Jill Williamson

Jill Williamson is a novelist, dreamer, and believer. She writes stories that combine danger, suspense, and adventure for people of all ages. An avid reader, she started Novel Teen Book Reviews (www.novelteen.com) to help teens find great books to read. Her first novel, By Darkness Hid, releases from Marcher Lord Press on April 1, 2009. Learn more at www.jillwilliamson.com.

It’s a Small World

Opening Your Mind to the Outside World

Having lived in Los Angeles for ten years, I have had the privilege of going to Disneyland more than once. One of my favorite rides has always been It’s a Small World. When you’ve been on your feet since six AM and the sun is blazing, there is no better feeling than sitting down for fifteen to twenty minutes in a boat that floats over cool water out of the sun. Plus, I’ve always loved the creativity of the dolls, animals, and scenery on this attraction. The song changes languages as you move from region to region, exploring the different people on our wonderful planet.

The truth is, we might live in a small world, but a lot of people on this planet aren’t smiling and dancing.

Living in America, most of us live somewhat sheltered lives. Very few people ever get the opportunity to travel to other countries and see different cultures firsthand. I urge everyone to do it at least once. Participate in a work and witness trip or plan a vacation outside the U.S. borders. Opening our minds to the world will help us see people and God in a new way. And those who can’t go on an international trip now can always do it with a book. Lately, I’ve been to Cambodia, Rwanda, Ireland, Papa New Guinea, Mexico, Egypt, Sudan, and Ecuador. Pretty nice trip, huh? I saw wonderful things and learned lots about the people of the world. But I also saw incredible heartache and struggles. I saw death and suffering. I saw hunger, people being abused and sold into slavery, and fights breaking out because of refusal to see things from another point of view.

Come with me as we take a look at some amazing stories—some fiction, some true—and see how God is using people amidst the tragedies in the world around us.

YA Fiction: Diamonds in the Shadow by Caroline B. Cooney (Waterbrook)

Jared is annoyed. He gets it, sure. People like to be do-gooders in the world, but why his family? And why help dangerous African refugees? As he understands it, there are no good guys in a civil war, so how is he supposed to get excited about sharing his bedroom with a teenaged soldier who may or may not be a killer?

This was a fascinating read. Fun from Jared’s realistic and hysterical teenaged-boy voice. Fascinating to see America through the eyes of the African refugees. And nerve-wracking from the plot with the fifth and dangerous refugees. This book was gripping and made me think for days.

Memoir: Left to Tell by Immaculée Ilibagiza (Hay House)

Immaculée Ilibagiza tells how she grew up in Rwanda with her loving family. She learned early on that she was in a different tribe from the majority of her neighbors but never considered they might turn on her, that friends might someday pick up machetes and guns and murder everyone from her tribe. But that’s exactly what happened.

Immaculée hid in a tiny half bathroom with seven other women for three months. She could hear the killers roaming the streets on the other side of the wall. She prayed God would protect her family and the women in the bathroom. When she finally got out, she was one of few survivors left to tell what had happened.

This was a powerful and shocking story of what evil can do in the hearts of people. The killers were murdering innocents in the streets: women, children, and infants alike. I was amazed at how Immaculée grew closer to God in the three months she hid in the bathroom, but I was even more amazed at how she learned to forgive those who killed her family and friends. This is hard to read and includes some graphic details of how Immaculée’s loved ones were murdered. To see what this young woman went through and how she rose above the hatred and evil that she had the opportunity to embrace in revenge was inspiring. I am in awe of her.

YA Fiction: My Hands Came Away Red by Lisa McKay (Moody)

Eighteen-year-old Cori wants to get away after high school graduation. Things are complicated and confusing with her boyfriend, so she signs up to go on a ten-week mission trip to build a church on a small island in Indonesia.

While there, a conflict that has been festering for years erupts between Muslim and Christian villages on a nearby island. The new church is burned, the villagers are mercilessly slaughtered, and the teens are stranded with the pastor’s seventeen-year-old son. They must hike through the forest, find a way off the island, and get to the airport, where violence is occurring.

This has to be one of the best books of 2007. McKay shows both sides of the political and religious violence in Indonesia. Her characters are incredibly realistic. What they experienced forced them to question their personal beliefs and discover that God really was there in the midst of tragedy and suffering.

Memoir: End of the Spear by Steve Saint (SaltRiver)

In this heartbreaking memoir, Saint writes about the Waodani people. His father was a missionary to Ecuador and tried to take the gospel to the Waodani tribe. He and his missionary companions were all killed. Amazingly, the wives of the men who died took their children and lived among the Waodani. Over twenty years later, Saint moved his own family back to Ecuador to live with the Waodani people. He came to love those who killed his father, knowing that these men hadn’t taken his father’s life, rather his father had given his life to bring Jesus to the Waodani people.

This story was so powerful. It floored me to see those women, whose husbands had just been murdered, pick up their children and move in with the Waodani tribe. All I can say is that missionaries are my heroes. They are truly some of the bravest and most selfless humans I’ve even had the privilege to know. I also highly recommend Through Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliot, the widow of one of the murdered missionaries (Living Books).

Non Fiction: The Crescent Through the Eyes of the Cross by Dr. Nabeel T. Jabbour (NavPress)

Dr. Jabbour has written a fascinating book. I discovered right away that I am guilty of making many assumptions about Islam and Muslim people. Through the use of a fictional character who represents the many Muslims Dr. Jabbour has known throughout his life, Jabbour opens our eyes to what Muslims believe about God, Jesus, Christians, Islam, America, and terrorists. I found myself asking God to forgive my narrow perspective and thanking him that Dr. Jabbour was able to write this book and bring the truth to my attention.

YA Fiction: Papua New Guinea by Melody Carlson (Waterbrook)

Maddie and Aunt Sid are off to Papua New Guinea to work on a story about the current health crisis. Once they arrive, Maddie volunteers in an AIDS clinic and asks some of the patients for their stories. What she discovers breaks her heart. The people of Papua New Guinea have some very warped ideas of AIDS. Maddie and her aunt want to write an article that will help the people learn the truth. But is the search for truth too dangerous?

It broke my heart to hear the ways that some of the characters contracted HIV. Melody Carlson exposes what life is like for people in Papua New Guinea. I also recommend the other two books in Carlson’s Notes from a Spinning Planet series: Mexico and Ireland (both from Waterbrook).

Memoir: The Road to Lost Innocence by Somaly Mam (Spiegel & Grau)

First let me caution you, the book’s subject matter is graphic, but I believe all older girls would benefit from reading it. The Road to Lost Innocence is the story of Somaly Mam, a Cambodian woman who was sold into slavery as a girl and later sold to a brothel. The village world she paints is fascinating. She didn’t know what a fork was or that running water existed until she grew up. She shares how she managed to get away from her prison and how she went back to try to rescue girls from the life she once lived.

This is a heartbreaking story. I cried more than once. Human trafficking is beyond horrifying to read about, and this book will open your eyes to a bigger world. Girls are stolen or sold everyday, and not only in places like Cambodia or the Philippines. This happens everywhere including the USA and Canada. If you are brave enough, this book will hopefully spur you toward action. I caution younger girls to ask their parents before reading it. I also urge you all to pray for Somaly Mam, her family, her ministry, and that she might find her creator, the one who loves her more than anything.

So pick up a book or two that will broaden your mind to the world around us. The more I learn about the suffering in our world and the amazing work God is doing, the more I am in awe of him.

Novel Teen Reviews