Tom Davis is a true comrade-in-arms: a fellow President of an influential orphan care ministry, the gifted author of Fields of the Fatherless, a passionate advocate for the poor and downtrodden, a faithful brother-in-Christ, and a friend. Last month, I was privileged to receive an Advance Reading Copy of his new book, Red Letters. It hits store shelves all over the country this week.
(Image: Tom with some of the children that he helps)
A couple of weeks ago, I spent a few intense days in a video production studio, working out the best footage and order of images for a new ministry documentary. Trying to bring home the reality of a lost and hurting world, millions upon millions of orphaned and abandoned children, is a daunting task. I learned about "sequencing," the art of editing to draw people into the composition, to effectively telescope them in from the overwhelming big picture to the captivating individual story.
Tom is a literary master of this technique. Red Letters paints the broad brushstroke (in crimson red, of course) of the global pandemic of HIV/AIDS and the devastating statistics assigned to it. From there, we zoom into Africa, a continent that Tom describes as "on fire" with the ravages of HIV/AIDS and its associated consequences. We then peer in yet further to a community example, Kisumu, a city in western Kenya. Tom’s words cut deep to my core as Kisumu is a town that we have multiple projects in, a town that we are greatly familiar with:
"They were a happy people. A joyful people. But all of that is gone. The land is decaying. The lake is drying up. The grasslands are disappearing.
And so are the people. One in three adults in Kisumu has HIV.
If you toured this city, you would find palpable evidence of what a pandemic does to a people. You would find abandoned villages – not because the people left for greener pastures, but because everyone is dead.
...Celebrations have given way to funerals. Life to death."
And then we are introduced to the story of Happiness, a thirteen-year old girl from Kisumu who lost both her parents within a span of six months. In her own words, Happiness laments:
"This Christmas, I will not be getting a gift from my mama or papa. They are so silent in the grave. Before they went away, I was sure of Christmas gifts and three meals a day, new clothes, respect and love. Today I am just another statistic. They call us African orphans, orphaned as a result of AIDS."
Happiness is one example of many that Tom gives to illustrate the broken lives behind the statistics. But he goes yet further. He very effectively pounds home the point that we have frequently ‘preached’ here – that as you care for the "least of these," you are caring for Jesus himself. What a privilege that is! What a responsibility and blessing it is to care for Christ cloaked as an AIDS orphan, enveloped as a leprous widow, concealed as an emaciated street child rummaging through garbage bins, masquerading as a pain-stricken father that sold his only child into a brothel to survive.
The subtitle of Tom’s book is "Living a Faith that Bleeds." It is a call to action – to live with the same compassion of Jesus, but to also live with the compassion for Jesus as He shows up in the faces of the most needy, the most discouraged, abused and exploited.
Be sure to click on the link above to order a copy today...and start living a faith that bleeds!
(Images courtesy of Tom Davis and Children's HopeChest)