Wednesday, February 25, 2015

‘They Call Me Dad’ (Book Review)

The Iron Curtain has fallen, but few “Westerners” are aware of the economic and social plight plaguing former-communist counties. The new governments of Romania and Moldova find themselves unable to feed, cloth, and care for thousands of orphans. When preacher Philip Cameron and his father decide to investigate, they are horrified by the children’s terrible living conditions: thin clothing, little food, and no heat in the freezing winters. Cameron immediately sets to work on raising money, supplies, and awareness, remodeling orphanages, and building group homes to keep girls in school and off the streets where sex traffickers lurk. As the ministry Stella’s Voice grows, many lives are saved both physically and spiritually.

It’s been over twenty years since Cameron first took that impromptu trip to Romania. Now he’s sharing his story in They Call Me Dad: How God Uses the Unlikely to Save the Discarded (HigherLife Publishing, 2014). Part informational and part memoir, this book shows how difficult it can be trying to minister in a foreign country, but it also shows how rewarding it was for Cameron personally. In addition, it reads more smoothly than your typical self-published work, so you don’t have to be apologetic when recommending it your family and friends.

It’s not all smiles though. You might say I love the mission and hate the book. Okay, “hate” is far too strong of a word. Let’s just say I was disappointed from the onset. While it’s undisputable that Cameron has achieved a lot in ministering to Eastern European orphans, he doesn’t exactly come across as caring in They Call Me Dad. To be honest, words like weak, condescending, irresponsible, and judgmental come to mind.

Reading the book, I saw a man who let his father guilt-trip him into neglecting his family and ministry to take an ill-timed trip to a country about which he knew nothing, to solve a problem about which he knew nothing. I saw money and in-kind donations wasted, stolen, and misdirected because Cameron wouldn’t stand still long enough to do careful research and planning. I saw how a man’s obsession – yes, obsession – with adopting a child he’d met once cause him to act before making the necessary legal arrangements and bully the mother into surrendering guardianship. I saw him criticize, rather than try to help, the poor starving residents of an underdeveloped country for contemplating aborting their pregnancies, living in filthy surroundings, eating spoiled food, stealing his money, and claiming supplies donated for others.

If the author’s intent was to show how God still used him in spite of his bad attitude towards the people and his blundering management…well, then maybe his writing needs some improvement. Again, I understand that Philip Cameron has done amazing things for the orphans of Romania and Moldova. More power to him for that. But I thought that the book was more self-congratulatory than anything. A mature approach, befitting his age and experience, would’ve been more self-critical.

Stella's Voice from Stella's Voice on Vimeo.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.