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Red Letters

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posted by skirk

Thank you for visiting Red Letters. This blog is no longer being updated. Please  enjoy the archives. Also, here are some other blogs you may also enjoy:

Activist Faith

Is It the End of the World

Download SCARED for free on Nov. 1 & 2!

posted by Tom Davis

The publisher of Scared is giving away free e-book downloads on November 1 & 2. Don’t miss this great deal. Download Scared today!

Download your free Scared e-book!

A Note from the Author: Tom Davis
Scared is a work of fiction, but the world and life stories described in the book are very real. I’ve experienced them up close in my work as CEO of Children’s HopeChest.>

I’ve met hundreds of kids who’ve lost parents, or whole communities of adults, to AIDS. I’ve held a starving child, and I’ve put my arms around a young girl the age of one of my daughters who’d been abused by a family member. I’ll never forget the five-year-old boy, coming from his empty hut miles away, carrying his two-year-old sister on his back to get food at a CarePoint.

There aren’t words to describe your emotions in the face of these circumstances.

I write this, like Scared, not to shock, but to give voice to these children to make them heard. And to bring them help.

At HopeChest, we meet practical and pressing needs. That’s the bottom line of caring for orphans. But we do more through a unique model that helps kids to overcome their circumstances and impact their world.

About the Book
Released by Cook Communications, Scared: A Novel on the Edge of the World, follows the story of U.S. photojournalist Stuart Daniels and a young Swazi girl, Adanna. Like many in her country, she finds herself as the head of her household in a land with little to offer anyone in need. Termed “Nation of Orphans,” Swaziland has the highest rate of HIV/AIDS in Africa.

The themes of the story are not easy disease, hunger, death, and man’s basest evil toward his fellow man, even children. Reality in Swaziland isn’t easy for anyone. In fiction, as in life, the characters show a resilience of spirit in the face of unthinkable adversity. In the same way, their stories display the power of relationship, human and divine, to heal and restore.

Stuart Daniels, a battle- and life-worn photojournalist, has taken what he believes may be the last of his assignments. His personal life, including his marriage, is a disaster. He’s haunted by an award-winning photo that made his career, but has left him a shell of a person. Adanna is a young Swazi girl with an incredible gift, a voice that cries out for her people.

Scared is a testimony of the power of words to sustain and change lives and the power of God to bring light and new life, even to the darkest places. As Christian Fiction Online Magazine reviewer, Michelle Sutton, stated: “You’d have to have a heart of stone not to be emotionally moved when you read Scared. The entire time I read this book I was in Africa right along with the characters. That’s great writing.”

Enter the world of Scared, and you will find yourself transported to a different world. Certainly moved. Maybe even transformed.

Touching the Image of Jesus: Part 3

posted by Tom Davis

In the final chapter of Alexandra’s story, she shares what happened when she boarded the plane for Swaziland with her teammates. This post is a little longer, but I’m pretty sure you won’t be able to put it down.

Thank you again, Alexandra, for sharing your heart and story with all of us.

Following Jesus: Part 3
by Alexandra Warwick.

“Touching the Image of Jesus”

Four months later, I sat in my bedroom at midnight feeling nauseous and terrified. I had to meet my team in six hours to travel to Chicago for our flight, and the realization of how out-of-my-comfort-zone this trip was going to be had begun to sink in. I couldn’t bring myself to sleep even though I knew it would be a long time before I’d be able to get good rest again. I stared at my computer screen where my most recent blog post, along with several comments full of encouragement looked back up at me.

One comment in particular was glued to my mind. It said, “You are about to touch the very image of Jesus.”

This post bothered me because I couldn’t figure out what those words really meant and the harder I tried to understand, the more nervous I felt.

All day I had been getting calls and messages from friends and family wishing me well. Nearly every person I talked to asked me my most dreaded question: “So, are you ready to go to Swaziland?” I began to despise hearing that question, no matter how well intentioned it was.

I just wanted to scream at everyone, “No! No! I am absolutely, one hundred percent, not ready to go!” But I knew if I said what I was really thinking, they’d tell me that maybe I should just stay home where it was safer. They’d tell me I shouldn’t do it, that I shouldn’t go if it made me feel so uncomfortable. And I knew I’d have to explain to them how I just couldn’t do that. I’d have to explain that no matter how afraid I was, no matter how uncomfortable the trip was bound to be, I had to go. I was called to go. I couldn’t have told anyone who it was calling me then, but I did know that the call was too loud and too clear for me to turn back in fear. I wasn’t ready, not at all, but I knew I had to go anyway.

I cannot begin to express how immensely glad I am that I got up at five in the morning that day, and boarded that plane to Africa with my teammates. Because, truthfully, there was nothing on this trip that I could have prepared myself for.

I tried to be ready to go to the CarePoint that first day in Swaziland, I tried to be ready to visit the children’s ward of a hospital whose standards were terrifyingly eye-opening to me, I tried to be ready to go visit the often dilapidated homesteads of many CarePoint children with my teammates and an orphanage to play with some amazingly brilliant kids, but I never was.

I felt like I was strapped onto a roller coaster of unbelievable experiences. I was never ready for that big drop to come, but I knew that I had chosen this ride and had to stick out what I had signed up for.

And suddenly, it was the last day and the children of Ludlati were singing praise songs at the top of their lungs, and dancing around with gleaming smiles on their faces. The Discpleship Team at the CarePoint tried to get the kids to go outside for a group picture, but the children would not leave the building. They just kept dancing, and singing, and seemed incapable of ending their joyful praising of all God had given them.

I heard more than a few cries of, “Thank you, thank you, Jesus!” coming from the crowd.

And as the adults slowly trickled back in to see what was going on, and we all joined the children in song and dance, I saw one of the little girls I had bonded with staring up at me. I ran to her, held her close to my chest, and as we started to dance together, I remembered the words from that comment on my blog post before I left for Swaziland.

“You are about to touch the very image of Jesus.”

And all at once, I realized what that meant.

I realized that the very image of Jesus was right there in my arms, next to me, and dancing all around me.

I realized how absolutely incredible it was that these kids, many of whom would have no food to eat until the following day when they received fortified rice at the CarePoint, and still more who had no parents to go home to, could praise God for their blessings with the utmost joy and sincerity. I realized what it meant to live on God’s grace alone, to live in constant gratitude rather than constant entitlement.

I saw the image of Jesus right before my eyes and even though I could never have said that I was ready, I accepted Him that last day at the CarePoint, sitting on a log with my teammates, covered in dirt, sweat, and tears.

I probably have never needed a shower as much as I did that day, I was sick with a terrible cold and raging ear infection, and was more tired than I can ever remember having been in my life.

My salvation was far from glamorous, but as I embraced my teammates, and heard the Bomake (the women who cook, serve, and care for the children at the CarePoint every day) clap their hands and cheer for me in delight, I knew that glamorous was just not something that Jesus ever asked anyone to be.

Today, I also realize that salvation, as beautiful as it may be, is only the beginning of a Christian life. I do not wish to diminish the importance of it, but the path ahead of me holds a far bigger challenge than accepting Jesus. This challenge is to follow Him, follow Him in caring for orphans and widows, follow him in serving brothers and sisters, friends, and yes, follow him even in practicing hospitality to my enemies. This is the challenge of unwavering faith, of radical love. This is the challenge of laying my life down, of giving to people who can never repay me, in trying to love as Jesus loved.

Accepting Jesus took a minute of my life, but following Him requires everything I have ever had and ever will have, every moment, of everyday, for the rest of my life and knowing that it’s completely worth it.

Even as I am typing this now, I know that in this life, nothing is guaranteed except the grace of God. I was not ready, when God called me to go on this trip, I was not ready when He told me to get on the plane, I was not ready when He sent me to the CarePoint, the hospital, or the orphanage. I was not ready to touch the very image of Jesus, to accept Him right there on that log. I am still not ready for the unexpected challenges of tomorrow but I think that’s what is so exquisite about faith.

Being ready isn’t important.

What’s important is listening to God, and trusting that when He tells you to leap, even if you cannot see how far the drop is, He has a plan for you that will exceed all of your expectations.

Touching the Image of Jesus: Part 2

posted by Tom Davis

When we left Alexandra, she was wondering how she was going to raise $3,411 to travel across the world with a group of Christians she didn’t know.

She wasn’t a Christian and had no church.

But she did feel deeply compelled to get on this trip to the Ludlati CarePoint. So she decided to enter a contest to win a free trip with Children’s HopeChest that was going on at the exact same time.

We sold nearly 1,000 t-shirts–with each person getting an entry to win the contest.

Here’s what happened when Alexandra entered…

Following Jesus: Part 2
by Alexandra Warwick.

“Oh Yes I Can!”

One morning an update in my newsfeed boldly proclaimed, “Buy a t-shirt and get a chance to win a free mission trip with Children’s HopeChest.”

I read the details and found out that if you posted the link in your blog and people bought shirts from your link, you would receive an extra entry into the contest. I wrote a quick blog post expressing my feelings about why I wanted to go on the trip, posted the link, ordered a shirt, and went on with my day expecting nothing to come of it.

Soon after I posted the link, my sister called to tell me she was buying a shirt off my blog. I was thankful, but a little nagging voice in my head kept whispering to me,

“The odds are against you. God can’t do this for you and even if He could, there’s probably no reason why He would.”

I had all but forgotten about entering the contest until the next day when I saw a link to an article by Tom Davis on the HopeChest Facebook page that mentioned my name.

I had to do a double take.

This had to be a different Alexandra they were talking about. Why would Tom Davis have anything to say about me?

In disbelief, I clicked the link to the article and read. And somehow, most incredibly, it really was me that he was talking about.

As I read, I felt both a sense of gratitude, and a sense of immense guilt. Mr. Davis had recognized the depth of my passion to serve others. I was thankful that someone finally understood.

But I was terrified by something else he said in his article.

He had written:

“There is nothing simple about extreme poverty. And there are no quick answers to problems like human trafficking. These persistently complex problems will not be solved by a t-shirt or a mission trip contest. But they will be solved by passionate people like Alexandra who double-down on Jesus’ teachings in the Gospel.”

When I read these words, I felt like someone had punched me straight in the chest.

“If he only knew,” I thought. “If he only knew how little I knew about the gospel. If he only knew I wasn’t a Christian, maybe he wouldn’t be writing this about me.”

And as people messaged me on Facebook and commented on my blog to encourage me after reading his article, I felt even worse. I knew their hearts were full of kindness, but I felt so undeserving.

As the contest lingered in my mind, all I could do was pray.

I didn’t ever pray to win the mission trip. That didn’t sit well in my heart. I didn’t want to win a prize, I wanted to serve, so I prayed every day that if I was truly called to go to Swaziland, I’d be able to find the financial resources to do so. And, I prayed that whomever God chose to win this mission trip, would be blessed, and able to bless others as a result.

I prayed this prayer up until one chilly March day when I was on the way home from college for spring break and I got a text from a friend that simply said, “ Oh my gosh! You won!”

I didn’t even know what to make of it. My dad was sitting by me, driving the car, but even as my stomach stirred with excitement and confusion, I kept my mouth silent, still believing that God couldn’t make this happen for me.

“What are you talking about?” I texted back to my friend.

My friend replied that my sister had won the contest but was giving the trip to me.

And still, as the excitement stirred inside of me, I didn’t want to believe it was true. I had talked to my sister earlier in the day and she hadn’t mentioned anything about this.

Still, maybe I would have to call my sister again just to check. So I did. And my sister told me she had been instructed to keep it a secret all day until it could be posted on Facebook as a surprise for me.

And then, it sunk in, and I just screamed while my dad grasped the steering wheel in terror thinking that something was terribly wrong.

But quickly, I began to laugh hysterically and cry at the same time and he realized what had happened and shouted, “No way! That’s incredible!”

And indeed, it was. It was absolutely incredible.

My sister, my dad, and I laughed for a long, long, time, unable to really articulate words. But as the three of us laughed, I felt laughter coming from somewhere else too, and I remembered how I had told God that He couldn’t do this for me with such assurance.

The laughter grew louder and clearer as I felt the words, “Oh yes I can!” flood my heart.

Stay tuned for Part 3!

Previous Posts

More Blogs to Enjoy!!
Thank you for visiting Red Letters. This blog is no longer being updated. Please  enjoy the archives. Also, here are some other blogs you may also enjoy: Activist Faith Is It the End of the World

posted 9:51:43am May. 29, 2013 | read full post »

Download SCARED for free on Nov. 1 & 2!
The publisher of Scared is giving away free e-book downloads on November 1 & 2. Don't miss this great deal. Download Scared today! Download your free Scared e-book! A Note from the Author: Tom Davis Scared is a work of fiction, but the world and life stories described in the book

posted 5:05:29am Nov. 01, 2012 | read full post »

Touching the Image of Jesus: Part 3
In the final chapter of Alexandra's story, she shares what happened when she boarded the plane for Swaziland with her teammates. This post is a little longer, but I'm pretty sure you won't be able to put it down. Thank you again, Alexandra, for sharing your heart and story with all of us. Fol

posted 9:50:18am Sep. 13, 2012 | read full post »

Touching the Image of Jesus: Part 2
When we left Alexandra, she was wondering how she was going to raise $3,411 to travel across the world with a group of Christians she didn't know. She wasn't a Christian and had no church. But she did feel deeply compelled to get on this trip to the Ludlati CarePoint. So she decided to enter a

posted 4:17:01pm Sep. 10, 2012 | read full post »

Touching the Image of Jesus: Part 1
[caption id="attachment_2722" align="alignright" width="300"] Alexandra, looking ready.[/caption] Sometimes there's a lot more going on than we can see with our physical eyes. At least, that appears true in the case of Alexandra Warwick. I first introduced you to Alexandra in this post, Reje

posted 11:01:13am Sep. 06, 2012 | read full post »


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