Saturday, November 7, 2009

Vulture and Child—What’s a Christian to Do?

Scared by Tom Davis

Eight years ago, I grabbed my teachers’ edition textbook, preparing for the next unit of Humanities 101. Flipped to Photography, which I knew little about. Oh, well. That’s when you engage with a subject, right? My eyes fell on Kevin Carter’s photo, “Vulture and Child.”

A boulder throttled my esophagus and crashed into a knotted stomach.

I scanned black-and-white words, a color photo, to snatch meaning.

Kevin Carter. Sudanese child creeps, turtle-like to food center. Nearby bird of carrion salivates for flesh and blood. Kevin Carter. Pulitzer Prize. Kevin Carter. Suicide.
My eyes close. I beg for an image of Mother and Child to replace that of “Vulture and Child.” Oh, God, it’s too much pain. Too much sorrow.

These are your brothers. Your sisters. My children.

My eyes blink open. I have shoved into a shadowy netherland the things that don’t lap my golden-sand shores. I have ignored the lands where millions upon millions are groaning for God. These lands do not hold the sparkling sand dollars and glistening conch shells I so love to gather and place on the shelves of my pretty little house.

"Father, forgive me. I have known what I do."

In his novel Scared, Tom Davis, author, theologian, president and CEO of Children’s HopeChest, has yanked open the doors of suffering from an African country “on the edge of the world.” Protagonist Stuart Daniels, an award-winning photojournalist, reels from the afterglow of success: a teetering marriage, self-doubt, pity, and debt. How can a just God allow such things as he has captured through his fancy lenses?
Unanswered questions shove Stuart back into the very dark places he opened up, then stitched closed with a fast-lane life. Will Stuart find redemption in the face of yet another shutter-shattering image, in the bylines of yet another story of yet another unutterable misery?

Unutterable misery. Stop talking about it like that. Utter it. Now.
*1.02 billion of the world’s people are hungry (
*Every five seconds, a child dies from hunger (ibid).
*Over 15 million children are AIDS orphans (
*One out of every three women will be abused during her lifetime, with rates reaching 70% in some countries (
Eight years ago, I viewed Carter’s “Vulture and Child.” Last week I read Davis’s Scared. During the interim, You’ve opened doors, Lord. Some rooms I’ve peeked into. Entered. Engaged with the things inside. More times I’ve tarried at the threshold, then wheeled and sprinted back to my sun-dappled beach.

Lord, make me answer for every door closed. Every dollar hoarded. Every book not read.

Dear friends, I am shouting from the podium of an educator. I am screaming from my writer’s chair. I am sobbing from my mother’s heart. Preaching from my Christian soul.

Dear friends, let us engage with those subjects we have avoided. Let us buy books about faraway places that shudder our gut, cringe our limbs.
Let us pull well-written, relevant books like Davis’s Scared off bookstore shelves! Let us stomp out the chatter crowing, “Christians just won’t read international fiction, about missionaries, about ‘those people’ with funny-sounding names who live in funny-sounding places and have awful-sounding problems.
Father, forgive me. For I have known what to do. Engage me. Now.

For more information, visit Tom Davis' blog is

If you’d like to be entered to win a copy of Scared, just leave a comment on this blog. Please leave an email address so we can contact you if you're the winner (include spaces or brackets around the "@" sign so Net spiders, etc, can't phish your address). Post by November 21st, please. We'll pick a winner at random and be in contact shortly after that!


  1. Oh my gosh, Patti. Heart-rending. Gut-wrenching. Unbelievable.

    You left a boulder in my esophagus in the best sort of way.

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for sharing your heart and your prayers and this stunning reminder of the truths we so often ignore.


  2. Oh. My. Patti. Wow. You've really shaken me up this morning. Thank you. The picture...oh the picture just shakes me to the core. It breaks my heart and makes me cry.

  3. Patti, thank you for sharing (and so eloquently, too) of the desperate needs facing so many of God's children. I pray that as the holiday season approaches and the thoughts of some turn toward the needy, that more hearts will be opened to others' sufferings, more purses opened, and more prayers cried out to God for healing and restoration.

    I will definitely be looking into this book. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

  4. To think we complain here in the US because we don't have something. This will surely awaken ones eyes to see real needs.
    Please enter me.
    desertrose5173 at gmail dot com

  5. I don't think I've ever been moved to tears this quickly before. My heart just aches for these children.
    I would love to be entered in your draw. Thanks so much.

  6. Wow, thanks for sharing your heart, Patty. As someone who lives in Africa, I've seen so much that has ripped my heart in two--poverty, AIDS, malnutrition...And at the same time have seen so much of the beauty and love its people have to offer.

    May we never forget that there is a world out there who cannot be forgotten.

  7. Thanks Dina, Suzie, Susanne, Linda, and Wanda! Glad Kevin Carter's legacy can live on!

    Lisa, tell me about your corner of Africa...and how we can pray...

  8. Patti, I read your post early this morning and I couldn't comment. It was beautifully written and so compelling. And so convicting.

    A friend of mine is from South Africa and she told me that Americans should have to go and visit the third world--and see what we have and what we take for granted. I'm sure it's true. We're so isolated and it's easy to think, 'what can I do?'. The least and the most we can do is free- pray for those who are so much in need and pray our hearts can be softened and stay that way. I have so far to go.

  9. After reading this I did some more research on Kevin Carter and that led to more on South Africa and necklacing and about then I had to quit looking because it was so disturbing. I did not tour this book but now I'm wishing I had.

    ryanx6 at msn dot com

  10. Thanks, Patti. I've never seen that image before but now that I have, I'll never forget it. It's haunting in it's truth in a way we can't comprehend.



  11. Jana,
    Oh, how did I miss reading about the cruel practice of necklacing? One of the highnotes of blogs is gaining new information with savvy posters like YOU!

    Thanks, Sugar Plum Lee. The picture is haunting; without Christ's love, everything is crazy out of control...

  12. Patti,
    Having been to a third-world country myself, I know what you mean. The need is overwhelming. I find myself constantly weighing how to spend money in America because of our excessive wants. It's kind of disgusting when you think about it! My husband challenged me to give what portion I would normally spend on nicer clothes to the poor and shop at Goodwill instead. That's just a small thing I can do but we're praying about a way to do something a lot bigger for God's kindgom, too.


  13. Wow! Maybe we should all post copies of that picture on our wall as a reminder. We could look at it as we pray, and as we cook, and as we write out checks to pay our bills for all the luxuries we take for granted. May God forgive us when we turn our heads and ignore the pain of others.

  14. Catherine and Wilda, what wonderful ideas! Perhaps that constant reminder WOULD make a difference.

    Today at church, we saw a film clip on the persecuted church in Pakistan. Oh, what freedoms we take for granted EVERY MINUTE!!!

  15. God, forgive me. Teach me your ways. Give me your heart.

  16. Patti,
    That is powerful writing straight from the soul. Blessings, Herc

  17. That photo brought tears to my eyes, and the words of the post definitely sting. I so avoid facing these things head on. I need but a tiny bit of knowledge of need to give. My heart just can't take knowing it all.

    May God use all of us with so much more, to help those in such dire need.

  18. Inkies, thanks for giving me a space to post a message from the heart.

    Jeanette and Eileen, I always adore a word from y'all.

    Herc, thank you for visiting!

  19. Thank you for sharing this with us. It has made me think about things we take for granted. Please enter me in the contest.
    Deborah M.

  20. Hi Patti, I work with my family in Mozambique where we are involved in discipleship training and humanitarian work. Pray that God will continue to move mightily among this unreached people group.

    I'm getting ready to start posting how each one of us can get involved as ordinary people doing extraordinary things for God! Stories of people whose lives have been changed through their experiences. From sponsoring orphans, to foster care, to mission trips, and stopping human trafficking. I'd love to hear your stories and share them on my blog. contact dot harris at gmail dot com.


  21. Lisa, you and I will be chatting soon.

    Nicole, ONE WORD from YOU???????
    Gotta love my Illinois romance writer friend!!!!!


  22. Thanks for the great review and post about Scared. I'm truly grateful. Let me know if there's any other way I can participate in what you're doing around Africa and orphans.

  23. Tom, thanks for stopping by! We Inkies may be back in touch with you!!!!



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