Today I am sharing a book review on, Hope Lives: a Journey of Restoration by Amber Van Schooneveld. I have picked this book to share as part of my lent reflections because it takes the reader on a reflective journey through their own heart, with an aim at encouraging the reader to live-out more compassion and giving in their own life.
The book consists of 25 days of reading, reflection, and journaling. It asks the reader to look at the enormity of world poverty in a new light–not as an enormous problem too big to tackle from our comfortable American homes, but as an issue we can engage with when we seek God’s heart of mercy and grace.
The book is broken into five sections. During week one the reader will search their own heart and try to determine what prevents us from helping those in need. Is it our materialism and ego that are blocking our compassion? For me, it was the idea that I did not have any actual money to give. I do a lot of things with my life, none of which actually produce an income for my family–so my hands are tied when it comes to charitable giving–right?? No, God showed me helping the poor is not really about money at all. I have time, and talents, with which I can help to alleviate suffering. God showed me that even though I don’t earn a paycheck, I am still rich, wealthy beyond the wildest imagination of the vast majority of the words population. I have shoes on my feet, a car in the driveway, clean clothes, a kitchen full of food, I am literate, I am wealthy–and I can help. But, this is not some gold star on my christian report card. We are commanded over and over again to help the poor in the Bible–it is not about charity, it is about obedience and justice. Also, writing checks is easy. We can send our donation and move on with our lives. This section left me wanting to do more.
Week two is about exploring what the bible has to say about helping the poor, the widows, the orphans, and how God commands us to love those in need. When God says something once it is important–when He says it over and over again it must be really important. Just look at the sheer number of verses about helping the poor, it does not seem like an option. Looking through the gospels and using Jesus’ model for helping the poor is so encouraging. Jesus’ ministry was not this enormous organization that reached millions during His lifetime, or generated millions of dollars. He took the time to stop for one–one woman at a well, one group of children, one blind man, one crippled man, one prostitute. We can do that too! It is about stopping for the one person God puts in your path today. Some of us are probably called to start large ministries aimed at ending poverty on a global level, but I think most of us are just called to stop and help the one person that God puts in our path today. Imagine what would happen if every Christian helped just one person everyday!
The third week helped the reader to understand poverty. It looked at all of the factors that contribute to large-scale poverty–the politics, gender issues, environmental issues. But really, when it comes down to it, the author believes that poverty is a spiritual issue. We now that ‘our battles are not against flesh and blood’ so poverty has to be the work of the enemy. Why else would poverty target children and babies so tenaciously? The devil wants these people to think they don’t matter, that they are unloved and ultimately unlovable. So, we can battle poverty on a spiritual level. I write to my Compassion International sponsor child, as well as an orphan in South Africa, and I always emphasis that they are good and important and that I love them–but Jesus loves them way more.
Week four looks at prayer. If we believe that poverty, at its roots, is a spiritual problem–then prayer becomes the essential weapon in this battle. When we commit to continually praying for the poor, the Holy Spirit will then change our hearts. I ask God for His heart, to be able to love like He loves. The author also gives specific suggestions on prayer techniques to help the reader have breakthroughs in their own prayer life. I choose to hang pictures of the children and countries I pray for around my house–it is my visual reminder to be praying in the spirit on all occasions. I am also excited to be part of a prayer group that will target specific countries with strategic prayers.
Week five is about exploring our individual spiritual gifts. Over the course of reading this week God presented me with many opportunities to put these words into practice. I took on supporting a Compassion International child, writing and encouraging a South African orphan, and volunteering as a welcomer and advocate in the refugee community. It was amazing that God gave me specific opportunities to use my gifts. I think that I do have a gift of mercy, of teaching, and for serving. All of these things bring me great joy, and hopefully glorify God.
In conclusion, I would highly recommend this book. It is truley a journey. Looking back, it is amazing all the opportunites God put in my life at the excat time I was reading this book–or prehaps they had always been there and reading this book opened my eyes. However you want to look at it, reading this book and engaging in the reflection and prayer exersizes will certanily impact your life. It helps you to transform a heart that may have become apathetic and hardened, and replace it with a heart of God’s love and mercy.
Offer Mercy Today