This year for my birthday, my sister gave me an Amazon gift card. I went a little crazy… I bought 6 used books and 1 new one. I only overshot the $25 card by a few dollars (I love cheap used books…). As they began to arrive in the mail, I set up a schedule for all the books I would read this summer. I planned a month of Food Shelf Friday book reviews. But, you know, that dang thesis is still hanging over my head, so reading anything else has to wait…
One of the books I ordered was Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis. I knew very little about it, other than that some of my friends had recommended it, and that it was about an American young woman who had gone to do mission work in Africa. The day after my book arrived and was added to my growing “after thesis” stack, I got an email from the local library that per my request, they had added the audiobook of Kisses from Katie to their e-reader app. Yay! Audiobooks mean I don’t have to wait until my thesis is done; I can start listening right away while I commute! So this week, while driving, mowing, and doing dishes, I worked my way through this incredible story.
As previously mentioned, this is the autobiographical story of Katie, a young woman from the United States. Katie is a Christian, and she had a heart for people. As a senior in high school, Katie and her mom went on a short-term missions trip to Uganda, where they worked with babies and toddlers in an orphanage. Katie fell head over heels in love with the area and the people. After graduating from high school she went back to Uganda to spend a year working with kids there. Things took off in ways she never could have dreamed. By the end of the year she was foster parenting a dozen little girls, and had started a non-profit organization to provide education for kids whose parents cannot afford the fees required for school. Not bad for a teenage girl, right? As you can imagine, Katie decided to make Uganda her home.
The book covers her first two years in Uganda, and it primarily an outline of her faith journey during that time. It’s full of deep thoughts about the love and provision of God and the call to lay down our lives for His plan. Katie’s story goes by fast, and I imagine it felt that way to her too. After all, we’re talking about a teenage girl moving to another continent, adopting a huge household of children, and starting a ministry all within a year or two. The stories were sometimes hard to hear, and I shed more than a few tears.
It feels like Katie doesn’t have a plan; she just does the next thing that comes up. Maybe that’s her writing style, and maybe it’s true; she certainly seems to have the faith to just keep going through one thing and then another. For me as a planner, that was a bit stressful. I wanted to know where she got the training and supplies to do basic medical care, where and how she shopped for the tons of food she needed to feed her growing household and all the kids that came over for baths and meals.
As a reader, I wished for more detail on the practical side of things. How do they fit two women and (eventually) fourteen girls in a four-bedroom house and still have room to take in guests? How often do Katie’s friends and family members come over to Uganda to visit and help? How does the foster/adoption system work over there, because there is no way the American system would let a 19-year-old kid take in over a dozen little girls.
I also wanted an update, and more pictures. The book ends in 2010, so I was curious about the last six years. After finishing the audiobook, I picked up my paper copy and did find a 2012 mini-update in the back. I was happy to learn more about two of her girls in particular (That’s all I can say – no spoilers!), and I’m sure some digging around online will help me find even more, because I know Katie blogs. I also wished for more pictures. Obviously the audiobook had none, but the paper copy only had a few, and those were tiny. There was no one picture of Katie with all her kids.
My overall impression is that Katie is a remarkably obedient young woman with a heart for God and for people. I laughed and cried, and I really enjoyed her insights, especially about God’s heart for orphans and the poor. If I had a tween/teen daughter, I would definitely give her a copy of this book, or listen to the audio together on a trip.
In a way, I envied her position far from American consumerism and fully dedicated to God and His work. I think the juggling act of American comfort and God’s compassion is tough. Trying to live different without selling all and walking away is hard. Part of me wants to give my life to serving, but the other part of me has a job I want to be good at, a home and yard I want to maintain, etc. Finding the balance between responsible budgeting and responsible fair trade purchasing is hard. Buying local and organic while also saving enough to invest in missions and ministries is hard. I just want everything, even though some it conflicts!
Katie addresses this in her book, and other writers have touched on it as well. They say it just takes faith and doing the best you can now, and then doing the next right thing. For me, it’s hard to accept the imperfections of my life and the truth that I will never get it all right. But a story from Rachel’s Tears (the book about Columbine High School victim Rachel Scott) helps me understand a little better. In her diary (the main source for the book), Rachel recounts a time when she was asked for help by a woman in need, but she felt that she couldn’t. Later she was feeling guilty for not helping the woman, and she felt the Lord explain to her that SHE wasn’t His only resource. He would take care of the woman in need, but Rachel was the one who missed out. We get so caught up in “how can I fix?” when what God is saying is, “I will fix. Would you like the blessing of being the tool I use?”
This is not to say we should go on being lazy because someone else will do it. Yes, God has more than one resource and He will provide, but we miss out on the real reason we’re here when we decline the opportunity to be used. We should be jumping at the chance to know the Father better by loving, serving, and giving side-by-side. You will not have the opportunity in heaven to introduce yourself to God. You should already be quite close by then, and if you didn’t get to know Him on earth, you missed your chance. Besides, we all know enough about statistics to know that not every orphan or starving child has a Katie. There is plenty of need for you and me too!
Have you read this book? Do you follow Katie Davis’ blog? Share your insights in the comments!