Agape’s Children: Freed From The Streets, by Darla Calhoun with Donna Sundblad
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Aneko Press. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]
Given the sad state of Africa and its people, it is little surprise that someone as sensitive as the author would feel a burden on her heart concerning the sad state of the street children of Kisumu, Kenya. The disastrous state of Africa has been a burden on the heart of many like-minded people of high degrees of idealism , and this book is a testament to the idealism that leads some people to spend months and years of their life serving disadvantaged people around the world. In fact, when reading this book, I was struck particularly forcefully by the thought, if not precisely the hope, that the director of Legacy Institute in Thailand, having spent decades seeking to instruct and improve the lives of hill tribes youth from Thailand and Burma, would likely find it a profitable task to write a similar account as a way of encouraging idealism and providing a record for decades spent in service of others while dealing with the demands of local governments for local as well as American boards for such not-for-profit organizations. In general, whenever reading a book gives me an idea for the writing of a book, I consider it a worthwhile effort.
Coming in at over 300 pages, this book has some length, but it reads extremely quickly for its size thanks to the fact that it is made up of 106 very short chapters, some of them only a page in length and none of them particularly long. This is an ideal book either for reading quickly or reading the way it was likely written in snatches of time, given the fact that many of the chapters are capable of standing on their own as mini-narratives. The chapters contain a wide variety of content, some of them discussing the efforts of the author and others to serve the street children of a Kenyan city and deal with the culture shock of life in sub-Saharan Africa. Some of the chapters discuss the generosity of those who served and helped the children, many chapters discuss the heartbreaking stories of the children themselves, who almost invariably lost parents to aids, were abused and neglected by abusive and alcoholic parents or stepparents, or who sought freedom and opportunity in the city only to find glue addictions and lives of grinding poverty and intense suffering. This is not to say that the author is not clear-sighted about the many underlying problems of Kenya that have led to its immense poverty despite its abundant resources, including political instability, demonic influence and superstition, rampant drug and alcohol abuse, unrestrained immorality and a lack of even basic medical care and education for a large part of the population, the destruction of families and a lack of regard for human life and dignity, and rampant corruption, all of which are great hindrances to decent standards of living. The author has hope that by helping street children, the poorest of the poor, that great good may be done for Kenya as a whole, and the author maintains her optimism throughout the book despite the struggles faced in fulfilling the 4 r’s of her mission: rescue, redemption, rehabilitation, and reintegration with society and family.
Without a doubt, the author has written a compelling story that manages to deal well with the tension between the comic escapades of the author seeking to get by in Kenya while dealing with local lassitude and corruption and the tragic stories of crippling injury, health, trauma, and privation coming from the young people she helps. That tension keeps the reader either from being too bogged down in the sorrows of the young people who struggle with homelessness and addiction and broken families, matters that depress even those of us from more privileged backgrounds, while also allowing the humor of life to be set against its more grim aspects, so that both are enriched in the contrast. This book reads like a memoir that would be well suited to a film adaptation, given that it tells a story of great human interest with compelling people and situations. What is not said is just as interesting as what is said–the author is rather coy about the circumstances of her divorce, the fallout from her separation from her original plan to do medical service in rural Kenya, and her activities in the United States that led her to take an increasingly backseat role in the efforts of Agape in Kenya as well as the relationship of her and her second husband. Someone reading this book, as long as it is, is aware of the fact that there was likely far more to the story that the author decided not to tell for one reason or another, which makes this book even more interesting and mysterious. When a book combines extreme detail in its anecdotes as well as mystery, that is a rare and worthwhile find indeed.
 See, for example: