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The Coat–sacrificial giving

The Coat

by Séverine Vidal and Louis Thomas

The Coat is a children’s picture book that tells the story of Elise who waits longingly for the day when her big sister Mia will outgrow her perfect red coat and pass it on to Elise. It also is the story of a homeless child dressed in a few layers of summer clothes sitting with her mother on cardboard on the sidewalk…in the snow. Elise passes her by the first day she wears her new red coat, but after a restless night, she can’t look away again. The second day she is late to school, coatless, and happy.

The Coat is a touching way to teach children about sacrificial giving. The homeless child is not given a name in the story which seems appropriate because there are so many “nameless” children who need help and hope. The pictures are colored line drawings, simple and almost cartoonish with an appeal to the reader to join the story. The snowy scenes and dialogue about “penguin cold” are perfect for this story. It is a book that children will request rereads on, and as they hear it again and again its message will make its way into their hearts.

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Children’s Fiction

Notes: Reading age: 3 – 7 years
Grade level: 1 – 2

Publication: October 11, 2022—Flyaway Books

Memorable Lines:

It was bitterly cold. Penguin cold!

But now when Elise thought about the warm, soft, red coat, it hurt a little, kind of like a pinch.

Her thoughts were enough to keep her warm.

Read a Book, Help a Cowboy: Support the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund with Shanna Hatfield #RABHAC #JCCF #rodeoromance @ShannaHatfield

Ever wonder what happens to a rodeo cowboy who is injured? It’s not like he has a boss and goes on disability for a work related injury. Author Shanna Hatfield did some research and discovered that Justin Boots in partnership with some professional rodeo associations created a fund to help. This post gives you a way to help while reading! What could be better? Between October 1 until December 24, she will donate 10% of her sales to the fund. If you are a social media fan, you can read this post to learn more about a special online event, but it is not necessary to participate in that. My thanks to Carla at carlalovestoread.wordpress.com for sharing the word!

Carla Loves To Read

I have read and enjoyed a few books by Shanna Hatfield, and am looking forward to reading more. I was not aware of the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund until I heard about it from Shanna. What a great opportunity to support others and enjoy a wonderful story. Read on to find out how you can do this, as well as how to attend the facebook kickoff party on November 10th. I know I will be purchasing at least one Shanna Hatfield book during this time.

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Through Gates of Splendor–a call from God

Through Gates of Splendor

by Elizabeth Elliot

Five young men felt God’s call to share the good news of Jesus with an Ecuadoran Indian tribe that had never had positive encounters with outsiders. Their bad experiences date back to the ruthless rubber traders of the 1870’s—“civilized savages against unbaptized savages.” They had Stone Age technology, were feared by other Indians for their unprovoked ambushes, and had a language known only to themselves. The missionaries and their wives had a daunting task. They started by evangelizing more friendly local tribes and establishing bases, many refurbished from areas abandoned by Shell Oil Co. From these bases they did flyovers of the Auca land, first to find where in the jungle the Aucas were living and later to communicate with them by dropping gifts to demonstrate their friendly intentions.

When they felt the time was right, they finalized plans to land and meet with the Aucas in person. The book becomes very intense at that point. After an initial positive meeting, there is literally radio silence instead of the expected call back to the wives. A search and rescue team went in consisting of Ecuadorian military, volunteer missionaries and Indians, and U.S military. It was a dangerous mission.

Although the preparation and action are the basis of the story, the core of the book is faith in God. Elizabeth Elliot, the author of Through Gates of Splendor, was the wife of Jim Elliot, the first missionary of the group to respond to God’s call to contact this people group who had never heard of Him. Jim Elliot was willing to die if need be to share the good news of salvation to the Aucas. He said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” The story of the lives of these young men and their dedication to God is inspiring and many of their notes and thoughts are recorded in this book. In its pages you will see a vivd picture of what God’s call can look like as well as how these missionaries and their wives responded.

Rating: 5/5

Category: History, Christian, Memoir

Notes: The 40th anniversary edition which I read included:
1. Maps
2. Photographs, many taken at great peril by a Life magazine reporter who chose to stay with the search party when he could have returned to the base and safety.
3. Two Epilogues. One was written in 1958 explaining the immediate aftermath of the first contact and one written in 1996 relating the lives of the families as they evolved over the next 40 years.

Publication: Originally 1956
40th anniversary edition in 1996—Living Books (Tyndale)

Memorable Lines:

“If that old engine had quit up there, God alone could have saved me. I might just as well admit it frankly right here; I don’t like to fly over stuff like that and I have to have a pretty good reason to be over it without a good position-check and a good river to identify my position by. But these are people for whom Christ died, and you have to find them before you can take the Gospel to them, so I was happy to have stumbled on them.”

Pete Fleming was one of those who could not be content while the Aucas remained in darkness. In his diary he wrote: “It is a grave and solemn problem; an unreachable people who murder and kill with extreme hatred. It comes to me strongly that God is leading me to do something about it, and a strong idea and impression comes into my mind that I ought to devote the majority of my time to collecting linguistic data on the tribe and making some intensive air surveys to look for Auca houses….I know that this may be the most important decision of my life, but I have a quiet peace about it.

September, 1955, was the month in which Operation Auca really started, the month in which the Lord began to weave five separate threads into a single glowing fabric for His own Glory. Five men with widely differing personalities had come to Ecuador from the eastern United States, the West Coast, and the Midwestern States. Representing three different “faith-missions,” these men and their wives were one in their common belief in the Bible as the literal and supernatural and perfect word from God to man. Christ said “Go ye”; their answer was “Lord, send me.”

Mission Possible–living a life that counts

Mission Possible

by Tim Tebow
with A. J. Gregory

Have you ever thought about the purpose of your life? Tim Tebow, athlete, speaker, and TV sports analyst, shares his ideas on the subject in his latest book Mission Possible. He says that our “big-picture purpose is to bring glory to God wherever you are” and that “Living a mission-possible life means executing the good works that God has already prepared for you to do.”

Tebow lays out in plain language and through Scriptures and anecdotes how each one of us can live out a mission possible life, a life of significance. As head of the Tim Tebow Foundation, Tebow tries to transparently live out his beliefs as he spearheads projects to honor the disabled where they are each crowned king or queen of the prom at Night to Shine events all over the world. He does this to show them how much God loves them and how special they are in God’s eyes. His foundation is also involved in orphanages and health care clinics as well as fighting sexual trafficking. While we can’t all do the things he does or have the influence he has, Tebow says that we can all live out our purpose and make a difference in the lives of others.

In this powerful and inspirational book, Tebow addresses some of the hard problems we face as we try to discover our purpose and make our lives count. Sometimes we encounter obstacles that could keep us from completing our mission, but God can do the impossible if we are willing to be used by Him. God can use us wherever we are, even if we think what we are doing is insignificant. As Tebow notes about Jesus: “He lived fully with purpose in every moment.” That is hard to do but Jesus is the ultimate example for living a life full of purpose.

Our mission possible life will aim for excellence with integrity and gratitude. Tebow also encourages you to pursue your mission with passion. He shares how to find your edge and use it well. He gives guidance for dealing with uncertainties, imperfections, and even failure. He encourages you to take that first step, however small it may be: you don’t have to map out the whole journey before you begin in faith.

There is so much Godly, practical wisdom in Mission Possible. The style is easy to read and well organized, the content is important, and the message is clear. The book concludes with a prayer for those who don’t yet have a personal relationship with Jesus and want to pray to accept Him into their lives. There is another prayer for those ready to make their lives count. This book will make an impact on your life. Read it. Share it. Act on it. You will be glad you did.

I would like to extend my thanks to NetGalley and to WaterBrook for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Christian, Nonfiction

Notes: Tebow has created 3 companion products that support this book as well as a children’s picture book on the same topic.

Publication: March 8, 2022—WaterBrook

Memorable Lines:

See, my mission was never to put on Night to Shine. Now, I love it and it’s absolutely my favorite night of the year, but my mission was, and continues to be, loving and celebrating and caring for those whom God loves and celebrates and cares for.

God has given us His best, His Son, and has proved that He can be trusted. I may not understand why certain roads have started or ended but I can count on His faithfulness.
We may not be blessed with Tom Cruise’s stunt skills. I can’t sing, and maybe you can’t play football. But there’s one thing we can all do: because of the work Jesus did for us on the cross and through the Resurrection, we can each make our lives count.

At Home in Mitford–welcome to Mitford

At Home in Mitford

by Jan Karon

You’ll want to start the Mitford Years series at the beginning with At Home in Mitford. This character-driven novel introduces you to the fictional, small,  North Carolina town of Mitford inhabited by people you will want to know—flaws and all. Father Tim is a devoted and hard working bachelor rector whom everyone loves. He is caring and lives out his Christian faith in his interactions with others from Barnabas, the huge dog that adopts him, settling down only at the quotation of Scripture, to Dooley, a young boy who has had a hard life and needs stability and love.

If you are tired of the endless news cycle, reading At Home in Mitford will give you the break you need. It is a peaceful story spiked with humorous characters and situations, gentle romance, some mysterious happenings, and a little action. Although it has a definite Christian bent, this novel is never “preachy.”  One of the themes of the book is found on the first page as Father Tim stops at his office door to pray: “Father, make me a blessing to someone today, through Christ our Lord. Amen.” Overall, you will enjoy the time you spend in Mitford and look forward to returning for another visit.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Fiction, Christian

Notes: This is the first of 14 books, which may seem like a daunting number, but I encourage you to give it a try. Even if you don’t plan on reading the whole series, I think you will enjoy At Home in Mitford. I have read the series, some as a group when I discovered this author and many others as they were published over the years. I just reread this first novel with my book club, and I enjoyed it thoroughly all over again.

Publication:  1994—Penguin Books

Memorable Lines:

“You don’t ramble at all, you get right to the point, and it’s always God’s point, as far as I can see. But, do you know what I appreciate more than your sermons?”  “What’s that?”  “The fact that you love us. Yes, that’s enough for me, that you love us.”

Good heavens, thought the rector. No wonder he had never felt the need to devour mystery and suspense stories. Nearly every day he encountered mysteries and suspense galore.

How could he have considered taking Monday off? Monday was the diving board poised over the rest of the week. One walked out on the board, reviewed the situation, planned one’s strategy, bounced a few times to get the feel of things, and then made a clean dive. Without Monday, one simply bombed into the water, belly first, and hoped for the best.

Green Leaf in Drought–a missionary story

Green Leaf in Drought

by Isobel Kuhn

Arthur and Wilda Mathews and their baby spent a frustrating two years trying to discern and follow God’s will as missionaries for the China Inland Mission, a group spread widely over mainland China. Under the Communist regime, they were not allowed to witness to people about Jesus  or to help people in need. They were eventually confined to their meager and uncomfortable quarters and socially isolated. Their living situation was desperate as the authorities tried to starve them and forced them to live in unhealthy conditions. Why had God brought them to this place? Why wouldn’t the authorities allow them to leave? Having arrived with enthusiasm, they eventually suffered through round after round of seeking God’s will in the midst of despair. Their little girl was a bright note as she absorbed and repeated the songs and Scriptures that sustained her parents during the difficult times.

If you are inspired by missionary stories or want to read about God working in the hearts of His children when times are hard, then you would probably find Green Leaf in Drought to your liking. The content is very interesting. Stylistically speaking, this book is not in the excellent category. Author Isobel Kuhn had very difficult resource materials to work with, mainly the writings of Arthur and Wilda Mathews. Their compositions were letters intended for family and recordings on paper of their thoughts, prayers, and poetry, which we would refer to today as journaling, often written in tiny script on thin airmail paper. Others were involved in deciphering and organizing the events which Kuhn then transformed into a readable narrative. As Kuhn tries to translate the couple’s thoughts into dialogue, the result is somewhat stilted. The descriptions, however, are well executed. Kuhn maintains the integrity of a biography. She does not veer off into historical fiction and is to be commended for that. Readers who want a more in depth character study will not find that because it was not  provided in the source materials.

Rating: 4/5 (3/5 for writing style, 4/5 for interest and historical veracity)

Category: Christian, Biography

Publication:   January 1, 2007—OMF International (first published in 1957)

Memorable Lines:

The bamboo curtain shouts and bellows as it descends, boasts and preens itself. The Feather Curtain of God falls silently. It is soft and comforting to the sheltered one; but intangible, mysterious and baffling to the outsider.

Amazing how we plan everything so carefully and then God walks sovereignly right across the lot with something far better.

The slow wearing down of the human spirit is a species of torture which the communists delight to use and have found very productive for their purposes.

A Long Walk to Water–impactful

A Long Walk to Water

by Linda Sue Park

You have probably heard of the Lost Boys of Sudan. In A Long Walk to Water, Linda Sue Park tells the story of one of those lost boys, Salva Dut, who even as a refugee himself, took on a leadership role for 1500 boys in their very long, dangerous, and seemingly hopeless journey for survival. Salva, as a young adult, was chosen out of a refugee camp to emigrate to the United States. This book tells how he transformed his desperate situation into a life giving project for the people of Sudan based on hope, faith, and most especially perseverance.

Told in two timelines with apparently disparate plots, this book moves back and forth with both stories progressing forward in each chapter. It begins slowly, but soon picks up the pace and the reader’s interest. The book starts with the tale of Nya, an eleven year old girl in southern Sudan in 2008 who spends her day traveling from her village to a pond to collect dirty water in a jug which she then carries home on her head. She does this twice a day in extreme heat, traversing with bare feet a thorny path to bring home enough water for her family to survive.

Salva’s story also begins in southern Sudan, but much earlier, in 1985, when his village and school are attacked by armed men during an ongoing confrontation between the Muslim government in the north and the rebels of the south. Thus begins Salva’s separation from his family and his struggle for survival.

Although this book is aimed at a younger audience, as an adult I am so glad I read this story which is based on the lives of real people, Salva and Nya and their families. It reads quickly and lays out the need for clean, accessible water for South Sudan, pointing out the many rippling effects of pure water on a community. It also shows how diverse tribes can work together for a common good. The website noted at the end of the book provides more information and gives a practical way for those of us blessed with plenty to help those without the basic necessities.

Rating:  5/5

Category: Children’s Historical Fiction

Notes: 1. The suggested ages and grade levels vary according to printed reports, but in general: Grades 5-9 and Ages 10-14. The book does a good job of recording hardships and violence without graphic details. Because of the subject matter, I would not recommend it for younger children.

2. The reader will find links to lots of videos about Salva and his project at www.waterforsouthsudan.org

Publication:  October 4, 2011—HMH Books for Young Readers

Memorable Lines:

No one in the group had eaten anything for two days. Their water was nearly gone. Only the vision of leaving the desert kept them moving through the heat and the dust.

It did not seem as if the camp could possibly hold any more, but still they kept coming: long lines of people, some emaciated, some hurt or sick, all exhausted.

He felt as though he were standing on the edge of a giant hole—a hole filled with the black despair of nothingness. I am alone now.

It was hard to keep hope alive when there was so little to feed it.

In the Land of Blue Burqas–eye opening view of the women behind the blue veils

In the Land of Blue Burqas

by Kate McCord

What would it be like to live in a country where the language, religion, and culture are extremely different from your own, a country like Afghanistan? Kate McCord raised support from friends and embarked on what was destined to be a five year adventure as a project manager, arranging for and supervising programs to help the local people. In the process, she found ways to interact within the cultural norms which, if violated, could result in penalties including physical abuse, expulsion, or execution. 

Although she could not openly evangelize, she spent much time there having tea with women, and sometimes men, sharing stories to illustrate the teachings of the Honorable Jesus who is regarded as a prophet in Islam. Those stories included parables Jesus himself shared with His followers. In recounting tales they could relate to and by the way she lived her life, Kate was able to show her Muslim neighbors and friends a God who loves them, unlike Allah, who is never associated with love. Allah’s followers obey him according to the interpretations of the local mullah in a most legalistic fashion.

Kate spent time learning the language and culture. Led by the Holy Spirit, she developed culturally sensitive ways to share difficult concepts like the Trinity. She lived as an Afghan woman, learning clothing requirements and social rules such as where to sit on a bus and when to make eye contact. Clearly a foreigner with her own religion, she adapted their customs to her own in a way that respected both traditions. Kate faced challenges in deciding whom to help in the most culturally appropriate way and looked to the locals to ascertain their attitudes toward individuals seeking aid. Knowing she could not revolutionize a society in which none of her many female friends said their husband had never beaten them, she nevertheless planted seeds of generosity, good attitudes, and kindness which helped the women in their relationships as well as showed them a side of the Honorable Jesus that they did not know thus drawing them to Him.

In the Land of Blue Burqas is the canvas on which Kate McCord paints a remarkably positive picture of Afghanistan and its citizens in spite of their dislike of most foreigners and regardless of the many brutal aspects of their culture.  I came away with a clearer understanding of why the country vehemently resists change and is so hostile to non-Muslims. I also emerge from this enlightening book grateful that I live in a country where I am free to choose to worship a loving God.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Evangelism, Christian Missions

Notes: I had a difficult time choosing the memorable lines I wanted to share. Sound bites and even longer quotes don’t do this story justice. I urge you to read the book to get a more complete understanding. It is a fascinating read. It also stimulates me to want to read about how Islam plays out in other countries.

Publication:   May 1, 2012—Moody Publishing

Memorable Lines:

Still, my greatest fear in the country has always been that I would be kidnapped and sold to some warlord as a fourth or fifth wife, relegated to household and sexual slavery behind a twelve-foot, mud-brick wall and locked gate. Even the mildest stories of Afghan women’s lives haunt me.

Our very presence challenges the power of the mullahs and the worldview of our neighbors. It’s one thing to hate and reject the voiceless, faceless masses of pig-eating, alcohol-drinking sons of Satan from the other side of the world—mythic caricatures interpreted by the mullahs through history and religion. 

But we Christian foreigners are flesh and blood with eyes and voices, laughter and tears, stories and faith. When Afghans meet us, see our lives, hear our stories, and recognize our humanness, conflicting worldviews collide. The safe box of well-defined ideological fortress-orthodoxy trembles, walls collapse, and doors open.

McDuff Moves In–you’ll love McDuff

McDuff Moves In

by Rosemary Wells

illustrated by Susan Jeffers

McDuff Moves InI had a delightful trip back in time as I read Rosemary Wells’ McDuff Moves In. It is being republished with original illustrations for a new generation of readers. Set in the 1930’s, its main character is McDuff, a  West Highland White terrier (Westie). As Wells says in her forward, “Lucy and Fred’s loving rescue of homeless McDuff adds to their lives and shows the beautiful change that kindness and care can make for any homeless dog.”

This is a short picture book with colorful, appealing illustrations and a sweet story. You’ll love learning how McDuff got his name! There is added  information about rescuing and fostering homeless animals and references to other books with a similar theme. McDuff Moves In is a fun book that children will ask for again and again.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Gryphon Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Children’s Fiction

Notes: Rosemary Wells is a prolific children’s book author as well as an artist. Her books include the Max and Ruby books, the Sophie books, and many others that feature lovable animals. She also has several more McDuff titles.

Publication:   October 25, 2019—Gryphon Press

The Christmas Calendar Girls–an advent calendar that helps others

The Christmas Calendar Girls

by Samantha Tonge

The Christmas Calendar GirlsFern, Davina, and Cara bond over children who attend the same school in Birchwood Estate. With different personalities and strengths they value each other rather than hold jealousies. In The Christmas Calendar Girls by Samantha Tonge, the ladies work together to save the food bank that is a lifeline for so many in the community, from the addict to the unemployed parent struggling to provide.

It’s the busy Christmas season and late to begin a project to raise money, but Fern has an idea to save the food bank and engender community spirit and good will. Her friends jump on board to help.

All is not smooth sailing, however, with the project and its changing deadlines or in the “calendar girls’ ” personal lives. Fern is a widowed journalist trying to find a new normal for herself and her daughter Lily. Perhaps she is ready to have a relationship again. Kit, a former client of the food bank, stirs her heart, but is he ready for romance? Davina has always been close to her twin boys, but the more sensitive of the two begins pulling away and the pair get into a fight at school. Cara is fantastic with food, very creative, and a doting, stay-at-home mom. Suddenly she seems to have lost it all as she burns foods, uses the wrong ingredients, and  forgets school notices and weather appropriate clothing for her kids. She fears the onset of early dementia.

Watching these characters grow as they lean on each other and gradually reveal their secrets and rooting for them as they try to help those less fortunate, makes for a gentle, interesting, and inspiring story. Birchwood Estate will never be the same.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Aria for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Romance, Women’s Fiction

Publication:   October 3, 2019—Aria

Memorable Lines:

That’s what Cara’s homely place was like…If it was a person it would have been a welcoming aunt, who always had your favorite biscuits in and never forgot to send birthday money.

“Bringing everyone together, friends and family, over food and drink, with the purpose of helping people facing difficult times…your idea really does encapsulate everything that the festive season should be about.”

Sometimes I worried I’d never meet another man. I didn’t need one to look after myself and Lily. But I wanted the company. The closeness. I missed that.

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