Posted by jlwile on December 30, 2011As most people who read this blog know, I spend a lot of time writing about science. However, I read a wide variety of books. Some are fiction, but most are nonfiction. When it comes to the nonfiction books, many are about science, some are about philosophy, some are about theology, some are about modern Christianity, some are about music, and some are about theater. Most of them have something useful to offer, and if I find one of them particularly interesting, I tend to blog about it, which is why I have an interesting books section. However, other than the Bible, most of the books I read do not have a deep, personal effect on me. I blogged about one notable exception to this general rule more than a year ago, and now it is time to blog about another one. Be forewarned. This is not going to be a typical blog entry. It has nothing to do with science, but it has everything to do with Jesus.
A few weeks ago, I saw a short video on Facebook about a young lady (Katie Davis) who, at the ripe old age of 16, decided that God was calling her to do mission work. She went to Uganda when she was a senior in high school and then again after graduation, and within a short time began adopting girls who had no caretakers. At the time of the video (roughly three years later), she had adopted a total of fourteen girls and was running a ministry that fed, clothed, and paid the school fees for hundreds of Ugandan children. The video was a promo for her book, Kisses from Katie. I decided to buy the book, and I thank God that I did.
In the promotional video, the author mentions Mother Teresa, who said that her role model (St. Therese of Lisieux) did:1
small things with great love, ordinary things with extraordinary love
It’s fitting that the author looks to Mother Teresa, because she lives out St. Therese’s example better than anyone except perhaps Mother Teresa herself.
To get an idea of what I mean, I want to give you just a glimpse of Katie’s story. In her own words:
For as long as I could remember, I had everything this world says is important. In high school, I was class president, homecoming queen, top of my class. I dated cute boys and wore cute shoes and drove a cute sports car. I had wonderful, supportive parents who so desired my success that they would have paid for me to go to college anywhere my heart desired. (p. xvii)
Instead, on her sixteenth birthday, she told her parents that she wanted to do a year of mission work before going to college.
Were her parents on board? Definitely not. They didn’t say “No,” but they made it clear that this was not what they thought was best for their little girl. I can imagine me saying exactly the same thing to my little girl if she had come up with such a crazy idea. Nevertheless, Katie persisted. She began looking on the internet for third-world orphanages that needed help, and eventually, she was invited to one in Uganda. She helped out at the orphanage over Christmas break her senior year, and while she was there, she committed to teach kindergarten at another orphanage for a year right after she graduated. She promised her parents that after her year’s commitment at the orphanage, she would come back to civilization and go to college so that she could have a normal life. Of course, that’s not exactly what happened.
Why? According to her:
You see, Jesus wrecked my life. (p. xvii)
Although she and her parents had the perfect life planned out, it wasn’t the life Jesus wanted for her, so he destroyed that life and gave her a new one. He gave her a life where she could daily do small things with great love, ordinary things with extraordinary love.
So why did this book affect me so personally? Mostly, because it talks about sacrificial love. Love that demands such real sacrifice that it makes whatever I do for others seem like nothing in comparison. I’m not talking about the sacrifice of Katie giving up her dream life here in the U.S. for the unimaginable poverty of a small village in Uganda. That’s sacrifice, but it barely scratches the surface of what Katie has done in the name of God’s love. I’m not even talking about the sacrifice of adopting fourteen children who have no hint of biological relationship to her. As an adoptive parent myself, I understand that there is sacrifice in that, but there is also real joy in it. I still remember the first day my little girl actually called me, “Dad.” The joy I felt at that moment was worth whatever small things we gave up so that my wife and I could take her in. No…I’m talking about real sacrifice…sacrifice I am almost certain I could not muster.
Consider this story. After adopting the first seven of her little girls, she found six disease-infested children who would almost certainly not survive without serious medical care, so she decided to take them home and care for them herself. Why is that real sacrifice? Here’s why. After describing how she was treating the disease-ridden children, she says:
For a brief moment, I wondered, What if I catch this disease? What kind of parent am I if I have brought these children willingly into my home and all seven of my girls get [it]? That frightening thought fled quickly as I remembered that Jesus touched lepers and Jesus gave me my assignment in Uganda. (p. 97)
As a parent that’s the first thing I thought of when I read that she took these children into her own home. I thought, “What about your own children?” I am not sure I would have been able to muster the faith to trust that God would protect my little girl from the disease of some strangers. I most certainly couldn’t muster the sacrificial love required to put my own little girl in harm’s way to help out some strangers who, quite frankly, would probably just die of another disease (or starvation) later on. But this amazing young lady did both.
And that’s not all. Towards the end of the book, she talks about something that, quite frankly, would reduce me to a trembling mass of human rubble. After adopting a total of fourteen little girls and turning them all into a growing, thriving family, one girl’s biological mother (who had abandoned her) came back and claimed her. In Uganda, adoptive parents have almost no rights compared to biological parents, so in spite of a spirited legal battle, her little girl, Jane, was taken from Katie so that she could be given back to the “mother” who abandoned her when the going got a little tough. After describing the horrible grief she felt and the anguish she saw in her other daughters’ faces, she says this:
I think about that moment when Jane walked away from the police station with her birth mother. In my unspeakable anguish, God spoke to my shattered heart. He whispered to me that we had loved Jane back to life. He promised that she knows His love and that He will go with her where I cannot. (p. 256)
What would you do in that situation? I am not sure, but my first thought would be to tell God that if this is how He repays my willingness to serve Him, it’s not clear that I want to serve him any more. At minimum, I would harden my heart a bit to avoid the hurt that would surely come when the next biological mother shows up to remove another of my little girls. But that’s not what Katie did. She trusted Jesus. As a result, she just keeps giving her heart away to His precious children.
If you read this book, you will learn all about this kind of sacrifice. You will learn the details of each of her wonderful children and how she came to adopt them. You will learn about her ministry and how it provides the means by which hundreds of poor children who would otherwise have no hope are allowed to go to school so they can break the cycle of devastating poverty in which they live. You will learn about the kind of sacrifice that can only come from following Jesus with all your heart. Faced with the knowledge of that kind of sacrifice, this bit of truth Katie shares should make us all fall on our faces with shame:
The truth is that the 143 million orphaned children and the 11 million who starve to death or die from preventable diseases and the 8.5 million who work as child slaves, prostitutes, or under other horrific conditions and the 2.3 million who live with HIV add up to 164.8 million needy children. And though at first glance that looks like a big number, 2.1 billion people on this earth proclaim to be Christians.
The truth is that if only 8 percent of the Christians would care for one more child, there would not be any statistics left. (pp. 91-92)
Katie Davis is doing more than her fair share to make sure there are no statistics left. I know that after reading this book, at minimum, I will strive to do more than my fair share. What about you?
1. Kathleen V. Kudlinski, Mother Teresa: Friend to the Poor, Simon and Schuster, 2006, p. 133.
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