Scared? Sometimes it’s just easier to put your head in the sand
Enter: Tom Davis. I first met Tom about four years ago. We started bumping into each other at different events, and I loved his passion for life and the work he was doing with orphans, some of them who had been deeply impacted by the global sex trade. Our kids shared a love for soccer, and our families always enjoyed getting together. Last July he urged me to enrol to do a Doctorate with him through George Fox University. The first few times I said “no,” but then, after considering how not everyone has the opportunity to share a journey like this with someone like Tom who sees the world through a different lens and is willing to engage it, I realised I was facing a unique opportunity where my comfortable life would be stretched and be challenged to engage important issues in our world when it is easier to leave them alone.
Enter: Scared. I had read a couple of books written by Tom – Fields of the Fatherless, Red Letters, and now, this one. Although Scared is a novel, there is nothing novel about it. It has characters we can relate to and be inspired by. You get a strong sense in reading this powerful book that there is a bit of Tom in each of the characters and he develops them in such a way that we see a little of ourselves too.
Enter: Stuart Daniels, a washed up photo journalist who’s marriage is all but over is sent to Swaziland, Africa to do a story on the HIV/AIDS pandemic. His most famous photo is also the source of his greatest grief: a haunting image that places him at a scene where he is a passive witness to gross injustice in Congo. Reluctantly he leaves at a time when he knows there is every possibility when he returns, his wife won’t be there, and neither will his career.
Enter: Adanna, a 12-year old Swazi girl who all but steals your heart. What she endures makes your heart break and you want to teleport yourself back through time to do everything in your power to rescue her. I still naively remember taking the book with me on a flight from Denver to Los Angeles thinking it would be a good way to kill some time and finish the book at the same time. I was totally unprepared for the shameless tears that flowed as I got closer to the end.
Enter: Pastor Walter. His life is changed by the death of a 12 year-old boy during a church service. In the West, our perceptions of pastors and church leaders have been tainted by some of the abuses we have read about where some ministers abused their position of authority and leadership, while others see the church and their ministers as irrelevant relics of the past. Sadly, this overlooks the incredible work that many do in caring for the vulnerable in our world: the character of Pastor Walter is a testimony to such people.
Davis does a masterful job taking us deep into the psyche of each character. Almost too much. I found that I could no longer cling to excuses of ignorance or that cliché “what can one person do? What difference could I make?” Yes, the book is riveting, powerful and moving. It is also much more. It exposes your heart to something that it should never have to be exposed to, and yet God forbid that we continue to ignore the plight of our orphans: Many who suffer from curable diseases, lack of fresh water and inadequate food. Others are displaced because of civil wars sparked by corrupt political leaders, while hundreds of thousands are cruelly trafficked to fulfil the grotesque sexual appetites of evil men and women.
Tom is a man with the ‘X Factor.’ He is not happy sitting around doing nothing. He carries a heavy burden for orphaned children. He doesn’t write for fame or recognition. He writes to get the message out hoping that many will be inspired out of their ignorance and apathy. He prays that by the time we have read the last page and close the cover of the book, that it will be the beginning of something new in our own heart and the lives of orphans who desperately need help.
“It’s my firm belief that God has already sent the answers to solve the world’s most difficult issues and the answer is people like us getting involved,” says Davis.