Age just 19, Katie Davis moved to Uganda and set up a charitable foundation (Amazima Ministries International) helping some of the poorest and most vulnerable people of the country, especially the children. In addition, she began adopting some of the orphaned girls in dire situations whom she met, and today has fourteen daughters.
I first stumbled across her blog about five years ago, and was struck by the incredible courage, love and faith this young woman, roughly my age, possessed. Many Christian young people daydream of being missionaries and charity workers. But, while I, at that time, was an Oxford undergraduate, working towards my final exams and daydreaming occasionally of what it might be like to give my life to love and serve God and my neighbour in a less-economically-developed country, this brave young woman had turned dreams into a reality. She blogged about her daily life, caring for her growing family of daughters, caring for the children her charity provided with education, food and clothing, caring for the sick and vulnerable adults she encountered, and presenting all these things through the lens of her unshakeable Christian faith. Over the years, now and then, I have gone back to her blog and caught up with what she is now up to with interest and admiration, and – admittedly also now and then – remembered her work in my prayers.
Perhaps, therefore, my expectations were a bit too high. In my academic research, I work on writings by and about saints and martyrs, and I think I was expecting Katie’s autobiography to be not dissimilar. It certainly is a striking read: Katie’s energy, determination, love for the vulnerable, and courage shine through the pages. I was also deeply interested by the descriptions of life in Uganda, and captivated by the different personalities Katie brings to life so well. It is certainly a page-turner, and an inspiring one. While some of the saints and martyrs I have read about seem already half divine and deserving of unadulterated admiration, Katie comes across as less perfect but still admirable. Her behaviour when she is forced to return to the U.S. for university certainly doesn’t appear ideal; but then, one admires her humility for recounting it so honestly.
My one reservation, and a deep one, about this book lies with her theology. Yes, she is a cradle Catholic who became an Evangelical Protestant, which I immediately see as a mistake, though she doesn’t discuss this in any depth her book (it’s not relevant to the book’s theme). Yes, I think Protestant theology is deeply flawed and contradictory. BUT my criticism here is not because she is a Protestant! There are Protestants who, though I disagree with some of their theology, are learned and perceptive in what they say, and largely also do a good job of Biblical exposition. There are also Christians of every stripe who are poor at understanding and explaining their own faith. In this book Katie has a fair number of expositions of Biblical passages and theological statements about the Christian faith, and unfortunately, much in these is shallow and dubious, even regardless of one’s denominational position. This wouldn’t matter so much, except that she is the leader not merely of a charity but of a missionary charity, and that because she is relatively well-known her explanations of the Christian faith must be widely read.
(I know there seems to be a growing modern assumption that theology doesn’t matter too much – it’s all about your ‘relationship’ with Him, ‘knowing’ Him – but I beg to disagree with it; how can you know and have a relationship with someone, if you have only a shallow and partially correct idea of who they are? If you think your boyfriend is an unmarried student and you have no idea what his hobbies are, and actually he is a married man, studying part time and working as a teacher the other half, and likes smoking, painting, and horse riding, how well do you really know him and how deep is the relationship you think you have?)
I bought this book expecting to be inspired by her faith. Was I? Yes and no? I was inspired by her simple, unshakable, courageous trust in God. At the same time, I was a little surprised and saddened that she didn’t seem to have a deep understanding of the faith she proclaims and spreads. But I was inspired by her personality, her gritty determination, incredibly compassionate heart, commitment, bravery, and her deep love for God and trust in Him. Was this book worth its £9.37 Kindle price? Yes I think so.