James Copple’s Voices from the Night (Amazon Kindle, 2013) takes you from drug-infested crack houses in the Midwestern United States to the slums of Nairobi. In words that paint memorable pictures, Copple shares stories of children and youth who face impossible odds and somehow come out on top.
Key to Copple’s method is what he calls “coming alongside”:
My career path is about coming alongside the dispossessed, the impoverished, the broken, and the wounded. To be in journey along side of the oppressed is to recognize that you bring skills, gifts, and capacity that can strengthen or contribute to the welfare of those you engage. Further, to come along side suggests that you have as much to learn from the other as the other has to learn from you. It is a bridge bound by love, grace, and empathy (location 122).
For the author, child victims of war, drug abuse, and poverty must not be mere abstractions or projects at whom we throw money to ease our conscience. Rather, they are a living, breathing reality, youth with hopes, dreams, and incredible potential. Copple laments that governmental budgets find millions for wars and leave social agencies to fight each other over the remaining scraps. Surely we can do better than this! But more than money, children and youth need us, our time, our love, our attention. That’s what community is all about.
Voices from the Night includes heart-wrenching stories, so be prepared to be haunted by what Jesus called “the least of these.” Whether it’s little Omar in Somalia who divulges to soldiers where his mother is hiding, resulting in her rape, all so that his empty, growling stomach can have a couple of biscuits, to a little girl in a filthy crack house who pleads with Jim, “Mister, can you get me out of here?,” there’s no taking your eyes off the sad specter of children suffering.
A positive aspect of the book is that the author doesn’t just present the problem. He offers practical solutions, but be warned: They come at a personal price. Community change can only transpire when we are in-the-flesh involved with those who need rescuing. The final chapter offers ways to roll up your sleeves and make a difference.
The wide-ranging nature of Voices from the Night is also its weakness. Really there are two books here, one dealing with anti-drug crusading in the United States and a second telling more recent stories from the hardscrabble areas of East Africa. While the children and their stories are compelling, the long interludes of moralizing are less so.
Despite this weakness, Voices from the Night is a clarion call to advocate for those who are most often shunted aside as insignificant. Copple never promises that change will be easy, but he guarantees that looking back one day, you’ll be glad you spent yourself in a cause bigger than yourself.
Photo credit: James Copple the Seeker