Archive for June, 2015


Book Review: In Our Backyard, Human Trafficking in America and What We Can Do to Stop it

belles_InOurBackyard_wSpine.inddThis was a powerful book. It made me cry, it made me think, it honestly has made me a little paranoid about the prevalence of human trafficking in my town. God says to not be afraid, and to not live in fear. So I will use the information in this book to make a difference rather than huddle up and be afraid.

Nita Belles has spent many years as a human trafficking abolitionist. From her extensive experience she shares that this horrible blight is actually an epidemic, and it is slavery, clear and simple. Perhaps its most known form is sex trafficking, but there is true labor slavery occurring around the world as well. It is not restricted to the impoverished or uneducated. Children, young men and women are enslaved everyday by criminals who have mastered the art of deception, pushing their particular form of trafficking in neat attractive packages that even well-educated, well-loved people can fall for. She shares the story of a 32 year old 5 star chef from the Philippines who wanted to better her career options and applied for a job in an American restaurant where she was told she would be earning enough money to really advance herself and support her beloved family. She was educated, intelligent, well-employed and had a supportive family, yet she was deceived by people who enslaved her through emotional and psychological abuse and manipulation as well as physical labor that rendered her body broken and weak. Her story does end happily with rescue and healing, although so many do not.

Nita Belles speaks to the fact that we are in fact grooming our children to be trafficked from childhood, as we use words like “pimped out” as compliments, dress our girls to mimic stars whose clothes leave nothing to the imagination, as we glorify the appearance of our bodies over the value of minds, hearts, and lives.  Pornography use has both conditioned people to devalue human lives as well as supporting and even growing the sex trafficking industry. She cites the awareness of trafficking around Super Bowl events as being instrumental in changing laws and limiting the freedom for traffickers at that time, but she reminds us that trafficking happens at all times in any places. We must be aware and make others aware, and remember that every human life was created with infinite value, and we must overcome our conditioning to look down on others due to their appearance or social, economic, or educational status.

In Our Backyard also gives good information on the way those enslaved in human trafficking think and cope during their enslavement. She explains Stockholm Syndrome, saying that many victims remain enslaved because their captors groom them to bond with them and become fiercely loyal to them. The road to recovery for a survivor is long and hard, only just beginning at rescue. We as the free need to not just advocate for laws that will discourage the criminals who traffic humans, but also work to establish real help programs that will meet victims where they are when they escape “the life,” in order to bring true healing and freedom. Please take time to read this book and get involved in or monetarily support the organizations that are working to end human trafficking around the world. As Edmund Burke says, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men [or women] do nothing.”

I was provided a free copy of this book by Baker Publishing Group for review purposes.


Book Review: Restoring All Things: God’s Audacious Plan to Change the World Through Everyday People


How refreshing this book was! I have read numerous Christian books—some that convict me, some that teach me, some that anger me, few that inspire and give me hope.  I am so thankful that this book did just that!

There is so much darkness in our fallen world, with persecution, war, trafficking, starvation, and more. We can often forget the hope we have in Christ, that our God is sovereign and that nothing that has happened, is happening, or will happen is outside of His knowledge or control. And we forget that there are many faithful believers in the world who are working for the advancement of His kingdom and the good of His people. This book is a powerful reminder of those truths.

The authors cover divers current topics, from marriage to government to business to race relations to education to art. In each chapter, they introduce the topic, then give 3-5 examples of people working through the Gospel to really change their sphere of influence. The premise of each example is that grass roots efforts, working “from the middle,” is what is most needed and most successful. The work of pastors and churches in Detroit, Michigan, are an inspiration to not give up hope even when a place seems to be done in. The example of Chik Fil A and the Cathy family show us that businessmen and women don’t have to worship money as they grow in success. Schools like Brookstone in Charlotte, NC, and racially reconciliatory books written by former KKK clansmen-turned-pastors show the power of Christ over poverty and racial hatred.

Each chapter ends with a practical to-do list comprised of books to read, movies to watch, suggestions for small groups or participation in local grassroots movements for the inspired reader. I for one am very motivated to learn and participate more in the areas of human trafficking and adoption of orphans. If you are seeking hope and encouragement that God is indeed active in the world, please pick up this book and dig in.

I was given a copy of this book from Baker Publishers for reviewing purposes.


Book Review: A Trip Around the Sun: Turning Your Everyday Life Into the Adventure of a Lifetime


When I first heard of this book, it sounded really interesting. I thought it might help me to take the habits I have formed in my life, good but predictable and sometimes banal, and spice things up a bit, especially in regards to parenting and having fun with my 3 daughters. It proved to be an interesting read, although I had disagreements with some things that were written as well as finishing with an overall disappointed result.

The authors are in a mentor/mentee relationship that has spanned 20 years up to this point. Mark Batterson is a 40-something church planter in Washington, DC; and Richard Foth has pastored, been a college president, and now serves United States government officials in Washington, DC, over the course of the 70+ trips around the sun he has completed. Their relationship is mutually edifying and obviously a deep friendship with much admiration on both parts. I felt that they spent a lot of time slapping each other on the back for how great they are, in ministry, family life, and adventuring.

Each chapter is formatted in 2 parts: Dick’s Story and Mark’s Story. They share many personal accounts of parenting, marriage, ministry, and divine encounters with strangers. Their love for the Lord is obvious and sincere, and it is encouraging to see how faithful God has been in their lives. They are genuinely investing in their children and grandchildren’s lives, and this book is told as a memoir of sorts, from their early Christian ministry days to the points of maturity they have reached thus far.

The writing style is easy to read and very conversational—I felt that I could have been listening to them talk rather than reading a book. It is also fairly full of clichés and their own catch phrases, which often made it feel like reading a pep rally rather than a book that might teach me something. Richard Foth has lived a very interesting, rich life, which I admire, but I tired of reading of all the influential people he has met who call him good friend—the boasting often distracted from the point he was trying to make.

Both Richard Foth and Mark Batterson have had many adventures in their combined trips around the sun. From scaling the Grand Canyon to training to swim the San Francisco Bay, they have some great stories to tell. They share Jesus and what He has done in and for each of them and their families. My summary of this book is that it is an autobiography of their adventures in God’s world, and I walked away enjoying the story of their lives but thinking they missed the mark on guiding me to live my life full of adventure as well.

I was provided a copy of this book from the publishers for reviewing purposes.