A True Story of Danger and Second Chances
It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
Kimberly L. Smith is the president and cofounder of Make Way Partners, a mission organization committed to ending human trafficking. She is currently leading Make Way Partners to build the only private and indigenously based anti-trafficking network in Africa and Eastern Europe. A devoted wife, mother, and grandmother, Smith lives with her husband, Milton, in Sylacauga, Alabama.
Visit the author's website.
Each one of us longs to know we matter. We hunger to know that we have purpose, our life has meaning, and God dreams great dreams for us. In Passport Through Darkness: A True Story of Danger and Second Chances, Kimberly Smith invites us into her own struggles as an ordinary woman who feels those aches, asks those questions, and stumbles through a quest to find her place in a broken world.
Traveling around the world and deep into the darkness of her own heart, Smith’s worst fears collided with her faith as she and her family discovered the atrocities of human trafficking. But in that broken place a self-centered life was transformed into an international effort to save thousands from modern-day slavery, persecution, disease, and genocide.
As Smith and her husband risk everything for orphans in Eastern Europe and Africa, they see God work again and again in impossible situations, especially in their own lives and marriage. They see God change them—even in their exhaustion, marital struggles, and physical limitations. They see the beauty of living out God’s dreams.
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook (January 1, 2011)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
I stood at a precipice, a crag of rock in a parched, thirsty land that mirrored the condition of my heart. From where I stood, I looked down upon the riverbed that rendered the jagged cut reaching from the left corner of my mouth down to the bottom of my chin, and my right eye purplish black.
I recalled the day these marks came upon me and considered how many of the women I saw laboring in the current below who shared my experience. Fifty percent? Ninety percent? Had any woman been spared the hand-delivered scars of violence birthed in the tomb of this brutal, war-torn land?
Sickly cows wove around and between the women in the river. As the cows did their business in the water, some of the women bathed. Others washed rags they donned as clothing. Still others drew cans of drinking water from the soapy-feculent murkiness.
Taking stock of the last few months spent here at the border of Darfur, Sudan—the cusp of hell—I savored how God had knit these women into the fiber of my soul in ways that I’d never imagined possible back in the day of my corporate-ladder climbing. Love for them had changed my whole world. It had changed me. Now it was time for me to take what I’d been shown here back to my home in America with prayers that it, too, would be transformed.
My soul felt as restless and insecure as my feet did shuffling at the edge of the cliff.
A part of me felt so dark, lonely, and overwhelmed, I wanted to throw myself from the spire and be done with it. That would be the easy way, though, and my life had never seemed to be about finding the easy path. In fact, something in me seemed to like making life as difficult as possible.
A sprig of hope, a mite of faith encouraged me to stand down. Wait. Be expectant, but don’t jump. Pray. Help was surely around the corner.
Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) had promised to send someone to witness the persecution, rape, mutilation, and genocide I was documenting on the southern border of Darfur. Knowing it had taken me months of preparation, followed by endless fieldwork, to find and accurately record this data—information that I was still just beginning to comprehend—I didn’t see how I could possibly help the VOM rep to grasp it in just three days.
Sudan is the tenth-largest country in the world; the region of Darfur is the size of France. The southern half of Sudan has a grand total of about three miles of pavement. Darfur has none. The reality of war, insecurity, violence, and lack of infrastructure, combined with the fact that we had no vehicle to speed up our maneuvers, rendered the task of sufficiently covering the vast territory in such a short time frame all but impossible.
I’d taken it upon myself to take the time and risk of walking from village to village or riding our sole motorbike to the death camps, what I’d come to call the Internally Displaced People’s camps (IDP). I started calling IDPs death camps after my first visit over a year ago. Before that trip, the word camp always conjured an image of security, even if the conditions were rustic. Visiting one stripped me of my penchant for naiveté, showing me thousands of people squatting in the desert with no food, water, or security—just waiting for death. For most, the wait wasn’t long.
I wanted to make sure I would be able to adequately expose the VOM rep to the same kind of reality. To do that, I would need transportation to cover vast amounts of ground more quickly than walking would allow.
Late yesterday a brainstorm hit me. We’d ride donkeys! James Lual Atak, our indigenous director, laughed at my kawaidja (rich white person) notions, calling me a Sudanese wannabe. But he humored me. Since the VOM rep would be here in just a few days, early this morning he’d brought several donkeys to our camp so we could test-ride them before the rep arrived.
Always ready for action, I was the first to climb on. An old man we called Peterdit held the end of the rope tied around the neck of my donkey, which I’d named Blue. The sharp ridge of spine rising from Blue’s bare back cut into me in all the wrong places, and I squirmed to make a seat for myself.
Peterdit kept overenunciating two Arabic words for me, one for stop and one for faster. As Blue reared up, alternately kicking his hind legs and then his front legs high into the air, he let me know he wasn’t happy about my squirming on his backside.
Blue’s outburst jerked the rope from Peterdit’s grasp. Blue set off toward the village, bucking like a horizontal kangaroo.
In my hysteria I could only summon up one of the two words Peterdit taught me. I screamed it as firmly as I could, “Harach! Harach! Harach!” over and over again trying to make Blue obey my limited grasp of the Arabic language: “Stop!”
My head thrashed back and forth, and I flopped to Blue’s side, squeezing my legs around his girth as tightly as I could, while clinging to the frayed rope now burning the palm of my hands as it ripped through my fingers. As I blitzed by, I caught a glimpse of James laughing uproariously from atop his donkey, his long legs conveniently reaching his feet flat to the desert floor. At the time, I found no humor in Blue’s fit, or my condition!
After my whirlwind tour of the village via Blue’s conniption, Peterdit boldly stepped into Blue’s path and grabbed the rope flinging freely in the air as I clung to Blue’s short tuft of mane. He yelled a word I did not recognize in such force that the beast calmed himself, and I fell to the ground. Although my body would yell its trauma to me through deep musculature aches for many days, my only serious injury was to my pride.
Apparently the one Arabic word I had been yelling was not the word “Stop!” but rather “Faster, faster, faster!”
The comedy of my barebacked-donkey ride at this morning’s sunrise seemed a millennium away, and a stark contrast to the bleakness of what followed. As waves of heat swelled from the desert floor, I wrote off the whole donkey deal as another one of my romantic inclinations, and James and I opted to walk, not ride, to the death camp.
While there may be few good days in a death camp, this one was particularly brutal. We’d been out of medicine for a month, out of food for a week, and today, we ran out of water. All of those life giving commodities were gone, except for the private stash we kept at our compound for James and me, the kawaidja.
Although at home in the United States, people often thought of me as a poor missionary, I was coming to understand and grapple with the fact that I was, in reality, wealthy for simple things like never running out of water.
Up to this point in my life, what had I chosen to do with my riches? Standing on that cliff, I painfully acknowledged how I’d squandered so much of what God had given me, most painfully my entire life. Many times throughout this journey, this awakening, I have come perilously close to throwing it all away.
Through God’s grace, I slowly stepped down from the precipice and began to face the end of the me I’d created for myself. I wanted to live the life—be the me—He dreamed of.
I remembered a prayer I’d cried out many years before, begging Him to use me. I wondered, if I’d known where that prayer would lead, would I still have prayed it? Deciding the answer was yes, I uttered a new prayer: “You can have whatever You want from me, but please, God, just show me what difference one person can make in the darkness of this broken world.”
The following is His story, as lived through me to this point.