September 17, 2014

You Are Seen & Loved

Wherever the River Runs by Kelly Minter

Release Date: August 1, 2014
Publisher: David C. Cook
Pages: 256 pages
Source & Format: NetGalley; e-ARC
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Summary (from Goodreads)
This beautiful journey through the Amazon invites readers to search their souls and follow Jesus wherever the river runs—experiencing the adventure of knowing the poor and forgotten people He loves. In Wherever the River Runs, Kelly Minter invites us on a jungle adventure down a river teeming with piranhas, caymans, a beautiful people, and, especially, God’s presence. Her honest and engaging narrative pulls back the curtain on one of the most captivating places on earth as well as on parts of the gospel we may be able to recite but have never fully believed.

For anyone feeling complacent in their American Christianity, Kelly’s story of the forgotten people of the Amazon and how they transformed her understanding of the gospel, is sure to inspire.

Thoughts on Wherever the River Runs
I discovered Kelly Minter in college when I randomly bought her Ruth: Loss, Love & Legacy Bible study at the Christian bookstore one day. I absolutely loved it, and it impacted me in a ways I never expected. There were so things I thought about and learned during that time that I will never forget. So, I was thrilled when I saw Wherever the River Runs on NetGalley! It sounded like a combination of some of my favorite things: non-fiction, travel memoir and a discussion on faith.

I started this book with both excitement and nervousness. What if I liked Kelly more as a Bible teacher than as a writer and storyteller? Well, I shouldn't have been worried. Within a few pages, I was swept away in this story.

In many ways, Wherever the River Runs is a travel memoir. Kelly is an author, speaker and musician who was invited on a trip to the Amazon by a business associate. I think it's safe to say that she never expected the trip - both the place and the people - to change her life the way that they did. After the first trip, she was hooked and has spent time there each of the last six years. Wherever the River Runs follows Kelly from the very beginning. The summary says that she invites readers "on a jungle adventure down a river teeming with piranhas, caymans, a beautiful people, and, especially, God’s presence." Honestly, that's a perfect description.

Brazil and the Amazon came alive for me through Kelly's words! I loved so many things about this book, but it's the place that really shines. I think part of what I loved about this book is that it reminded me so much of my own experience when I traveled to South Africa. Kelly's travels were completely different from mine, but there was something so familiar about the things that she learned about herself, about people and about God.

Beyond just a travel memoir, Wherever the River Runs talks a lot about Kelly's faith and what she learned about God and the gospel through her trips to the Amazon. Some of the more general thoughts she shares are likely true for anyone traveling abroad, such as adjusting to and learning to appreciate a very different culture from your own. But the more specific thoughts - reflections on what she could really offer these people, what it means to watch and wait for the Lord, etc. - are what truly moved me.
"If all the wealth, comforts, and resources of living in America were ripped away, what would I have? Whatever Jesus came to offer has to be enough for both me and these women of the jungle. If the good news of the gospel is only good in America, then it is not good."
Y'all know I rarely cry while reading, but this book brought me to tears so many times. One of my favorite things Kelly discusses is how much easier it is to love the poor from a distance. She talks about how it's ultimately not too challenging to travel somewhere for the short-term, pour into someone's life and then go back to your normal routine. But we're called to so much more than that! We ought to be showing that same level of love and care for the people we're surrounded by, and that's when it gets difficult. When it's messy, when it's right next door, when you can't just go home and forget about it... It's a reminder to "love my neighbor as myself" - the people you see and interact with every day, not just the ones on the other side of the world.

Over and over again, Kelly showed me how easy it is to get complacent as a believer (especially in America) and lovingly and honestly reminded me that it's not all about me. As you can probably guess, I loved Wherever the River Runs. It inspired me, yes, but it also challenged me. And I highlighted my digital copy so much that I'll be purchasing a paperback because it has more than earned its spot on my shelves. If you read Christian non-fiction, I'd absolutely recommend Wherever the River Runs!

So Quotable
"And because He follows this wildly unconventional atlas where His ways are not our ways, the way to the adventure is sometimes through the gates of heartbreak and broken dreams. You can't always tell where you're going, but eventually you find Him to be what He has been all along: faithful."
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration. This did not affect my opinion of the book or my review.

2 comments:

  1. Wow. Sounds amazing. The cover is awesome too.

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  2. Honestly, Where the River Runs sounds like an amazing testimony from Kelly! It's definitely exciting that it's set in the Amazon, and that you felt like she really transported you there. But what really draws me to this story is how she shares the things she learns about God along the way. I really enjoy reading other people's experiences with Him, and seeing how that changes their lives - and I also know that being exposed to their stories and learnings definitely changes mine too.

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