Words cannot express how much  I adore that our sponsored child (man/boy) Topiwo has his head down in this photo, it pretty much sums up what I could gather about his personality.

Eighteen months ago I traveled with Compassion International to Tanzania to meet children who are enrolled in the Compassion program through their local church and to write about it at my blog. It was an eye opening trip highlighted by the fact that I got to meet one of the boys our family sponsors through Compassion, and that was incredible.

I’m leaving with a team of Compassion bloggers this weekend to go back to Africa, this time to Uganda.

Thinking back to that last trip and the months and weeks leading up to it, I realized I spent most of my free time fretting and worrying. Don’t get me wrong, I prayed, I got my shots, I watched that one Amazing Race episode where they went to Tanzania. But in the cracks of the day I had a quiet looming worry about traveling and writing the posts. Would I survive? Would I be sick the entire time? Would I remember how to spell? Would I get lost and have to live the rest of my life in Tanzania?

Three days ago I was at my sister’s house (she’s also going on this trip!) and I told her how I realized I had forgotten to worry this time around. Don’t get me wrong, I’m gathering up all my old lady accoutrements, and I still don’t want to get on that heavy plane that flies without landing for 10 hours (twice before we even get there, and you have to do it all again just to get back home!) but this time I don’t have that nagging worry that I couldn’t shake before. And I don’t want to secretly kidnap Shaun Groves for a few weeks until all the fuss about this trip is forgotten.

I owe much of my change in attitude to the three books I just read. They all came to me for different reasons out of my control but now I can see how they each have prepared me for this trip and instead of dread, I’m anticipating seeing the hope of Jesus followers who live in Uganda, the life changing assistance that’s been provided by sponsors like you and me through the Compassion program and crowds of children who have yet to experience this hope.

The books that I accidentally read are:

Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption by Katie Davis is a New York Times Bestseller, it’s been out for two years and I’ve heard people talking about it but I never thought to buy it. Then the other day I was in our basement putting away some books onto the bookshelves and there it was! Somehow I already had this book! I’m guessing it was in the Allume Conference Swag or something and it’s been patiently waiting in our filthy basement for me to find it.

I read this book in two days, partially due to the fact that it takes place in Uganda so I couldn’t get enough and partially due to the fact that this is the craziest story I’ve ever heard – and I might not have even believed it was true except for the fact that there is proof in the form of PHOTOS of Katie in the middle of the book that I didn’t even know were there until I got to them – best surprise ever! And also Ann went and visited her last summer so clearly, the story has been checked out. I hate to give anything of this story away so this is all I’ll say; high school homecoming queen has a burning desire to move to Uganda and somehow care for children. What happens next is stunning.

Rhinestone Jesus: Saying Yes to God When Sparkly Safe Faith is no Longer Enough by Kristen Welch. Y’all I’m totally a rotten brat telling you about this one because IT’S NOT EVEN AVAILABLE YET! Kristen asked me to endorse her book that comes out May 1st so I got to read it early. Some of my favorite parts of this book are the times when Kristen gives examples of when she’s said no. Kristen’s honesty about her imperfect life makes you feel like she’s your closest girlfriend. She talks about how Mercy House began and what woke her up from the American Dream. This book isn’t preachy and it doesn’t make you feel guilty, it motivates you to find your ‘one thing’ and to say yes to that.

Too Small to Ignore: Why the Least of These Matters Most by Dr. Wess Stafford President Emeritus of Compassion International. One groggy night at Allume my sister and I were up too late hanging out with friends. Lisa-Jo just found out that Wess Stafford was leading this Compassion bloggers trip and asked us if we had read his book. We hadn’t. In her soothing South African accent she summarized Dr. Stafford’s life story and the climax of the book and the room. Was. Mesmerized. I made a mental note to read the book. I came home, put it on my wish list and promptly forgot about it until my husband surprised me with it at Christmas.

I fully expected to learn more about Dr. Stafford’s life, why he was so passionate about children and Compassion International and I was pretty sure it would make me like Compassion even more. What I didn’t expect to learn were page after page of applicable life lessons. This book surprised me so much and I fully expect it to be one of my top five favorite books I’ll read in 2014.

***

These three books are changing the way I think about poverty. They are changing the way I think about children. They are changing the way I think about myself and where I fit in this world. Sometimes I put off reading books like this because they kind of scare me. But then I read them and LOVE them. What about you, is there a book you were kind of afraid of and then ended up really enjoying it?

You are invited to follow along on our trip to Uganda starting next Monday, January 27-31. Click here to see where to subscribe to get the email updates (in the upper right corner) or bookmark this page so you can keep up with all the posts!

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  1. 1

    I always put off reading books like these because I’m afraid I’ll come away feeling like I’m not doing enough, like I need to buy a third world country and single handedly save it. I forget that we do what we can within the context of our daily lives, and at some point, I have to believe that our obedience is enough. Thanks for sharing this, Myquillyn. I need to challenge myself more in this area. Praying for your trip!!!

    • 2

      YES! I felt like that about Jen Hatmakers 7 too, like what if once I read it I would have to change everything I did?! I ended up reading it and LOVED it, and it did change me but not out of guilt but out of love. I think I shy away if I worry I’ll be guilted into something and that wasn’t the case with any of these books.

  2. 3

    I was ages before I could face Ann Voskamp’s ‘one thousand gifts’ I think just looking at it made me feel afraid but also hungry.
    The book was given me for my 50th birthday. A day marking 50 years of being afraid of but also hungering for a deeper, more intimate relationship with God.
    The book held hope but also the possibility of further failure or rejection: supposing I didn’t get it, supposing I couldn’t respond, supposing that sort of life wasn’t for me what then?
    My heart forgot the other supposings: supposing God rushes to meet me, supposing there is more grace than I could ever imagine.
    Well now I’ve read the book, more than once. And yes, God rushed to meet me, and yes there is more grace than I could ever imagine and I know now of eucharisteo and of the hard eucharisteo and that ‘all is grace’
    I have fallen in love again with the Lover of my soul.
    A gift containing the key to the Greatest Gift

    • 4

      Ruth, thank you for sharing that. It’s so true that we tend to focus on the negative ‘what ifs’ but not the positive ones. Makes me think.

  3. 5

    I’ve read “Kisses from Katie” and “Too Small to Ignore”. Neither made me feel condemned, but the chapters about the boarding-school were awful! Reading it has given me so much respect for Wess. I’m very much looking forward to all your posts from Uganda and hopefully lots of children sponsored.

  4. 6

    I loved, loved reading Kisses From Katie! God is using, among other things, her story, her life, to rekindle my desire to go and to serve…this time to Africa. I’m getting a new passport, not even kidding…

  5. 7

    The book I was scared to read, but then did it because it was chosen in my book club was On That Day Everybody Ate, by Margaret Trost. It was extremely moving! I cried through nearly every chapter, thinking how we have so much and take so much for granted. I participate in a yearly mission trip to Jamaica where we work with teachers to help improve the education the children there receive, and hopefully improve the lives of the children there. But still, I feel there is more that I can do. I am trying to teach my children to live with a servants’ heart and to do as much good as they can each day. This book touched my heart. It is a great one to add to your list of must reads! The next book on my list is Jen Hatmaker’s 7 :)

    http://www.amazon.com/That-Day-Everybody-Ate-Possibility-ebook/dp/B009CG2PRY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1390402526&sr=8-1&keywords=on+that+day+everybody+ate

  6. 9

    Love Wes Stafford’s books. I read one last January on a plane ride home. His heart is so wonderful to see poured out in the pages of his books. :)

    Praying for you all as you travel and share all that God is speaking to you and your hearts on this trip.

  7. 10
    Birdie Cutair says:

    I just ordered Rhinestone Jesus which isn’t available until May. The other 2 books I have read and enjoyed. I would love to meet Katie sometime. I have not been to Uganda, but have been to Namibia, another African country that is similar.

  8. 11

    Yes, Kisses from Katie and Too Small To Ignore are great books to have in your library if you are a Compassion sponsor/advocate. One book I read before my recent Compassion trip to Mexico was Crazy Love by Francis Chan. One particular part that struck me in the book was being a risk-taker. “God, bring me closer to You during this trip, whatever it takes.” I know He did this because I learned more about my sponsored child and how he is growing up in a home that is similar to what my childhood was like.

    I am looking forward to following along with the trip posts, and I pray that God brings each one of you closer to Him during your journey.

  9. 12

    I adore you. And these books. And you.

  10. 13

    I’m boring. I just read the bible and commentaries and word for word translation back to Hebrew. The important words and I read cross references and Little Kittle. I do word studies but do not know how to break down a Hebrew word as yet. Might not attempt it at all. I love word for word commentaries and then long winded commentaries.
    I used to read books non stop till 4 am but then I just got into my Logos bible and can’t live without it.
    I get lost in Scripture and read up everything about it. I love devotional. I just love bible study.
    I’m boring.

    • 14

      If I dismantle a chapter, it could take up to two weeks. But then I know every single thing about it. The funny side of a chapter can give you a good laugh for life really. If you get into it the way I do.

  11. 15

    http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3328856-compelled-by-love
    I’ve read other books by Heidi Baker, but not this one yet. I want to read it and see the film too.

  12. 16

    I heard Wes Stafford speak on a livestream feed from The Leadership Summit and I cried through most of it, sitting on my chair thousands of miles away, hearing his passion and his story. So moving.

  13. 17
    Sarah Woollard says:

    I bought Francine River’s book ‘Redeeming Love’ and it sat on my bookshelf for three years before I was able to pick it up and read it. I love Francine River’s her books are beautifully written and three God’s love and grace all the way through so that by the end you know how much God loves you, but i just could not pick this book up and read it. Why when I love her books so much? because of the content of the story, the main characters name and the parallels to child abuse. When I finally read it, it changed my life and gave me a freedom I hadn’t realised I needed.

  14. 18

    7 was a bit like that, also Overdressed. Those two have completely changed my consumer mindset. The Hole in Our Gospel sent me straight to the computer to sponsor a child through World Vision. I thought Preemptive Love and The Exodus Road were going to be completely depressing, but they lit a fire under my feet to do something, even if it is little it’s more than nothing. Basically, if a book didn’t change me some way for the good, I consider it almost a waste of time and not worth mentioning. It helps that these are well written. (Fiction and humour/memoir excluded, of course)

    Have an absolutely amazing trip. Something about Uganda & me – it keeps bumping into me. I’m sure there’s some purpose down the road. I’ll be following you!

  15. 19

    I’ve read Kisses from Katie three times. Reading it again with my girls. LOVE.

  16. 20
    Melissa says:

    The book that I was afraid to read there are 3 : The Shack – it was painful, after working as a victim advocate I saw this pain in people. I yearned for them to know God was carrying them through it.. Not doing it to them. Mother Daughters – I bought it and put it on my shelf for years – and then I read it… and I hated it – and then I read it — and I understood. Wishing others understood me. The third book is Sin City – a book about an area of town in Jacksonville Florida called Arlington. Except for one section – Sin City – It’s a principal of an elementary school memoirs of his time at that school. The stories play to many realities today. I really didn’t want to know that my hometown had this place – I really didn’t want to know that parents treat teachers this way. But each story became painfully my story. Reality is God’s presence in each event. Read and embrace the fear – so you can reap the rewards. Peace & Grace to you all

  17. 22

    I just ordered the books too! Thanks for the recommendations. I would love to know more about Topiwo. Have you written about him on your blog? Can you tell us why doesn’t want to look at the camera? Sending prayers for your trip and for him. Blessings.

  18. 24

    Too Small to Ignore is by far my favorite all-time book. It is just so full. It’s a wonderful parenting book, an important reminder that children have worth and dignity and cannot be ignored.

    I don’t know that I’ve ever been afraid to read a book…I usually choose books I really want to read. Hole in the Gospel by Richard Stearns was good…Crazy Love by Francis Chan was good…. Those were both eye opening and somewhat life changing.

  19. 25

    So glad you shared this list! Kisses from Katie was amazing…one where the stories come back to mind over and over, but the other two are new to me. I relate so much with the other commenter feeling kinda scared to embark on something you KNOW is going to change you. I have to keep reminding myself that He gives *good* gifts to us, even if they’re hard. Can’t wait to hear how the Lord uses this trip! I’m tuned in and wondering if the Lord will call us to sponsor another precious one.

  20. 26
    Beth WIlliams says:

    Nester,

    Prayers for your trip. I’m glad so many In(Courage) people are going on mission trips. It is refreshing to hear of women who are listening to God and changing the world around them.

    For most people we just need to get quiet and listen for the still small voice of God telling how we can change our world right here at home! No one and no job done in His name is to small for God to notice!

    God Bless you all! :)

  21. 27

    Hearing Katie Davis speak at the Catalyst conference a few years back was a game changer for my spiritual walk. When asked to summarize her journey for the crowd & what advice she had for us, she said “whatever God is asking you to do, say YES.” It hit me like a ton of bricks and I couldn’t buy and read her book fast enough. I had hesitated to offer my whole life for God to use and was often saying “no” to scary things He was calling me to. Not anymore. Time to move from fear to faith to freedom!

    Cannot wait to read Rhinestone Jesus – right up my ally and I’m sure it will continue to challenge me to step out in faith. Thanks for the heads up to be looking out for it!

  22. 28

    I almost always read what you recommend because we are both introverts and I think we have a lot in common. but you are nicer and braver than I am.

  23. 29

    I read “7″ and felt the same way you did. But the first book that got me thinking about missions from a new perspective was “Peace Child” — waaaaay back in college. I should dig that out and read it again. So excited for you and your trip!

  24. 30

    Kisses for Katie is on my bedside table waiting to be read! And now I’m off to put Wess Stafford’s book on my wishlist. I heard an interview w/him about his story–and was so inspired/heart-brooken/blown away. Can’t wait to read it.

    Two books that shook me: A Hole in the Gospel by Richard Stearns (the president of World Vision) which is his story of big corporate CEO to sitting in huts with kids in Africa. Amazing. And then, Somaly Mam’s book about her story of sex-trafficking. Brutal.

    Praying for your trip!
    a

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