Last spring I reviewedRadical by David Platt, a call to action to Christians to more fully follow in the footsteps of the One we call “Lord,” by living as He lived and loving as He loved -- by dying to ourselves. Kisses from Katie, by Katie Davis and Beth Clark, is the story of one young woman who is answering that call. Not because Platt gave it, but because Christ did.
Katie Davis is young and her story is still unfolding daily, but Kisses from Katie chronicles its extraordinary beginning. In 2006, while still in high school, Katie visited Uganda for three weeks. This cemented in her a growing desire to serve the poor for a year overseas before going to college. After graduating in 2007, she returned to Uganda to teach kindergarten at an orphanage. This first year held personal struggles, external challenges, and intense spiritual refinement. However, in the midst of her new environment and despite the hardships -- in fact, because of them -- she found a deep love growing in her heart for Uganda and its people. So much so that, in 2008, well before her year was over, she’d started a nonprofit organization that supported the education of over 100 students, and adopted eight little girls. Three years later, Amazima now supports over 400 students, and Katie has 13 daughters.
At first glance, Katie’s life does, in fact, appear radical. But, while she knows her choices are different, she doesn’t consider herself bold or courageous. Rather, she believes her journey is one of simply doing her best to trust God and obey in whatever He has put before her -- no matter how great or small.
As a result, her walk of faith over the past five years has been filled with abundant provision and miraculous intervention. But it has by no means been without difficulties. What she experiences is often ugly, as she confronts poverty and takes care of the sick, the dirty, and the forgotten. It is repetitive, as her days are filled with the very ordinary things of life that all parents face: cooking and cleaning; washing and tending; teaching and disciplining. It is painful, as she holds the dying, and navigates loss in the lives of others and her own. But she continues to choose the life put before her because, in the midst of all the highs and lows, she speaks of experiencing deep and abiding joy as she learns to see Jesus in the people around her and love Him by serving them.
She explains this in terms of a conversation she had with one of her daughters.
“‘Mommy, if Jesus comes to live inside my heart, will I explode?’ ‘No!’ I proclaimed. . . . Then I thought about it a bit more. ‘Yes, if Jesus comes to live in your heart, you will explode.’ That is exactly what we should do if Jesus comes to live inside our hearts. We will explode with love, with compassion, with hurt for those who are hurting, and with joy for those who rejoice. We will explode with a desire to be more, to be better, to be close to the One who made us” (108).
Explode. That is exactly what Katie is doing. It is exactly what we should all be doing. The question you can’t help but ask upon finishing the book is, Am I?
There are two dangers in reading a book with such a strong message backed by so dynamic an example. The first is comparison; the second rationalization. If I compare myself to Katie -- or anyone doing anything that appears similarly “radical” -- I can begin to feel like the work God has put before me is not as significant or worthwhile. On the other hand, if I hold such a powerful testimony at arm’s length and reason that only “some people” are called to such things, I risk missing the voice of the Holy Spirit whispering in my own heart . . . perhaps about something just as life-altering.
But Katie herself speaks to both of these over and over again, simultaneously encouraging and exhorting readers. She believes it is God who has given her the desire for her unconventional life in a far-off place; she also believes it is God, and God alone, who paved the way and sustains the work she is doing, day in and day out. She knows not everyone is destined for another country or culture, and she believes all work done unto God’s glory is meaningful and lasting, and that He will teach us how to love and serve others no matter where He puts us:
“. . . The more I give of myself, the more He fills me up. The more I love, the more love I have to give. God was teaching me the same lessons He desires to teach every single one of His children, He just chose to bring me to Uganda to do it while others can learn right where they are” (98).
But she also believes that Christ gave his life for us, and so too should we give ours; she believes that our Father in heaven adopted us, and so too should we adopt others. She speaks of “counting the cost” and “considering it all lost” for Christ from personal experience. Consequently, she has the authority to remind readers that surrendering everything is exactly what He calls us to do. Wherever we are. Whoever we are with. Whatever it looks like. Not for the sake of being radical. Simply for Jesus’ sake. We are to love, after all, because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).
“We aren’t really called to save the world, not even to save one person; Jesus does that. We are just called to love with abandon” (214).
Katie’s story is filled with the hard things of life, but she reminds us that Christ has called us to the hard places. It will look different for everyone, but it is among the hard places that she desires to live, and she urges readers to try and do the same. For she testifies that it is there, where she can do nothing else but rely on God’s strength and grace, that she has found herself filled with the most joy, because it is there that she is closest to Him.
“I was coming to understand that what it means to be real is to love and be loved until there is nothing left. And when there’s nothing left, and we feel we’re all in pieces, God begins to make us whole. He makes us real. His love sets us free and transforms us” (86).
Articles on the BreakPoint website are the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Chuck Colson or BreakPoint. Outside links are for informational purposes and do not necessarily imply endorsement of their content.