Monday, January 14, 2013

Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis with Beth Clark

Katie Davis was living the teenage American dream.  She was popular, successful in school, lived in an affluent neighborhood, had a solid relationship with her parents and brother.  She spent her days driving her convertible, hanging out at the mall with friends, and of course, thinking about her future with her boyfriend.  Then just before her senior year, Katie dropped a bombshell -
she wanted to take a year off between high school and college to do mission work. 

Her parents, who were willing to send her to any college  she desired, were astounded and reluctant, but eventually agreed to a compromise.  If Katie could find an orphanage that would accept her as a volunteer, and if she could find an adult chaperone, she could spend the three weeks over Christmas break volunteering.  Katie found an orphanage in Uganda, but did not find a chaperone until her own mother consented to accompany her.  The weeks there opened Katie's eyes to a world of need, but also to a world of God's love in action, and surprisingly, to a world of joy that no new pair of $100 shoes or jeans would ever bring again.  While her parents might have hoped that the three weeks would satisfy her quest for adventure, instead the time intensified her quest to be a servant of the Lord.  When given the opportunity to return to Uganda after graduation as a kindergarten teacher, Katie knew she must go (despite having no teaching credentials and not speaking the language). 

Kisses from Katie documents that journey as Katie moves into a 3 foot by 10 ft room furnished simply with a cot and mosquito net, then enters the school yard to find not a class of kindergartners, but over 100 students of mixed ages, beautiful with their eager faces and white smiles.  Soon Katie learns of the many other children who do not attend school because their parents could not afford the small tuition fee or the charge for basic supplies of one pencil and some paper.  She also quickly learns of the children who do not have fresh water, clean clothes, or daily food.  Many live with parents dying of AIDS or have been abandoned. 

Of course, Katie's thoughts travel to those back in the US, who live in daily comfort with little thought to God's other children.  She uses her own savings to pay school tuitions, food, and supplies, then is advised that she should start a nonprofit if she wants to seek help from others.  To do that she needs a physical address, different from the school where she worked.  Trying to find a small space for an office proves to be impossible and all the rental agent has to offer is a 4 bedroom home.  When he keeps lowering the price until it is within her limits, Katie feels God's hand in the transaction.  And soon she understands the need for the large space, as she becomes the adoptive mother of one girl in need after another, until at the age of 19, Katie is Mommy to 13 (or was it 14?)  If you read the book, you will understand how Katie takes each step, knowing she is living out
God's love.  You'll watch as she tries to return to the United States to begin college as she had promised her parents, while all the time her heart longs for the rag tag family God has given her across the ocean. 

I was captivated by this young woman's heart from the first pages.  Her life is a definite response to Jesus's call to the young rich man to give up his wealth and live for God.   As she administers ointment to scabie-ridden bodies or digs jiggers from tiny feet, you'll think again about the feet washing of the disciples.  Her diary entries reveal her heart and emotions, while the rest of the text gives a more factual accounting of life there.  Like all nonfiction books, there are time gaps and details left out that are probably not important, but those gaps always annoy me.  A trip to the Amazima (her nonprofit) website showed some photos of those who work with her, most of which are not mentioned in the book, and also give up to date info. 
The nonprofit has continued to pay school tuition and fees for any area children and has expanded to provide a meal a day to 1000+ children in the nearby slum Masese, while trying to develop some economic skills for some of the area's women. 

What comes to me again and again as I read these types of books is that so much can be accomplished by few when they are acting with pure love, in essence, following Christ's example.
No way can governments, politicians, or even well meaning actors compare.  As others have said before, Katie says again:  We are not all called to give up lives and go to Uganda or elsewhere, but we are all called to LOVE, and LOVING is an action, not an emotion.  What action can we do today that is a reflection of our LOVE?

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