Book Review of "The Faith Club"

Three very brave women came together after 9/11 and dared to trust each other enough to share their feelings on diversity of faith. “The Faith Club” is for anyone brave enough to listen to others. Written by Ranya Idliby, Suzanne Oliver and Priscilla Warner, this was a life changing experience for each of them.

Ranya is Muslim, Priscilla is Jewish and Suzanne is Catholic. In the beginning, they set out to write an interfaith children’s book. The agreed to ask each other any question, with nothing off limits. It was a painful beginning. They never dreamed they would feel the emotions they felt.

Once they covered the differences, they focused on the shared foundations such as Moses and Abraham. It was a start. Then, they went to each other’s services and family gatherings to learn about traditions.

In the end, they experienced healing and completed their projects.

This book took me longer to read because I had to pay close attention and not miss any details. Much of it is a transcript of their recorded conversations followed by each individuals’ feelings on the conversation.

I enjoyed it very much but had some thoughts of my own. I would welcome such friendships but there are a few scenarios I can think of that would cause a dilemma.

One, is that a conservative Protestant would have a different view than a Catholic. Then, if you add Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Buddhists and Hindus or other religions, it could get tense.

Second, is the fact that in communist countries, one is not permitted to believe in anything. In many scenarios throughout history, every group has been guilty of harming others at one time. In many countries, Christianity is punishable by death, torture and imprisonment in labor camps. The Holocaust and genocide is something we must never allow to happen. In war, what if you couldn’t protect your friends?

The main difference between Protestant Christianity and all other religions is the belief of Jesus and the Savior and the idea of an afterlife in either Heaven or hell. This is a painful topic for many.

As a Protestant Christian, I don’t believe I would ever convert to another religion but I do enjoy my friendships with those from other cultures and we do have mutual respect for each other. I thank God that I was born after slavery was abolished, women were given rights and civil rights were won. I am fortunate to have benefitted from all those before me who had to work things out for the betterment of all.

Book Review of "What the Eyes Don’t See"

Mona’s parents had fled Iraq during the time when Saddam’s reign had poisoned citizens and killed them. She grew up in America and took pride in giving the best service to the babies in her pediatric career. She taught the interns in her residency program to learn about the community they serve in. Walking into this crisis in 2011 brought back images of all those who suffered in Iraq.

Once questions surfaced as to the water crisis and possible coverup in Flint, Michigan, she decided to fight for the health of all its children. She began by testing for lead blood levels in patients. She and the three others who began researching the topic faced pushback from local state officials denying any problems existed.

After an eight month ordeal, she finally got them to admit the legitimacy of her concerns. Her proposal for action included declaring a state of emergency, providing water filters, bottled water and pre-mixed formula. Lead was found in drinking water at three schools.

The problem began when the water supply was switched from Lake Huron to the Flint River in an effort to save money. The Flint River had been a toxic dumping ground for years.

After the crisis was exposed, some officials lost jobs, some had criminal charges filed against them and those who remained in office at least had the nation’s eyes watching them.

Dr. Mona and partners created FlintKids.org to provide an array of services to help the children of Flint heal and have hope for a future. They also partner with the Imagination Library program to bring books to children to promote early childhood literacy.

By fighting for the residents of Flint, Mona not only saved them from harm, she gave her family something they could take pride in. Their plight for freedom in a free country had not been in vain. She may not have been able to prevent what happened in Iraq but in America she was able to make her voice heard to make change happen.

Having the courage to speak up came at a price. When we read about inspiring stories, we don’t know the sacrifices made behind the scenes. We just admire the outcome. Heroes are usually ordinary people who did what they knew to be the right thing to do.

I’m sure to the kids of Flint, Michigan, Mona is their hero. Now they have been given a voice.

"Hope Runs" Book Review

Claire and her friend Lara had dreams of traveling the world after college. They headed to Africa to participate in a running event. Along the way, they found an orphanage that allowed people to stay in their guest room. Once there, they became fond of a boy named Samuel.

The girls stayed a year which was a big deal because the children were used to visitors passing through to take photos and then leaving. While there, the girls started a running club with hopes of training them to participate in races where they could have exposure and opportunity. They did shoe and clothing drives and contacted people through social media to get involved.

At a friend’s wedding reception dinner in 2009, Lara was seated next to the financial aid director of a high school in Maine. She got Claire’s attention and said this was someone she should meet. Claire was able to become the legal guardian of Samuel so he could begin attending during his sophomore year. He received a full scholarship.

Samuel spent a year in Ecuador with a service organization after high school. At first, he didn’t like the mother of the host family he was staying with because he thought she was mean. After speaking with the mother, Claire and Lara helped Samuel get a new perspective. They explained that she was just a mom doing the best with what she had and he could be of service to her by offering to help instead of waiting to be asked.

That shift helped him mature into an adult. As he changed, the host mother softened as well.

The book ends with Samuel returning home to Africa in 2014. His hopes were to attend college and reconnect with biological family members. The journey of Claire and Lara brought the world to him. He had so many good people helping him along the way. The experiences he gained developed him into someone who has so much to offer back to the world.

This was a heart-warming memoir. Stories become dear to us when we meet others who come into our lives. My daughter-in-law is from Sudan. I mentored a young man from Sudan when my children were in middle school. Today, he is a dear friend with a family of his own and has come a long way. I’m sure God knew that one day my son would marry a girl from Sudan.

Stories don’t with the closing of a book. That is when they are just beginning.