When I got this book, I did not know how it would touch my heart and mind. This raw testimony of a daughter of an American missionary in Columbia, digs deeply into the pain of her past, the anger and hurt she associated with God. The abuse came from a man who was a minister of God’s word, and when Shelley recounts her anger, her hatred for Christianity, and how she became a bitter atheist, you will sort of understand. But when you read the story of her conversion to a intercessor and prayer warrior for Jesus, I don’t know about you, but I was brought to tears. You can read through her voice in the book, the horrific pain she suffered, the amazing forgiveness she found in her heart from the pain, but also how she learned that Jesus is the Righteous Judge.
I found myself in tears, and praying as I read this book. While I read this book, I found myself longing for the power of a friendship with Jesus once again and this book is one I would highly recommend. It shows in a simple story, of redemption of a strong atheist, how Jesus can take a hardened heart and change it, when Christians listen and obey about about interceding for those who are hardened against him.
This is not your typical reading, and some of you may think that it does not apply to you, you have not been abused, your life has not been that bad. But this book will touch you as well, it will speak to you about learning what a real relationship with the Lord is, beyond what you could have thought. I highly recommend this book!- Martha
It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Charisma House (September 6, 2011)
***Special thanks to Kim Jones | Publicity Coordinator, Charisma House | Charisma Media for sending me a review copy.***
Shelley Hundley is one of the original interns who helped launch the International House of Prayer under Mike Bickle’s leadership and has been on the senior leadership of IHOP-KC since its inception in 1999. She currently serves as vice president of training at International House of Prayer University in Kansas City, Missouri. Fluent in four languages, Shelley is passionate to see the nations of the earth prepared for the return of Christ and to see 24/7 prayers for justice combined with 24/7 works of justice.
Visit the author’s website.
The daughter of American missionaries, Shelley Hundley was born in Colombia, and grew up on the campus of a seminary that trained leaders to serve in what was one of the most violent nations in the world. After suffering abuse at the hands of a minister in the community, she turns from God—angry and confused that He could allow this to happen.
In A Cry for Justice, Hundley uses her story as a backdrop to show how she found healing from the pain, guilt, and shame of the abuse she endured as a child and how she came to know Jesus in a new way—as a righteous judge who fights for His people and takes upon Himself the burden of our injustices and pain.
The story of Shelley Hundley’s journey from bitter atheist to wholehearted lover of God is unique. Yet what she learned on this journey is relevant to every person who has ever been hurt and has silently wondered, “Who will fight for me? Who can make the wrong things right?”
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Charisma House (September 6, 2011)
AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:
When I entered college at the age of seventeen, I was an avowed atheist, and I quickly distinguished
myself on campus as one of the most hostile and defiant people to the message of Jesus. This was no small thing because I attended a Christian college where the gospel was preached often, including at mandatory chapel services. I wasn’t always this way. The daughter of American missionaries, I was born in Medellín, Colombia, and reared on the campus of a seminary that trained leaders to serve in what was one of the most violent nations in the world. Murder and kidnapping were commonplace, and it was hardly unusual for my family to hear bomb blasts and gun fights on our street. In fact, I grew up thinking this was normal. I went to bed each night to the sound of attack dogs unleashed at 10:00 p.m. to prevent thieves or hired assassins from breaking into the seminary and killing or kidnapping one of the many missionary families who lived there. I knew of many believers who lost their lives when guerrillas burst into church services and sprayed bullets in the sanctuary. Even at a young age, I knew what it meant to suffer for Jesus. I saw people do it almost every day.
Although my childhood was anything but easy, I never resented living in Colombia. I thought Medellín was a beautiful place. It had perpetual springlike weather that made the brilliant landscape seem to be always bursting with life. From my perspective as a child, the Cordillera mountains seemed to wrap themselves around Colombia’s second largest city like a warm hug, protecting the fruit trees, wild orchids, and South American wildlife that thrive in its lush valley.
When I was a little girl, I often would slip out to the front porch in the evenings just to take in Medellín’s beauty. As sunlight fled and darkness took its watch, the city lights flickered across the sky like a magic show, climbing the sides of the mountains and then spreading out in every direction. The beauty and safety I felt as I looked at the mountains never meshed with the terror, violence, and death that shrouded the city and gripped its inhabitants with fear.
A Climate of Fear
Everyone seemed to have the same nagging yet unspoken question, “How long?” How long will the violence continue? How long until the next person disappears? How long before the guerrillas spill more innocent blood in the streets? No one said this out loud, but no one had to. It was in the eyes of every Colombian and anyone who had lived in the nation long enough to be infected by this contagious feeling of dread. Violence was as constant in Colombia as sunrise and sunset. With the advent of the drug years in the 1980s, Colombia fell into a downward spiral of political chaos and staggering suffering. A relentless underground cocaine industry and a vicious hierarchy of drug lords backed Marxist guerrillas. These rebels took over the Palace of Justice, which was the equivalent of the US Pentagon, as frightened Colombians watched the real-life drama unfold on their TV sets.
At the height of its “narco” (narcotics) years, Medellín was ruled by a drug lord named Pablo Escobar. He bred an environment of instability and unpredictability, and unspeakable bloodshed seemed to lurk around every corner. At any moment, a store or a restaurant might be blown up, massacring everyone in the vicinity, just because Pablo wanted to settle a score.
The danger was at such a height that my mom sat me down once before a visit to the dentist and reminded me not to give out any information about our family—what we did, where we lived, how many siblings I had. She told me, “Remember, Shelley, anyone could be a guerrilla, even people who seem nice. Nurses and dentists can be killers or kidnappers.” As a little girl, I struggled to understand what all of this meant. I pictured normal people taking off their masks and revealing their true identities as guerrillas, whatever those were. All I knew was that these guerrillas weren’t animals; they were men and women, sometimes even children, who had killed people we knew, kidnapping children and adults alike.
The other constant in Colombia was unspeakable poverty. Even as a child, I could never get over the despair and deprivation around me every day. I played soccer with neighborhood kids who had only one pair of shorts to their names and actually picked pockets to secure food and other essentials. This was so well known, the neighborhood children who came into the seminary were frisked on their way out to ensure they didn’t steal anything. This always seemed unfair to me at the time, but I understand it was necessary. Once, we missionary kids devised a scheme to turn the tables on the adults. We stole all the seminary professors’ wallets; then at the end of the day, when the neighborhood children were being frisked, we returned the wallets, grinning ear to ear.
As you may have guessed, I had an adventurous and sometimes mischievous personality. I caused a little trouble here and there for sneaking too much food to my friends or for refusing to wear new shoes or clothes because my playmates had none. But I also had fun despite my dangerous surroundings. I loved to play soccer with my big brothers, and I tried to keep up with all of their crazy stunts. The hills across this paradise were great for sliding, and bamboo groves made the best kids’ bows and arrows you could ever wish for. I especially liked to climb the mango trees. I’d carry my pocketknife in one hand and a little bag of lemon and salt in my pocket to dip my fresh mango slices in. Truth be told, I ruined my appetite for dinner many times with my mango eating, and it was a constant source of tension between my mom and me.
Medellín was like the times Charles Dickens described in A Tale of Two Cities: full of the best and the worst. It was a constant contradiction—good and bad, happy and sad, beauty and pain, paradise and poverty. I had the honor of being surrounded by missionaries who had left everything to serve the Lord and by radical Colombian believers who were ready to die for Christ. Many received the chance to do so. Some Colombian Christians were assassinated in the very churches where they worshiped because of their opposition to the Marxist guerrillas’ call for violent revolution.
Americans too were targeted for murder and kidnapping as retaliation for the arrests of Colombian drug lords who were extradited to the United States to be tried for their crimes. My brothers and I had the equivalent of “snow days” when the US Embassy would call to warn our parents that there were new death threats against Americans, so we couldn’t go outside or be near the windows.
Although violence hounded us, I considered Colombia my home. So when my parents decided to move to Indiana just before I entered eighth grade, I felt like the ground beneath me had been removed. My identity was deeply rooted in my cross-cultural experience in Medellín. I was a gringa-paisa, an American by blood but a Colombian by birth.
My family had lived in the United States for short periods of time, and the thought of leaving a nation and people I loved to move to a country whose rules I couldn’t seem to figure out pierced my twelve-year-old heart. I told my parents I wouldn’t leave and threatened to run away from home, but then reality began to sink in. The prospect of running away in a city where I would certainly be kidnapped didn’t seem to be a viable option either, so I begrudgingly surrendered to the move.
In Indiana, I trudged through middle and high school, dealing with major culture shock and struggling to make friends, though my gifts in music won me some friendships. Looking back I don’t think my experience in high school was much different from other American kids my age.
I visited my church’s youth group and attended their retreats. I even longed for intimacy with God at this young age, but I never sensed a breakthrough in my heart. I always felt like I was outside of God’s presence, incapable of even looking in. Real intimacy with Jesus always seemed just out of reach.
In the midst of all my normal teenage challenges, I was grappling with feelings of self-hatred that I just couldn’t shake. On many nights I would sit huddled in my bedroom just sobbing in the darkness because I couldn’t make the shame and self-loathing go away. Terror would overwhelm me, and images of sexual abuse would flood my mind.
I didn’t know how to process these thoughts. I didn’t want to believe they represented actual experiences, but something was deeply wrong in my heart. I saw a girl huddled on the floor of an old Spanish-style home in Medellín. She had long wavy hair that seemed to be a mixture of light brown, blonde, and amber. And her soft blue eyes were filled with too much sadness for a child of only eight. Hugging her knees tightly to her chest, she buried her face and cried because someone bigger and stronger had forced himself on her, and I had the sense it wasn’t the first time this had happened.
The girl sat there wishing she had never been born and fearing when the abuse might happen again. She sputtered out jumbled phrases amid her tears and heavy breathing, “Why does this keep happening? When will it all stop?” Her breathing got heavier and heavier until she felt as though her lungs were filled with heavy iron. Each second made her feel more and more anchored to the cold tile floor.
When the tears finally stopped, she felt a numb, empty feeling wash over her. She felt this every time she suffered abuse. This man hadn’t been the first. He was the third person who had done this to her, but this time had been the worst ever.
Sitting there, cold and limp, she shuddered as she remembered how he had threatened her so she wouldn’t tell. But she was past the point of trying to figure out a way to tell someone, to stop the horror from happening again. She felt doomed to serve out a sentence she was beginning to think she must deserve. She thought that surely the torment must have been her fault somehow.
She looked so small and alone there on the floor as she recalled the man’s threats. “If you tell people, they will all know how perverse you really are and how you bring this on yourself. Do you want everyone to see what you really are?” His words seemed to burn into her brain, and she couldn’t make them go away. “God must hate me so much, but I just don’t know why,” she told herself. She thought she might explode because the pain was so great. “I can’t make it. I can’t make it another day!”
Another wave of weeping and heavy breathing poured out of the girl’s exhausted little heart. She remembered how disgusted she felt when she heard the man preach at a church service where the congregation responded so wholeheartedly to his message about holiness. Hearing him preach made her feel ill, but she wondered if that was just further proof that she was only receiving what she deserved. “I must be going to hell!” the little girl muttered. “I must be worthless and horrible and perverse.”
Somehow I knew the girl had accepted Jesus in Sunday school but couldn’t seem to find her Savior amid the confusion, guilt, and despair. “I must be everything he says I am,” she told herself. “I must deserve it all.” She pounded her body in anger thinking that if her injuries were even more severe, maybe then someone would notice and stop this torture. Once I saw that she succeeded in getting away. She ran as far as she could, only to realize as she fled that she was in as much or more danger running down the streets of Colombia as she was in the hands of the abuser. Terrified and feeling forlorn, she climbed a tree to the highest branch she could reach and sat there and cried.
No matter where she turned there was nothing but torment. When she was finally able to quiet herself down a little bit, she could hear some of her friends playing outside the house. But she couldn’t go out to play. Instead, she sank into a daydream, imagining a day when someone would finally make the pain and abuse stop.
Even when I didn’t want to believe that I was this little girl, the images of her and the pain she felt were always there in the background. And no matter what was happening in my mind, I couldn’t deny the depression, loneliness, and feelings of worthlessness that plagued my heart even when everything in my teenage life seemed fine.
The images kept coming, and with them an unexplainable repulsion toward one minister our family knew well on the mission field. His face seemed ingrained in all of the images, but still I hoped the scenes of the little girl weren’t real. Tormented by these persistent, invasive thoughts, and even more so by the fear that I could never escape them, I retreated even further behind a wall of shame. I did what I could to bury it all.
Facing the Past
I carried these feelings of pain and hopelessness silently for years. Then one month before I left home for college, I had a conversation with someone who had been on the mission field with my family. That meeting changed everything. Completely unaware of the abuse I had suffered, this friend told me that a minister we had known in Colombia was found to have sexually abused children when we were living in Medellín. He listed several children’s names, and some of them were my dear friends.
This individual had no idea what was happening in my heart as he told me this. All of a sudden I felt as though I was outside of myself listening to what was being said. I felt cold all over and couldn’t control the tremors that came over my body. It seemed as though some dark and tempestuous evil had reached up from the ground and grabbed me by both legs.
The person who spoke with me thought I would be shocked by what was said, but I barely even looked surprised. I knew now without a doubt that all the images that had filled my mind and the pain that kept me up nights crying in terror were real. I kept a cold expression on my face because I wasn’t ready to say anything about my own experience. I listened and took in all the information the person offered and asked as many questions as I could without giving away my own story.
When we ended the conversation and I walked away, I began a terrifying journey into the past. In those next moments, I felt as if I was being encircled by hell’s fire. I felt fenced in on every side, and I couldn’t move. I couldn’t talk. The curtain that covered the thing I couldn’t name had suddenly been removed, and now I was forced to face the reality of those horrible images. My emotions were all over the place. On one hand I felt a sense of relief as I thought, “I am not the only one. It really was wrong what he did. It wasn’t my fault.” But on the other hand, a steely, silent sort of rage started rising up in me.
I felt anger that I had never before been able to feel for myself, and it began to rise up as I thought of all the others this man had abused. I was finally beginning to piece together what I had experienced, and I was 100 percent certain that this person had sexually abused me for several years when my family lived in Colombia. The excruciating pain I had locked away deep inside had suddenly been set free and was now moving throughout my being.
I was filled with a quiet but fierce indignation during the silent drive home. I looked out at the road, but all I saw were the events of my life replaying with a new, insidious, hellish fire illuminating the dark, sadistic series of events. This horror wasn’t imaginary; it was my real life and the reality of some of my dearest childhood friends. And not only had this man abused me, others had done so as well.
In the car, I felt a heaviness begin to overtake me. Then I had a thought. It seemed like a lofty and wise idea, an indisputable solution to a difficult equation. I felt as though I was rising above my situation and being caught up by a wiser, more definitive conclusion than any I had ever drawn. The evidence had presented itself. It all made sense now. None of what I had heard about Jesus was true. It was all a lie. There is no God. And I should kill myself.