Passport Through Darkness (review)

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Passport through Darkness: A True Story of Danger and Second ChancesPassport through Darkness: A True Story of Danger and Second Chances by Kimberly L. Smith

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Kimberly L. Smith and her husband Milton are introduced to the horrors of human trafficking almost by chance, when their missionary activity in Spain leads them to an orphanage in Portugal. There they come face to face with Uncle Buster, a man who is bringing in children from Africa, filming their abuse, and posting images on the internet. Passport Through Darkness: A True Story of Danger and Second Chances is Smith’s first person account of this event and what happened next.

On exploring trafficking in more depth, Milton and Kimberly discover that the real hotbeds for this activity are Eastern Europe and Africa. Over time they establish Make Way Partners to help raise funds for anti-trafficking work. Then, through a chain of events, Kimberly finds herself in Sudan—a place PJ (Voice of the Martyrs’ Eastern Europe and North Africa Regional Director) identified as “… the worst place on the planet for this evil” (Kindle Location 517).

The bulk of Smith’s story happens in Sudan. She falls in love with the people, especially the orphans, returns numerous times, and ends up building an orphanage in the heart of Sudan’s most dangerous and forsaken region. The sights and events she describes are often raw and heartbreaking. Her ministry is inspiring and off-the-charts of possible, as God steps in again and again to open doors, protect, and make dreams come true.

But all is not sweetness and light. The sub-plot of this memoir involves Kimberly and Milton’s relationship. When his diabetes doesn’t allow him to be part of the Sudan trips, the couple spends long stretches of time apart. Kimberly, not wanting to burden her ill husband more, keeps many details of her Sudan experience secret from him. Their own relationship comes under threat.

The book is vividly written, both in its descriptions of life in Sudan and the life of the heart. I found it a fast, sometimes horrifying though definitely relevant read (It seems anti-human trafficking initiatives are popping up all over. In the last several months, I’ve encountered two new-to-me ministries that also focus on it.)

I recommend this book to people who love kids, those interested in human trafficking, readers with a heart for missions, or anyone who enjoys a well-written memoir. I’m not the alone in recommending it. Passport Through Darkness is also endorsed by such Christian literary luminaries as Philip Yancy, Randy Alcorn, and Ken Gire.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes from the book:

“On some level, praying ‘Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done’ haunted us, though. Gradually we began to understand that God didn’t give us that prayer so much to comfort us as to mold and transform our hearts and lives.

“The more we prayed ‘Thy Kingdom come …’ the more it convicted us that God chose to use mankind—His incarnational presence in this world—to usher His Kingdom in, one fractured attempt at a time.

“But who of us wants to give up our notion of what we think our lives should look like so that we are available for Him to use?” – Kindle Location 501.

Passport Through Darkness is part of my own Kindle collection.

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Veil of Tears (review)

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_225_350_Book.1269.coverVeil of Secrets by Shannon Ethridge

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Take a large cast of characters including: Dave Dawson, senator; Will Connors his friend and backroom organizer; Melanie Connors, Will’s frigid wife; Sophie, their 16-year-old hungry-for-life daughter; Caroline Connors, Will’s sharp, attractive, single sister; Tucker Keyes, Carrie’s old drinking buddy from Princeton, now a wanna-be-journalist; a tent city of MoveIn protestors; and a series of frightening cyber attacks that for brief periods commandeer all electronic devices. Superimpose the above on the November to December months of Dave Dawson’s run for president—the season of presidential primaries in New Hampshire—and you have Veil of Secrets, a contemporary story about politics, relationships, and morality in America by Shannon Ethridge and Kathy Mackel.

Lots of action, complications, and trouble in the characters’ lives drew me into the story from the opening chapter. These people are complex and well-developed with detailed pasts. The plot develops naturally as the veils covering those pasts keep getting torn away by events of the present.

The writing style is smart, punchy, and perfect for this fast-paced tale. Take, for example, this description of Tucker Keyes:

“He had tried veganism and Catholicism, yoga and Pilates, Madison Avenue and Wall Street, faith and cynicism, fine arts and day trades. And still the emptiness echoed inside him like an existential tinnitus” – KL 538.

The story deals with themes of marriage, sexual abuse, the impact of one’s sexual history on the rest of life, abortion, life in politics, and the place faith in God has in all the above. I found the counseling sessions, where Will and Melanie are forced to face the dynamics of their relationship, interesting and informative in the way they show readers strategies for uncovering roots of marital dysfunction and dealing with the exposed issues.

I really wanted to give this book five stars, I enjoyed it that much. But as the story progressed, the antics of Carrie put me off. The cavalier manner her trampy ways are portrayed (keeping two guys on the hook while she’s pregnant by a third) and then everything working out just fine for her, gave me pause. I felt that the authors’ depiction of her gives a sanitized version of sin and its consequences, thus the four stars.

I received Veil of Secrets as a gift from the publisher, Thomas Nelson, for the purpose of writing a review.

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