Before I started reading A Big Life by Peter Hone, I encountered the book of Luke in a new way. Reading the first four verses reminded me that Luke was like an investigative reporter writing on the life of Jesus, and Acts, his sequel, was like field reporting on the growing church and the life and ministry of the apostle Paul. Hone’s book reminds me of Luke’s biblical books.
In A Big Life, he tells the story of a ministry that touches thousands of lives in India, and it began with one man on a mission. John Heerema is an ordinary man who suffered extraordinarily as youth. Born with club feet, he endured the pain of surgeries and braces and bullying. He let his relationship with the Lord grow cold in his college and post-college days. Later, his life (and his wife’s) would be changed and together they began seeking the heart of God. They began to be exposed to missions work and John eventually was part of a group that led baseball clinics in Iran. The door to Iran closed after 9/11 but another door opened to India.
The Big Life story is a big story filled with numerous accounts of Indians giving their lives to Christ, of opportunities for the Gospel to spread in Iran, India and Nepal. The stories are dramatic and moving. John and his wife Kathy’s obedience to the Lord is humbling and challenging. They left lucrative jobs to devote more time to missions. They sold their house and downsized. They lived in faith, trusting God to financially provide for the ministry even when that seemed impossible.
The first chunk of the book is an overview of John’s life and how the ministry began and introduces us to the partners in the ministry, such as Benjamin, a gifted Indian preacher who became the first employee of Big Life. It’s compelling and well-told. I was surprised at how quickly I read the book. The second part of the book is the author’s first-person tale of a trip to India to meet some of the people involved in the ministry. Overall, it reads like a fly-on-the-wall account, even though it’s clear that the author conducted interviews and weaved the story together. At times I felt some of the observations and details were unnecessary, but with the amount of information to pick from, I think he did a good job of not letting the story get bogged down.
I don’t know if the Big Life story will become a Christian household name, but it’s an inspiring journey and gives hope that the Gospel is, indeed, changing lives in remote parts of the world.
And it’s encouraging and challenging to read what can happen when one ordinary person lets God have control.
In exchange for this review, I received a free copy of the book from the publisher.