A Biography of Heather Reynolds
Dale le Vack
Earlier this year, in Faith for Life magazine, I asked a simple question: why are we more shocked by 150,000 people dying in one day in a tsunami than we are by 150,000 people dying in 5 days from preventable causes?
This book forces me to ask that question again. It tells a remarkable story of one woman's determination and courage as she has set out to do everything in her power to fight one of those preventable causes: the tragedy of AIDS in South Africa. More specifically, to fight on behalf of children orphaned by AIDS in KwaZulu-Natal. And this isn't campaigning from a distance: this is being in the thick of it, faith in action, living the incarnation.
Christian biographies can either be extremely tedious or inspirational. This is definitely the latter and if you've ever asked yourself whether one person can really make a difference, you should read this book. The answer is a resounding yes, especially when that person manages — as Heather Reynolds has done — to draw others in.
Part 1, chapters 1-6, sets the scene, describing simply and straightforwardly examples of the situations that Heather and the team working with her encounter on a daily basis: children dying. Children whose parents and/or other family members have either died — more often than not due to AIDS related illness — or been murdered. It's grim reading and if it doesn't break your heart presumably that's because you've got a heart of stone. Yet in the midst of all the trauma and death, there's a beacon of light and hope shining: God's Golden Acre, a place of refuge and safety, where those who are incurable can die with dignity, embraced with love, where those who survive are clothed and fed and can gain an education.
Part 2, chapters 7-17, give a resumé of Heather's life story before God's Golden Acre. Heather was brought up in South Africa during the apartheid years, but spent her childhood among the Zulus whilst her parents ran a couple of trading stations: for her there was never any question of white supremacy — people were people, whatever the colour of their skin. Inevitably this created tensions with the authorities and others whose attitudes were less enlightened. We also learn of her first disastrous marriage, a failed suicide attempt, a rediscovery of faith, and the circumstances leading up to her marriage to Patrick, her husband and soulmate today.
Part 3, chapters 18-43, take us from the establishment of God's Golden Acre through to the present day. It's been far from easy, facing misunderstanding, hostility and outright hatred. There have been times of almost complete despair with looming bankruptcy and times of incredible provision with support from media personalities such as Oprah Winfrey and Dave Richards, chairman of the UK Premier League.
Through it all, Heather has learned "the power of prayer, the power of love, and the incredible healing power of compassion and forgiveness." (p.319). But the story is far from over: it's our decision — yours and mine — where it goes from here. Heather herself deserves to take the last words:
As a global nation let us take responsibility: what we invest in the future of a child, we invest in the future of our world. (p.319)
Phil Groom, May 2005
Phil Groom is this site's Webmaster and Reviews Editor. He's a freelance blogger, writer and web developer who spent ten years managing the bookshop at London School of Theology alongside eight years writing web reviews for Christian Marketplace magazine before he came to his senses and went independent. You can find him on facebook or follow him on twitter @notbovvered.Monarch | Order from www.christianbookshops.org | Order from St Andrew's Bookshops
|Reviews Index | EU Bookshops | UK Bookshops|