Losing Faith in Ourselves
An interview with D.L. Mayfield —
Assimilate or Go Home:
Notes from a Failed
Missionary on Rediscovering Faith
*** This D.L. Mayfield interview was originally published
in the Fall 2016 issue of our now-defunct magazine.
Republishing it here on the occasion
of the author’s birthday and
her soon-forthcoming second book,
The Myth of the American Dream.
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D.L. Mayfield’s debut book Assimilate or Go Home: Notes from a Failed Missionary on Rediscovering Faith is a powerful memoir about wanting to live our faith in radical ways, and all the unexpected transformations we go through along the way. I recently had the opportunity to discuss the book with her.
Englewood Review of Books: The book is built around your experiences working with a Somali Bantu community of refugees in Portland. How and why did you come to be engaged with this community initially?
D.L. Mayfield: I was going to Bible college in Portland to be a missionary, and was feeling a little bummed out about life. I was working at Starbucks and living a very typical sort of life. I never wanted that for myself. I had a friend who had lived in Africa for a few years. She started volunteering with Somali Bantu refugees and had decided to throw a Christmas party for some of them, and she asked me if I would help out. I went and helped with this party out at her parents’ farm on the outskirts of Portland, and there were four Somali Bantu families that came to the party. It was such an amazing experience for me. Some of the families had only been in the U.S. for three days, and they were obviously in culture shock. Some of the kids, for instance, were not dressed appropriately for the weather. We had fun running around and playing, and then served a meal for everyone. It was such an amazing experience for me, and I finally felt like there was a way for my life to be less boring and to have more purpose. If I couldn’t be out somewhere else in the world doing mission work, maybe I could be involved with these people here. “How nice of God to drop these people off right here,” was how I thought about it at the time.