This post is sort of review meets history meets impact for the book No Greater Love
Here is a link to the video about the book. 1cqdWnNR9Ig
Those who are closely acquainted with me have heard lots about Drawn from Water, Bring Love In and the Benkert family. I have a tremendous love and respect for this family. I am so grateful that the Lord crossed our paths so I could play a small part in this ministry in Ethiopia.
I just finished Levi’s book and I thought I would write a post about it and what this amazing family has meant to me. Maybe some new folks will get to know the Benkerts and support the ministry they have poured their lives into.
Some history: I will try to be brief, but brevity is not my strong suit.
I met the Lord 20 years ago in July 17, 1992 in a tiny church and was NEVER the same. My life was turned upside down and I was set free. That story and the 20 years following is not brief at all, so details can be found elsewhere. I fell head over heals in love with Jesus; unfortunately, I did not fall in love with His mission, His people or His passion for the lost of this world. My attitude for the fist 16 years of my walk can be summed up like this, “I love Jesus and I am so glad He loves me and died for me. I am going to heaven, and the rest of you can go to hell. If you don’t love Jesus, you get what you deserve.” Basically, that is what I thought. I know. Harsh. It is hard to even read that in print. I wouldn’t have said it out loud, but that is how I felt and how I lived.
I am so thankful for God’s grace that He loved me even though my attitude was so unchristian. I am also so thankful that His grace would not leave me there; that He wooed me to the place to completely dismantle me, transform my perspective and continue to make me a different person.
The Benkerts and Drawn from Water were extremely significant in the work God did in my heart.
In the year before I learned of the Benkert family and Drawn From Water, I had read a couple of books that were starting to kind of shake me up and open my eyes to how far off from the intentions of the Gospel I was. Then I enrolled in a class at the church we were attending called Hope lives. I had no idea how deeply that class would rock me. My eyes began to be opened to the intense suffering and poverty in the world. I started to see how desperately we all needed the Lord and how desperately others in the world needed us to be more like Jesus. My philosophy of I am saved, so that’s all I need to worry about became increasingly uncomfortable to me. My lack of compassion was starting to really feel ugly and sinful to me.
I was also walking through Celebrate Recovery in an effort to get sober from an alcohol addiction that I had acquired some 15 years after meeting Jesus. As I began to find freedom, I also started actually feeling deeply in a way that I had never been able to feel. The Lord was unraveling and healing me from the pain of my childhood that kept me locked behind a plexiglass partition in my heart. Suddenly I found that I could feel broken and weep over suffering and lack. It was new and scary and sometimes painful.
During the Hope Lives class one week, they played a video about Drawn from Water. My heart was ripped wide open. I cried and couldn’t stop. In the moment I first saw the video, I knew I was going to Ethiopia. I didn’t know how, or when. I had never been on a mission trip. I had never even thought about going on a mission trip. Moving to another country was not anywhere near being on my radar. Suddenly, I couldn’t explain it, but I knew I was going to Ethiopia. A love for the country of Ethiopia was born in my heart. A passion for children who don’t have parents to love them was born. I also knew that I was was going to be involved in the Benkerts ministry. I started showing that video to anyone who would watch it. I started intently following the Drawn from Water blog and praying for them each and every day. I also began to look around and see so many other ministries reaching deep into the pain and poverty of the world and started following what they were doing as well. In the years since that class God has continued to unravel me and change me.
Last summer, I was able to meet the Benkerts for the first time. I know it is super silly, but I was beyond excited. You might as well told me that I was going to have lunch with Bono. It was like meeting rock stars to me. I know we shouldn’t put people on pedestals and all that, but I really admired them so much. I had followed them, read the blog, prayed for the needs in Ethiopia; we had given into the ministry. We felt our hearts were knit with them. To say I was excited when I got the invite is the worlds biggest understatement. I was jumping up and down in the hallway of our house.
From that meeting, was born the plan for my first trip to Ethiopia. That trip was so beautiful and life changing. I got to really know the Benkert family. I stayed with them for two weeks. I struggled with feeling totally underfoot, not because they made me feel that way, but just because I don’t like feeling like I am a burden to anyone. None the less, I loved being there. I really became even more fond of them. They are so real. They are broken and beautiful. They are just trying to follow Jesus where He leads. Sometimes He leads them into pain. Sometimes He causes things to move so slow they seem to be standing still. The Benkerts, though, faithfully follow, obey, worship and seek to glorify the King. I have watched them for years now and have grown to love them deeply. They are the real deal. I have spent time with the Benkert children which I love, love, love. They are so great, so quirky, so crazy, so flexible and well-adjusted. They are amazing kids.
I am going back to visit this December with my daughter in tow and I cannot wait.
Reading the book for me was surreal. I could see the faces of the children. I could see the perplexed look Levi gets on his face. I could see the gentle kindness in Jessie’s face when she is listening and discerning what is needed. I could see the beautiful way that Everly’s face lights up when she smiles. I could see the shy sideways glances that Ruth gives when she is getting to know you and deciding what she thinks about you. I could see the nervousness of Luella’s face when she is unsure about a situation. I could see the astute thoughtfulness in Nicoli’s eyes. It was such a strange experience to read. Every time I read a passage about how Everly came into the family I would weep. I would be sitting in public reading wiping tears away because I could not turn them off.
In this book, Levi talks about the journey that led him the Ethiopia, the broken life that opened him up for it, and the struggles of settling in. He talks about really looking at his motives and drives. He deals with the heart ache of losing what they had poured their hearts and souls into. It is a real story about real struggle that does not have the fairy tale ending.
I loved reading what was going on in Jessie and Levi’s hearts. I loved reading the struggle and questions and the wrestling with God. It was beautiful and raw and real. It gives validation to all of our struggles. It reminds me that life is struggle; it is beautiful, but it is struggle. Our struggles might not be the same, but we are the same in our struggle. As we share our struggles with one another we are reminded that to be human is to struggle and it is okay. We do not struggle because God has left us, we struggle because God loves us. He is in the struggle. In the struggle, we are made more like His Son.
I recommend reading this put with my whole heart. You will not regret it. It will shake you. It will warm you. It will break you. It will remind you and comfort you.