Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Review: Adventures Under the Mango Tree

I had this dream when I was in college that one day, I’d be running an orphanage.

That has been on the back burner for a while.  When we were packing up in Mozambique almost six years ago, we were heading to Zimbabwe to run an orphanage there, but that door slammed in our faces.  So we’ve settled into our cozy, comfortable un-airconditioned home in rural Oregon.  And Sudan’s orphans seem a long way off.

Synopsis of Book

A Wisconsin Couple Steps Out in Faith, Bringing Hope and Change to South Sudan

If you were to ask God how to best be of service in a troubled world and the answer you received was to “Sell all you have and give it to the poor”, could you – would you – do it? Could you really sell everything you own, leave your home and well-established life behind, and travel halfway around the world to live in a country best known for its civil wars and extreme poverty?  Most of us, in all probability, could or would not. But that wasn’t the case for Dennis and Lillian Klepp, a Wisconsin couple who asked the question, received the answer and then stepped out in faith to do exactly what they felt God was asking them to do.

Their massive step of faith began in 1999, after Lillian heard a speaker talk about the plight of orphans and widows in Sudan.  A short two years later, the couple said goodbye to friends and family and headed to the war-torn African nation to devote their lives to serving God.  They have been there ever since, establishing orphanages, schools and health care centers and bringing hope to those who need it most.  In her new book, Adventures Under the Mango Tree: A Story of Hope in War Torn Sudan, (Creative Enterprises Studio, June 2014) Lillian, or, as she is more affectionately known, Mama Lilly, chronicles the couple’s amazing story of faith, sacrifice and obedience as they endeavor to follow Christ­­­­­.

About the Author“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." – James 1:27" SPONSOR A CHILDDonate Now
Lillian Klepp, fondly called “Mama Lilly,” cofounded Harvesters Reaching the Nations in 2001 – a nonprofit, nondenominational, Christ-centered ministry to orphans in what is now South Sudan.  She and her husband, Dennis, with more than 100 local employees, care for nearly 200 orphans, educate more than 500 school children,  provide hospital care for thousands of women and children, and help hundreds more through their local church.  This is their story.

Age Recommendation: Any
Genre:  Christian Ministry/Missions
Physical Description:  Paperback, 6x9, 198 pages
List Price:  $15.99
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Mom’s Review
This isn’t a literary work of art.  It is a personal story plainly – matter-of-factly – told.  What stands out is that it is God’s story – at every turn of the page.  And that makes it a fascinating page-turner.

I grew up reading mission stories, and I’ve known a lot of missionaries.  What stands out to me in Lillian’s version of God’s story is the obvious barriers to her mission, the pressing on in spite of barriers, and the miracles that transpired as a result:

  • The age factor.  I’ve just turned forty.  College dreams seem in the distant past.  While God was clearly evident in Lillian’s entire lifetime, her radical call came in her 50s.  It doesn’t matter how settled or entrenched you are, God can pull you out at any time in your life.
  • The health factor.  Lillian’s husband, Dennis, very much a part of the story, has had a battle with cancer for many years.  There were other health issues that cropped up along the way.  It didn’t stop either of them from forging ahead where God called, though it also wasn’t something they could just ignore.
  • The female factor.  Lillian felt the “burning” for Sudan’s cause first.  It only came later for Dennis.  Some might argue this isn’t how God works, but if He can use a donkey, he can surely use a wife. :)
  • The family factor.  Her sons might have been of age to fend for themselves, but family (including parents) was a strong draw to “home.”  She doesn’t sugarcoat the challenge and second-guessing of balancing mission with family.
  • The war factor.  My father was in Bangladesh during their civil war, and I know others who have served in war-torn countries, but I’ve never personally experienced the daily horror of war – Sudanese-style – as Lillian describes.
  • The downside of mission.  One of her first Sudanese babies died early on in her ministry.  When you are wholeheartedly wrapped in a cause and you see the neglect of others, the low value placed on life, and you pray and God doesn’t answer as you hoped, it’s easy to be discouraged, jaded, and walk away.  Once again, this isn’t sugar-coated.
  • The miracles.  Time and again, barriers that seem insurmountable are surmounted in God’s story, in His time.  People’s lives are touched and transformed as Lillian and Dennis allow Him to use them.
  • The children.  The little testimonies of the children who have been given a chance at life – these made the entire book sparkle for me.

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to The Barnabas Agency for coordinating this book for review. Opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation.