Hope Runs
By Claire Diaz-Ortiz
Samuel Ikua Gachagua
Published by Revell
204 Pages

Back Cover: Sammy Ikua Gachagua had lost his father to illness, his mother to abandonment, and his home to poverty. By age ten, he was living in a shack with seven other children and very little food. He entered an orphanage seeing it as a miracle with three meals a day, a bed to sleep in, and clothes on his back.

When Claire Diaz-Ortiz arrived in Kenya at the end of an around-the-world journey, she decided to stay the night, climb Mt. Kenya, then head back home. She entered an orphanage seeing it as little more than a free place to spend the night before her mountain trek.
God had other plans.

Hope Runs is the emotional story of an American tourist, a Kenyan orphan, and the day that would change the course of both of their lives forever. It's about what it means to live in the now when the world is falling down around you. It's about what it means to hope for the things you cannot see. Most of all, it's about how God can change your life in the blink of an eye.

REVIEW: I’m thankful for the review copy of a book that introduced me to incredibly brave and encouraging people like Claire, Lara and Sammy.

Sammy’s journey will captivate you as he writes in first person about his experiences and hardships in Africa. I was instantly captivated by his honesty and horrified at all this young man had experienced by the age of 10. I was also struck by his gratefulness of the little things in life I often times take for granted. His story will make your heart hurt at the same time you’ll be rooting for him as he takes the next step in an incredible journey.

Life gets better for Sammy when his name is chosen to be in an orphanage called Imani. The manager interviews Sammy and asks him, “Why are you here at Iman? – He replies, “I am here to live!” He replies, “Then do it! Live!”

Sammy reflects, “This is when I realize something about us as orphans, when life throws us a lemon, we must take as much juice from it as we can because we don’t know when it might be taken away and you will be left without any fruit at all. I realize this is true not just for orphans.”

Sammy is a deep thinker and has a strong faith. His first encounter with Claire doesn’t go well. Claire and her friend Lara go to Imani orphanage to see how they can help. Claire says to Sammy, “Aren’t you in standard eight.”

“Sammy is bewildered, “I can’t believe what she has just said, and all my friends start laughing. Hysterically  what Claire doesn’t know is that she has insulted me badly, saying I am still in standard 8 when I have actually just started form one. Essentially, this means she is calling me a Kihii an uncircumcised person…to us, a Kihii is not worthy of being called a man…being a Kihii in a KiKuya community when you’re no longer small boy is a bad thing, & if someone calls you it means they have no respect for you. It is like calling a black person the N-word. It hurts and is very disrespectful.”

“To me, Claire has committed one of the crimes of the century. I vow to never to speak to her again, and I keep my distance”.

Sammy viewed Claire and Lara as other white people who came to their orphanage – took pictures, wrote a check and left. Sammy soon realized these young ladies were different. “They used a different resource than many. They stayed with us and showed us that they’re the same as we are.” These girls want to make a difference and give of themselves. They ask the manager what would help them the most. The manager talks to them about an after school activity like something sports related.

So Claire and Lara who are not really sports minded women set up a cross-country team with a little help from friends. They also create an organization called Hope Runs, it’s a nonprofit that uses running to empower aids orphans in Kenya with tools of personal health. Social entrepreneurship, and education.  is their website.

Sammy had it in his heart to forgive Claire. She didn’t know the crime she had committed. Good thing! Claire shares her and Lara’s experience in Kenya and at the orphanage. Claire reflects, “We had experienced so much on our travels but neither of us were prepared at how much this trip to Africa would change us forever and for one orphan named Sammy. Claire says, “In the same way that all the travel has made me increasingly self-sufficient, the orphanage and the kids have turned me into more than myself. Bestowing responsibility on me in a way that I don’t deserve and can hardly handle, the kids have made me something new.”

Sammy says, “Claire and Lara become one of us. They become like sisters. It took some time, but eventually we failed to see their skin color, all we could see were the people behind the skin.”

Claire and Laura make a deep connection to the orphanage and set up the program to continue after they leave to go home. One Orphan stays in their hearts and minds. Sammy! They feel lead to do more for this your name. Neither of them knew what God had in store. But they were both willing to be willing to do whatever He asked! They didn’t realize what an undertaking that would be.

Sammy would come to America and commit some social phopa’s of his own. He has more compassion for Claire and Lara’s blenders as Sammy says in the author notes, “…many people have sacrificed of themselves to get me where I am today, and I know I now stand on their shoulders. I take all of them and all their expectations back to Kenya with me.”

Sammy’s story is still playing out in Africa. I would like to read about what happened next. Did he go to college? Did God call him on another mission trip?

I was deeply moved by this story of hope, sacrifice and love. I’m once again reminded that God can connect the dots of our lives far better than we can. He can bring people together that don’t live on the same continent and accomplish far more than we could ever imagine in a life that is willing to be willing to do His will.

Claire, Lara and Sammy are still on a journey like the rest of us. Can’t wait to read what happens next. You can join Hope Run on facebook and check out Claire’s blog. I’m so glad they shared their journey you will be glad too!

Nora St.Laurent TBCN Where Book Fun Begins

Finding Hope Throufh Fiction Blog


Post a Comment