Book Review by Faith Nelson
Caution! This book may be hazardous to your lifestyle
It’s the story of a journey: a vision trip to Swaziland undertaken by Christian novelist Lisa Samson and her teenage daughter, Ty. They want to “look beyond their borders,” “see the hard things of the world” and “be exposed …remember and record.”
Swaziland, South Africa has the highest rate of AIDS infection in the world. Robbery is epidemic and basics, such as blankets, are precious. The Samsons meet twelve year olds, elderly relatives and even neighbors raising children who have been orphaned by AIDS and other diseases. Ty compares her experience to “having someone wake me up with a baseball bat” and Lisa says “less than a week into our trip, suffering was beginning to look so normal.”
As life changing as this journey is, the book documents a second journey that is just as transforming. It begins and ends with a journey of sanctification as the Samson family struggles to replace “the American dream with dreams of the kingdom.” They go from living the typical suburban life in a 5000 square foot house to a home in downtown Lexington, Kentucky where they live as part of an intentional religious community. According to Lisa, “we buy most of our clothing used … a full-on trip to the (beauty) salon is out of reach. …We keep our heat down to 60 degrees in the winter to lower our utility bills.” The trip to Swaziland was “a single chapter in the longer story of God snatching us out of our complacent, consumerist Christianity.”
Lisa and Ty are open and honest in their struggles to live a more Christlike life. Lisa says, “After the trip, I’d planned to eat only beans, rice and fresh vegetables for Lent … my Lenten fast lasted three days. So much for eating the same thing every day and being thankful.” She realizes we are all called to different places spiritually and cannot judge others for not being where we are. But she does not hesitate to ask hard questions that none of us should ignore. “… Where do you think God might be calling you?” “What can I do?” “Who is my church keeping out?” and finally “What if every Christian in the world reached out in love and deed to one sick AIDS patient, one lonely orphan, one poor widow, one hungry family? Why does that sound impossibly hard to us? What if we did it anyway?”
You will find this book challenging and thought provoking. Since it alternates between the viewpoints of Lisa and Ty, it would be a great choice to read with a youth group or with a young adult son or daughter.