Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A Dream So Big -Our Unlikely Journey to End the Tears of Hunger by Steve Peifer with Gregg Lewis

A Dream So Big -Our Unlikely Journey to End the Tears of Hunger by Steve Peifer with Gregg Lewis chronicles the missionary adventure of the Peifer family in Kenya.   After losing a  child to a fatal trisomy shortly after birth, Nancy Peifer's husband, Steve decided to make his wife's lifelong childhood dream of becomming a missionary for Africa- come true.  Redirecting the crippling grief of their loss, they in turn went on to help countless suffering, impverished children.

This book is an autobiographical account that begins with Nancy and Steve's youth- from their courtship, marriage and events leading up to their decision to become missionaries to Kenyan children. On the outside it would seem unlikely for an ordinary church going couple with 2 kids to pick up and go to Africa.   A chance encounter, with perfect timing, with a couple of longtime friends- who themselves were in the midst of fundraising for a trip to Africa became the catalyst.   A simple,  yet hesitant invitation the friends - asked of the Peifer's on page 49, "You don't want to watch this video about the school where we work in Kenya,  do you?"- was enough to transform the lives of the grieving couple as well as countless children.  They didn't need much prodding after that.  The one year mission as dorm parents turned into a lifelong international mission.

They lived with this theme in mind- "that rare gift of being able to help someone without wounding their dignity. " page 56.  Their mission may not have been to save the entire world but to make a difference with one life at a time.  Interestingly, this is illustrated with the wellknown modern parable of the llittle boy on thr beach saving one starfish at a time.  Likewise, by helping one child at a time- one school at a time- one by one a child is saved from hunger.

Throughout the book, thr author chronicles every step of the missionary journey.   No detail is considered too mundane as the reader is given a play by play account of the financial details of funding their trip including fundraisers and other housekeeping related details.   Facts and statistics as well as planning details are included making this account like a step by step guide to planning and carrying out mission work. The author shares the cultural experiences of life in Kenya.   Despite the extensive day to day detail,  the book is fast paced and the author's humor is certain to keep the reader engaged.  For example on page 211 the author goes into detail about the fact that he "had enough funky-tasting moo juice since we came to Kenya."  In fact he explains that it was common practice for the cafeteria to disguise the taste of the old sour milk with chocolate syrup.   Nevertheless, Peifer goes on to remark that he doubted there was enough chocolate "in the world to disguise the distinctive flavor" of the old milk.  The writing style is memorable.

This book makes clear how much the average person in a first world nation takes for granted.  Even seemingly simple things such as clean water, electricity, education and clothing are things Kenyan children lack yet so many readers take these things for granted.Many readers have no idea what missionary life is like The author shares not only his own experiences but those of others as well- including the sacrifices that they wilingly endure. For exampke it isnt unheard of for a missionary to use his own limited resources and use them to buy food for the poor. The author shares with the reader the most important lessons he has learned through his missionary experience: love, humility and sacrifice.  He illustrates how he became a changed person, living the gospel message of Jesus in real life. 

Despite this book's length, it is easy to read and engaging as well.  In the center are a number of photographs: family photos as well as missionary photos.  Unlike most photos, these photos focus on faces and personalities so that the reader can get to "know" the subjects.  The faces become real people, not simply faceless, nameless statistics.   The only thing about this book is that Nancy's voice is left out.  Except what we learn second hand from her husband, the reader is left knowing very little from her perspective.  This is especially ironic since the motivation for this book, and the missionary work, is based on his wife's lifelong dream. One might expect that this would be  written by both spouses as a team. Nevertheless, this perspective from the husband's point of view makes this book unique. I received this book published by zondervan publishers for the purpose of writing this review.

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