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Kingdom Works is another social justice book which I read some time ago. For those of you interested in that subject, this book is full of anecdotal stories from an inner-city Christian ministry director.
This is a collection of stories from Bart Campolo, the leader of a volunteer organization called Mission Year. Mission Year brings young people into the inner city to live together in community with other young Christians, to partner with local churches, and to minister in their communities. All of the stories come out of that setting. It isn’t meant to be a textbook on how to do ministry, nor does it outline deep spiritual insights that can be learned from each story.
I enjoyed reading this book, though there are parts that are uncomfortable to read. When it isn’t just a made up story, but the heartache experienced by real people, it can be difficult to look at. Our natural inclination is to turn away. Each of the stories, whether things turned out good, bad or somewhere in between, has insights to offer and will broaden your thinking. That is where the value lies in this book–it makes you think and it challenges your preconceived ideas. Most stories leave you with more questions than you started with and wondering about theological issues and how they relate to the problems shared.
A couple of favorite quotes:
In speaking of the type of ministry that Mission Year engages in, Bart said, “This is not a high-powered evangelism ministry. There are plenty of those already. This is a settle-down-and-love-your-neighbor ministry, where the evangelism has to come naturally if it comes at all.” (p.31)
“In that awful moment I realized for the first time that out there in the real world the choices are not always between right and wrong, but sometimes between bad and worse.” (p. 53)
I would recommend this book for adults and possibly high schoolers, depending on their maturity level. Many of the stories talk about things like drinking, drugs, sex, and violence.
- Some violence
- Sexual themes
- Drug references
Rating: 4 Stars
Until next time…
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Evicted was recommended to me by my husband and a friend who had both heard about it on the radio. They know that I’m interested in social justice issues and thought it would be right up my alley. Guess what? They were right!
Matthew Desmond wanted to do some field research about eviction and the way that it affects the lives of poor people. He settled on the city of Milwaukee as a good middle-of-the-ground sample city. Matthew lived in the inner city for a good chunk of time and did field research, took notes, recorded audio, conducted interviews and surveys, shadowed people, and looked at the work of other researchers. In this book he shares his findings and gives readers a front row look at how eviction has affected real people.
This book was utterly fascinating. I loved it! I had no idea that eviction could affect so many areas of a person’s life–school and work attendance, job stability, increased costs (for storage, etc.), wasted time (looking for new housing and jobs), stress, depression, and the list goes on. I feel like I’ve gained some great insight into one of the major problems in our large cities throughout the United States.
I found that I became quite attached to the people in this book, even those who were struggling with their own demons. It was hard to see them trying so hard to overcome adverse circumstances and just get sucked down into the mire again. There was one character, however, who really made me mad. I thought the landlady was despicable in how she treated her tenants and I really wanted to ream her out.
The format of the book is highly readable. Desmond does a great job of balancing real-life stories, his own observations, and facts gleaned from his research.
I highly recommend this book to adults and anyone who is interested in social justice issues. It’s not really appropriate for the younger crowd because the quotes from real people contain quite a bit of bad language.
- Bad language
- A bit of violence
Rating: 5 Stars
Until next time…
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I finished Little Bee last night, another book from my Rainbow Cover Reading Challenge. This is the book that had a very non-specific blurb on the back, so I had no idea what to expect. My review will give away some of the plot, so stop reading now if you’d rather not know before reading it for yourself.
How to start? This story is about a married couple and how their lives intersect with that of a young Nigerian girl. Something quite horrific happens on a Nigerian beach, and it changes the course of all of their lives. Fast-forward a couple of years, and Little Bee, the Nigerian girl, finds her way into this family’s life once again. Tragedy strikes again, and the two women must find a way to uphold and help one another.
Towards the end of the book things seem as if they will turn out alright, but we’re left with a sinking feeling at the end of the book. I can’t give you a lot of details because that will totally ruin the plot line for you, even though I really do want to discuss it in more depth.
The characters in this story are great! Just when you think you have somebody figured out, you find out that there is another facet to their personality. It’s never a question of who is good and who is bad. It’s a matter of which traits they are displaying at any given time.
The writing itself alternates between the two main female characters. This is a really nice literary device that helps the reader see the story from different angles and gain understanding about what makes each character tick.
I also like how the story explores the theme of illegal immigration, refugees and detention centers in the UK. The author stated that the inspiration for this novel came from the real-life story of an illegal immigrant from Angola. When he and his son were going to be deported back to their country, the father hanged himself so that his son wouldn’t be sent back (according to a law in the UK, which prevents unaccompanied minors from being deported).
I had one nitpick about the story, when it comes to the part where they are driving around Nigeria. (My husband lived there for several years and I visited there for about a month.) It says that the women would leave their hotel in the morning, drive into the south and return to their hotel at night. First, driving in Nigeria is not that simple. It might be okay in Abuja, but once you get outside of a large city, the roads can be quite treacherous and slow-going. It’s also not feasible that they could simply drive around where ever they wanted. They were not accompanied by a man (asking for trouble), and there are actually checkpoints along the roads which are manned by soldiers. So, that part of the story wasn’t very accurate. Not a major issue, but it just stood out to me.
A favorite quote:
“On the girl’s brown legs there were many small white scars. I was thinking, Do those scars cover the whole of you, like the stars and the moons on your dress? I thought that would be pretty too, and I ask you right here please to agree with me that a scar is never ugly. That is what the scar maker wants us to think. But you and I, we must make an agreement to defy them. We must see all scars as beauty. Okay? This will be our secret. Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, I survived.” (p. 9)
I would recommend this book to adults who enjoy exploring social justice issues through the medium of a fictional work. Sometimes that’s a good way to look at difficult issues. You know it isn’t a real person you have to pity, but you still get the underlying social message that the book is trying to convey.
- Some violence
- Some language
- Some sexual themes
Rating: 4 Stars
Until next time…