In Atlanta, it’s really easy to shield yourself and your children from poverty. Everything we need is often within a few blocks of our lovely, manicured middle class (and up) neighborhoods. Our churches are filled with people who may have terrible trauma in their pasts and current problems that would make us weep, but they usually put on a smile and tell everyone they are fine. We may participate in short term mission projects and trips, but they usually involve swooping into an area to help and then swooping out without really getting to know the people and what their lives are normally like.
When we insulate ourselves and our children from the realities of a broken world, we miss out on the ability to fully love and serve those around us. It becomes easy to make assumptions about what people “should do” or “know how” to do. We may even refuse to serve entire groups of people because they “deserved” what happened to them.
Brenda Spahn lived that insular life as an adult. As a wealthy business owner, she was more focused on spending the profits from her business than helping others. Then a series of circumstances led to her almost serving prison time. After avoiding jail, Ms. Spahn became interested in helping other women who had not been quite so fortunate.
Her journey resulted in the new book, Miss Brenda and the Loveladies: A Heartwarming True Story of Grace, God, and Gumption. Miss Spahn quickly moved from volunteering at a center to opening her own “whole way” house for newly released women ex-convicts. The book recounts not only the growth of Spahn and her program, but also allows some of the women to tell their stories in their own words.
Although I have spent many years working with people from a variety of horrible backgrounds, childhoods and traumas, hearing similar stories never fails to break my heart. Not only does it show the unbelievable need for people to experience God’s love (or any real love at all), but also it reminds me how quickly our hearts can harden to people in agony.
Although Spahn does not go into great detail about the various aspects of her program, she does emphasize the important role faith and God play in the recovery of these women. The book is not at all preachy. In fact, some Christians may be a little surprised at some of her early attitudes, behavior and language. I found the language to be mildly offensive, but not enough to negate the ideas behind the story.
My only other criticism is that at first, the chapters written by the women threw me a little. I normally don’t notice chapter titles, so it took me a few sentences before I realized someone else was telling their story. Since these are some of the strongest chapters emotionally, it would have been nice for the person to introduce herself by name in the first paragraph for those of us who missed the chapter title.
I would highly suggest reading this with your older teen children. The stories the women in the program tell are very rough, with details of sexual abuse, rape, drugs and more. While not appropriate for young teens, I believe older Christian teens need to understand what the world is like for many people. Only then will they be prepared to overcome fears and love people where they are as they teach them about God.
I believe the other valuable lesson from the book is that with God’s help, anyone can make a huge difference in the lives of others. Spahn goes from a spoiled socialite to the founder of an innovative and evidently successful program for women who have not only been incarcerated, but have suffered other types of trauma in their lives.
The book isn’t released until February, but what an excellent way to celebrate the idea of love! Read it with your older teen children or just read it for yourself. Use it to motivate you to begin really listening to and loving the people you meet every day. Share with them God’s love and you may just be surprised what God can accomplish through you and your children.An advance copy of this book was provided to me for free in exchange for my honest review. I found the book very moving and inspiring. There is an affiliate link in the post for your convenience. Clicking on the link costs you nothing, nor does it add to your cost should you decide to purchase anything. A small compensation is provided by the sponsor to help support this blog. Thanks for supporting Parenting Like Hannah.