Title: All Saints
Author: Michael Spurlock and Jeanette Windle
Major Themes: Burma, Episcopal Church, Karen, Myanmar, Refugees
Synopsis: How could Burmese refugees help a dying church in Tennessee?
All Saints was one of those books that caught my eye even though I had never heard anything about the story or its author. I got it because it sounded interesting—and it turned out to be one of the best books I’ve read in a long time!
Michael Spurlock followed a rather circuitous route to becoming an Episcopal priest in Smyrna, Tennessee. As a child from a broken home, he went to church only sporadically, and when he was in high school he told God he was going to direct his own life from then on. In his twenties, however, he became interesting in religion again, and began attending the Catholic church, but later chose to become an Episcopal priest. After finishing seminary, he was asked to go to Smyrna to take care of a church that had just been through a nasty split, and was now facing losing their building because they couldn’t pay the mortgage on it.
Ye Win, on the opposite side of the world in Burma, now known as Myanmar, had a very different life. Raised by devoutly Christian parents from the people group known as Karen, he knew only war all his life, and turned his back on the faith of his family when he joined the Karen resistance army at the age of 13. After being wounded when he was 19, he escorted a group of refugees to Thailand so he could find medical help. After some time in refugee camps there, he was able to go to the United States, and, with a group of more than 70 other Karen, found himself in Smyrna, Tennessee.
When a group of destitute Karen refugees showed up at All Saints, asking for friendship and church, Michael Spurlock hardly knew what to do. His small church was bankrupt, trying to sell their building so they could get out from under the mortgage they couldn’t pay—how could they help these poor people? The answer was beyond his imagination!
I found this story absolutely amazing. The way God worked to pull together a splintered, hurting group of Americans and rebuild the church through the Burmese refugees is incredible. I loved the way it was so obvious that God was the one doing the work—there was no way this could have happened through human means.
The story of the civil war in Burma was quite interesting, although awful, too. I had heard little bits about it, and a few years ago met some refugees who had spent many years in the refugee camps that Ye Win and his family came out of. I found it very interesting to read the full story of the Karen and how they tried—and are still trying—to survive. The authors have done a masterful job of weaving two stories together into one cohesive whole, showing the finger of God at work.
I received a free ecopy of this book and chose to write a review.
WARNING: The war in Burma is mentioned a few times.
Reading Independently—Ages 15 and Above, Adults