Sundays are for Book Reviews: Hope Lives

Poverty is real. We know it exists, we realize that the majority of the world lives in it, and we hope that there will be a solution to the problem. Unfortunately, though, we’re so far removed from real poverty that we oftentimes don’t have a proper view of its severity, don’t know how we can help, and don’t have urgency in finding a solution.

That’s why books like Hope Lives are so invaluable. Gleaning from her experiences as a world traveler and an employee of Compassion International (a wonderful, Christ-centered organization that provides for the needs of children in poverty all over the world), Amber Van Schooneveld confronts readers with an accurate portrait of modern-day poverty, discusses God’s view of the situation, clearly outlines what the Bible instructs us to do, and offers a glimpse of the hope of Christ that is transforming lives even in these horrific conditions. The book’s subtitle is “A Journey of Restoration,” and the book follows the format of a journey, laid out in journal form and covering five weeks of Bible study, profiles from those in poverty, and plenty of challenging questions that we should ask ourselves.

This was a very difficult book to read, as the stories are sometimes bleak and disheartening. My own real life experience with poverty is very limited. I was able to spend a handful of afternoons in a squatter’s camp in Namibia many years ago, and I can still remember the faces of the children who swarmed all around us, begging for something to eat. Reading these stories was very similar to those experiences — being, as I said, CONFRONTED with the honest reality of poverty and wondering how we can begin to help with such a huge problem.

I appreciated Mrs. Van Schooneveld’s transparency and her honesty in saying that we who aren’t living in poverty often perceive our luxuries (cable TV, cell phones, eating out) to be needs. I was baffled to read how far our very small donations can go in taking care of the needs of those around the world. Not only did this book provide information about how to help through Compassion, but it listed several other organizations that readers can partner with to end poverty. (I can speak personally to the integrity of Compassion International and wrote about our experience with the organization here. We have been so pleased with Compassion that we began sponsoring a second child, Sitota, last year.)

Throughout the book, hope does indeed live, as we are reminded that even our small efforts can make an eternal difference in the life of someone in need. A story is told of a young man in Kenya named Ephantus, who was sponsored through Compassion. His father was a drunk, and his mother could barely keep the family fed. Through his time at the Compassion center and letters from his sponsor half a world away, Ephantus found his worth in Christ. Soon after he became a believer, his father stopped drinking and gave his life to Christ after seeing the difference in his son. Another story is told of Compassion’s beginning during a very hopeless point in South Korea’s history. Children died in the streets and were carted off as garbage, but Compassion alleviated the problem for as many children as possible by working to provide better health conditions, education, and sharing the love of Christ. Decades later, life in South Korea had improved so much that Compassion was no longer needed, and at a meeting to discuss what part believers there could play in aiding poverty in other areas of the world, countless pastors stood and proclaimed that they had been Compassion children all those years ago, saved out of poverty and won to the Lord through the organization’s programs and now committing to do likewise for a new generation of children. Amazing!

This book will not be easy to read, but I encourage you to get a copy. I have no doubt that reading it will call you into action to do what you can, from your corner of the world, to help end poverty all over the world.

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