As a semi-crazed book lover who gets euphoric over stacks of beautifully shelved rows of word filled pages, I was immediately drawn to my friend Anne’s Book Carnival.
Write about a book that changed your life.
I knew immediately which book I would pick. It has truly changed my life and helped shape who I am, even down to the direction and vision for portions of this blog.
I was sixteen, bitter and angry at my parents for moving us to what I considered the 2nd circle of hell, the first being church functions. I wanted nothing to do with Christians and church. I had been hurt too much. We had moved from Albuquerque to Hawaii and while most would think it a dream, I resented everything about being pulled away from my friends and life during the middle of my junior year in high school.
I spent high school in total rebellion against God. I was angry and bitter, and could not fathom a loving God allowing so much hurt into my life. My rational mind never doubted that God existed but I interpreted everything I had grown up with in the church to reveal a mean judging God awaiting my next mistake so he could crush me. To me, he was a power hungry being that was full of himself all the while being impotent to help alleviate any actual pain or suffering.
He was a remote, cruel master and I wanted nothing to do with him. But I don’t always get what I want.
God brought about repentance in my heart but I still struggled with the nagging questions of His goodness.
I found hope and comfort about the goodness of God in an unlikely place, a book about suffering and martyrdom.
A Distant Grief: The Real Story Behind the Martyrdom of Christians in Uganda by F. Kefa Sempangi chronicles the true story behind the martyrdom of Christians in Uganda under the rule of Idi Amin during the early 70’s when over 300,000 people were killed in brutal and terrible ways. Sempangi’s story weaves his own personal tale of ministry and persecution while seeing thousands come to saving grace by God’s demonstrative power.
This book does not tone it down and make it pretty. The causes for suffering remain and are not explained away in neat sound bites. But the joy that can only come from God shines through. God doesn’t always eliminate the evil and injustice in the world. But we know we are not made for this world and our hope and actions remain.
Kefa’s own humanity is seen in his struggles yet we also see a man who was obedient and faithful. What is seen throughout this story is how God shows up, in the midst of the worst kinds of evil. In the midst of pain and suffering beyond my imaginations.
This story was not an intellectual response to suffering and evil in the world but a telling of God’s presence in Uganda. I didn’t want to read someone’s philosophical comeback to why he allows the horrific and brutal and wrong. I wanted to see His hand move and know that He is not only powerful but compassionate.
Along the way, there are insights into poverty, giving, and missions but they don’t hold the preachy tones that some books on these subjects tend towards.
I lay in my bed sobbing through the chapters as God worked in me. I had made the commitment to follow Christ but I still had so much hurt and confusion. This book made me realize the power of prayer, the power of a body, the power of my own brokenness, and my heart for missions. For the first time, I wanted to lose my life, not out of despair or depression but out of hope.
My heart for Africa was birthed by the words of this book and although I have never stepped foot on African soil, my heart stirs at the mention. I believe I will minister there whether it’s through the ministries I champion from this computer screen, the kids I sponsor, or the crossing of oceans to call it my home.
My heart resonates with it and it all started here in the pages of this book that changed my life.
If you love books and are looking for some great ones to add to your reading list be sure to check out the link above to see which books have affected others. I have hundreds, from picture books to fiction to autobiographies and I’m looking forward to sharing them here with you on an ongoing basis.
Because I love this book so much, I am offering a chance to win a free copy to one of my readers.
To enter a chance to win, simply like my Facebook page and then come back and enter a comment saying you did. Entries will close on Friday at midnight PST and a winner will be announced on Saturday. Good luck.
This giveaway is now closed.