. The broad outline of Kriz’s story is one I have heard many times: a person grows up believing they have all the answers, realizes they don’t know as much as they thought, and emerges older, wiser, and with more humility. Kriz’s particular story also resonated with me, because in some ways my story is similar to his: I also spent time in Eastern Europe in my early twenties (I’ve even been to the Rudas baths in Budapest a few times, and I got a kick out of Kriz’s description of them), I went to seminary, and I now live in the Pacific Northwest.

I found Kriz to be an engaging storyteller, one I trusted to tell his story faithfully, without hiding the truth or glossing over difficulties. Fans of Donald Miller (who calls Kriz “Tony the Beat Poet” in his book Blue Like Jazz) will especially enjoy this book, but I recommend it to anyone who enjoys hearing a good story.

Note: Thanks to Thomas Nelson for a review copy of this book.