A little while ago, I got the chance to read this book, No Greater Love by Levi Benkert. I received it free from Tyndale Publishing in exchange for a review. I was not required to give a positive review but I'm going to give one for this book! I wanted to read this book because it's subject has been touching my heart lately. As I prepare myself for going to Africa myself in November, I wanted to read about other peoples journey's. I think it arrived in the mail on a Friday and by Saturday morning I was finished with it. It was by no means a short book but I just couldn't put it down. I was in tears before I even finished the first chapter.
Levi Benkert had been playing at the park with his kids when he got a phone call from a friend urging him to take a two week trip to Ethiopia. He went and 6 weeks later, he and his wife sold their house, packed up their kids and moved there. They rescued children who were condemned to death by a tribal superstition.
His stories of their triumphs and their failures will touch your heart. His stories were honest and at times very raw. His journey was not an easy one but he found purpose and meaning to his life. I highly recommend this book. One statement jumped out at me and I'd heard it before but forgot it was this. "We were made for more than this" This book challenges you to step out in faith and do the unthinkable. I loved it.
Generally, few people expect that a single phone call will change everything about them. Levi Benkert is no exception, yet within a few short months one phone call had him moving from one continent to another, engaging in a ministry he didn't even know about, and learning lessons he didn't even know he needed to learn. In the introduction to the book, Levi says "God needs no heroes to work for Him_if our family accomplished good, it wasn't because of us - it was because of Him." That humble statement is symbolic of the way in which Levi tells his tale - he didn't know he was going to be a hero, and yet there are Ethiopian "mingi" children alive today because he followed his heart and His God into the sun-scorched middle of nowhere and spent himself. If that isn't a hero in the most classic sense, then I don't know the meaning of the word.
If you've ever watched the movie "The Gods Must Be Crazy" you might get the idea that tribal people in the wastelands of Africa are not motivated by spiritual concerns, except in a good way. The reality is that in places all over the world, the mystical and spiritual circumstances are desperate - people are people, after all, and where there is disease and misfortune, someone must be blamed. In remote Ethiopian villages, the blame rests on children who have done nothing other than have their upper teeth grow before their bottom ones. There are other circumstances wherein children are declared "mingi" there, but they are no more substantial than the order of teeth coming in.
Enter Levi and his family. Through the grace of God, they began working among the tribes in Ethiopia to at least keep the children from their mandated deaths - instead trying to take care of them as orphans. The whole story is so complex and in some places frustrating and difficult, but in the end, God worked through the Benkert family to offer hope where there had only been desperation. James 1:27 says "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress_" The Benkerts did just that. They lived their faith, purely and faultlessly, to God's glory.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255
I recently read the story of Levi Benkert and his family who, faced with the collapse of their finances and his business, did something just a tad bit radical. Faced with pressures too real in this economic downturn, and maybe feeling desperate and a little panic, they sold most of their possessions and packed up their kids and moved to Ethiopia to take charge of a new orphange in a village called Jinka. What was supposed to be a brief visit to help, and really to get a break for Levi and some perspective, turned their lives upside down and rightside up.
They faced some major hardships, obviously.What looked so dismal at first ended up being a blessing to their spiritual lives.
I would have liked to have read more details in this book. It lacked discriptions and richness, which is unfortunate because it's an amazing story. I'm not saying it wasn't a good read, because it was, it just really left me hungry to be able to visualize more as I read- expressions, places, and of course just to know what the people looked like. Levi is so humble, and the book is written from his humility and it seems to me that for that reason the story lacked color.He was painfully honest about his failings, and while I admired that, I still would have liked the book to focus more on the daily life in Ethiopia and to see the people in the story developed more. I'm glad I found his facebook page because I was finally able to see what he and his family looked like. I don't know why that's so important to me, but it is.
It turns out this little family was majorly instrumental in the country of Ethiopia finally facing the issue of child murders- an ancient practice of what is essentially child sacrifice to appease evil spirits. They had (have?) rules regarding children- if they are conceived without the proper notification to the elders of their tribes, out-of-wedlock, or if their teeth top teeth come in before their bottom teeth, they are considered "mingi", cursed. The tribes believed they would all be cursed if they didn't kill these children. Infants, after being born, would be left out in the elements with a handful of red, dry, dusty earth poured into their mouths to suffocate. Practices also included drowning. Many, many infants and children, although loved, were murdered.The mother in me was freaking out! I SO wanted to be there and grab up babies to take home.
Levi and his wife and a few others brought awareness to the government of the practice that was mainly going on in the remote regions south- it turns out many in the cities had no clue what was going on in rural villages.
I'm not going to say more because there story is worth you reading for yourself. It's inspiring to be reminded that one person, or a group of people, really can make a difference. This family, seemingly on accident, made a huge difference in the lives of rural Ethiopians. It's a modern day missionary tale that will effect you, maybe it lacks more meat, but it's good! I'm not complaining, just saying I wouldn't mind of this book were a little thicker, with more descriptions and more depth. I read it quickly, feeling like I'd like to have spent more time with this characters- real people, but they went by too quickly.
*This book was given to me free of charge by the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.
No Greater Love is a memoir of one man's and one family's journey- physical and spiritual- to Ethiopia to care for unwanted orphans. When Levi Benkert, a successful businessman, first received a call to travel to Ethiopia to help with an orphanage for "cursed" children who had been rescued from death, he planned to refuse. Little did he know that not only would he travel to Ethiopia for this short term trip, but his family would also relocate to Ethiopia to work to save the orphans.
Levi Benkert, along with Candy Chand, shares this memoir of his journey. From struggling in a failing business, to making his own plans, to learning to trust God through all, this is truly a spiritual journey as well as a physical one. This is a moving retelling of Levi's story. With an easy, conversational tone, it was easy to read and difficult to put down. I was moved to hear of the plight of these "cursed" orphans. I was inspired by the faith of Levi and his wife as they sought to trust God in the midst of some difficult times. And I was reminded, once again, to listen to hear God's call for my own life.
I give this one a strong 4, inspirational stars and a G rating.