Friday, October 30, 2009

Scared (and CHANGED)

A while back I posted a press review about the book Scared before I even chanced to read it. The passion in the press review was enough for me to promote a book I hadn't even read by an author I know nothing about. (And then I ordered the book from B&B Media to review.)

Let me tell you, this book is a kick in the teeth, gut, and heart. If you chance to read it and are unchanged, I will question your sensibilities. Unless, of course, you are passionate about the people, particularly the orphans, of Africa. See, I thought I was passionate about orphans, particularly African orphans, but it turns out there are whole new levels of passion that one can mine if they cultivate the passion.

I will, Lord willing, never be the same. In the three days since I finished the book, the urgency has waned, but not the passion. Three days ago I could almost not allow myself to eat. I'm eating now, but I'm still thinking about the food. And the waste. And the children.

(Oh, Lord, the children. Help the children. Make me your instrument.)

I still don't know WHAT I'm going to do, but I'm going to do something. Something MORE. Because the little I do isn't enough.

Pray for me that I may know what it is I am supposed to do.

And, in case you care about such little things as this, the book is a "good read" also. If you can muscle past the horror reflex. (And he's pretty compassionate to his readers in that regard also.)

Here's an interview with the author, first posted by Nicole Wick.

The orphan epidemic that you write about in Scared is a world wide crisis. What lead you to choose Swaziland as the setting for this novel?

Swaziland has the highest rate of HIV infection in the world. UN Statistics estimate between 42-46 percent. If something doesn’t change in the lives of Swazi’s, they will be practically extinct by the year 2050. I felt like that kind of need, right under our noses, was worth writing about.

I’ve also been to Swaziland a number of times so I know the culture and the people well. It’s a beautiful country surrounded by mountains and aesthetic beauty. The people are generous and kind, literally giving you the shirt off of their back as a sign of friendship. I felt like writing a novel like this would motivate others to get involved in this crisis and do something to make a difference.

The heroine of Scared, 12 year old Adanna, is a richly developed character. How important was it for you to portray her as a real, multi-dimensional person not just a portrait of a starving child?

The idea of Adanna does stem from a real girl I met in Swaziland who was twelve years old. Here was this gorgeous little girl who was so filled with life. She was happy, playful and just loved being around our group, hugging me and playing games. The only issue she struggled with besides being shy, was one of incontinence. They thought the poor thing had never been potty trained. They took her to the doctor to find out what was wrong. The director then told me the story about how she arrived at the orphanage. Both of her parents died from AIDS. She was taken in by her uncle. She was made a slave for him and his family. The uncle then began to rape her almost every night. She was incontinent because of the sexual abuse she suffered. I walk around the rest of that day in tears. I couldn’t believe someone would treat a child is such an evil way. Then those kinds of stories became more of the norm. The Adanna’s in Africa are real kids, with dreams and hopes of a good future. One that won’t exist unless the body of Christ gets involved in their lives.

Scared leaves readers wanting to learn more about its main character, Stuart. What can you tell me about your next novel?

Stuart is also based off of a real character named Kevin Carter who took a picture of a Sudanese girl who had fallen down from hunger in the dirt. A plump, healthy vulture landed next to her waiting for her to die. Carter snapped that photo and won the Pulitzer prize. He couldn’t deal with the guilt of becoming famous for something like that and committed suicide fourteen months later.

Stuart is Kevin, if Kevin could have had more to live for. What might his life have looked like if he became a crusader for the vulnerable? That’s Stuart’s life.

The next novel is called, SACRED. It takes place in Russia around the issue of the child sex-slave industry. Much of this billion dollar industry is controlled by the Russian mafia. They steal girls right out of the orphanage because nobody will miss them. This is the next crisis Stuart finds himself in the middle of.

The pastor in the book describes a transformational moment in his life when he realizes he should become the hands and feet of Christ not just His mouthpiece. What lesson do you think Christians can learn from Pastor Walter’s experience?

I think it’s the message for every single person who says they are a Christ follower. I fully believe the biblical understanding of “incarnational ministry.” We are the hands, feet and voice of Jesus. His will occurs through the activity of his people. I realized this traveling to many orphanages in Russia. Everywhere I looked, there were thousands and thousands of fatherless boys and girls. Yet, Psalm 68:5-6 says that God is a Father to the fatherless. I kept asking the question, “Lord, if you are a Father to the fatherless, why to the fatherless suffer so much?” After many prayers and nights of wrestling with God over this issue, the answer came clearly: God is a Father to the fatherless through his people: Me and you. That’s how the kingdom of God comes to earth, how justice comes to situations of injustice, and how people’s lives are changed.

Your organization, Children’s HopeChest, works tirelessly to bring hope to orphans by being His hands and feet. What is the mission of Children’s HopeChest and what is your vision for this important organization in the coming years?

We ‘incarnate’ James 1:27 to the best of our ability. “Pure and undefiled religion is taking care of widows and orphans in their distress.” That’s what we do. Connect people, churches, Christian schools, businesses, and online communities with orphans and orphanages in places like Russia and Africa. We don’t want to just drill wells and provide food, we also want to provide long-term strategies to help them out of poverty. One of the ways we do this by paying for their education all the way through college and university and by providing spiritual mentors who can walk beside them through life and help them navigate the difficult waters.

We’re planning on expanding ministry in India and South Africa sometime in 2010.

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