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
The truth is, we might live in a
small world, but a lot of people on this planet aren’t smiling and
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
Non Fiction: The
Crescent Through the Eyes of the Cross by Dr. Nabeel T.
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
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).
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.