A Couple of Books to Check Out
by Nathan Brown
The Race is an allegorical story, loaded with symbols and metaphors but not so much that the story is overburdened. The central premise is a 6000-mile running race, the prize for which is a rich inheritance from a wealthy benefactor for all who finish. Following in his family tradition, Chris Strider sets out on this journey, coached by Joshua, the son of the race’s wealthy backer. And not only must the participants endure for such a long distance, they are also subject to attack and distraction by agents of a rival corporation.
Borrowing a lot in its storytelling from John Bunyan’s Christian class Pilgrim’s Progress, The Race is working with some tried and true metaphors for the Christian life and experience but also builds on these literary foundations with contemporary references and issues fitting into the Christian-life-as-journey allegory.
Originally written as a story for young people, the story creatively engages topics of faith, trust, perseverance, salvation, character development, life choices, family relationships, romance and sexuality. But The Race is an insightful and thought-provoking exploration of the “race of life” that will connect with many readers at different points in their Christian experience. With the deepest message about trusting and relying on God through all the circumstances and questions of our lives, it’s an encouraging and uplifting story.
I’m Not Leaving
Carl Wilkens had been the country director for the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) in Rwanda for about four years in April 1994, when he found himself in the midst of one of the most horrific situations of recent history. During the next 100 days, more than 800,000 Rwandans were murdered in a frenzy of ethnically motivated killing, as the rest of the world ignored it or merely looked on.
Church, ADRA and United States government representatives urged Wilkens and his family to escape the unfolding genocide but he knew his departure would leave members of his staff in serious danger. While his wife, children and parents evacuated to Kenya, Wilkens stayed and did what he could to help and protect others caught in the madness of those three months.
I’m Not Leaving is the remarkable story of Wilkens’s experience during that time. But this is not a history of the Rwandan horror—“the stories in this book are completely inadequate to represent the horror and loss that happened during the genocide. It was so much worse than I could ever write”—rather it is a more personal story. Wilkens tells stories of working to save lives in ordinary and extraordinary ways, and reflects on how these experiences changed his relationships with his family, God and other people.
As such, I’m Not Leaving is a story of hope, rather than horror—although the horror is only just out of sight. Wilkens’s task is to personalise the people who endured these tragedies, undoing the work of the murderers whose method was to objectify their victims. His is a story of courage and faith, demonstrating that these matter even in the most brutal of circumstances.
Not greatly developed as a book and drawn significantly from tape recordings he made during the genocide, I’m Not Leaving reads as the raw notes and stories from the frontlines, where life was both heartbreakingly tenuous and stubbornly resilient. Amid these extremes, Wilkens lived out what it means to put everything on the line for others, simply because it was the right thing to do.
Without labouring its point, Wilkens’s story is a call to live courageously, faithfully and compassionately, whatever the cost, and to trust God with our lives and our service to Him and others.