Writer, editor, stumbler after Jesus

Saving Oliver

THE LATEST ROYALTY statement for one of my two-dozen-plus books hasn’t secured my retirement, but the recent announcement of the $1.71 earned by two sales of digital editions of Street Children in the last period made me smile.

It’s more than 25 years since that book first appeared. While all the different writing projects I have been involved with through the years have been important to me, this one was especially close to my heart.

Subtitled The Tragedy and Challenge of the World’s Millions of Modern-Day Oliver Twists, it reported on the plight of the many abandoned and abused children and young people around the globe, calling on the church to recognize and embrace them as a missionary calling.

The subtitle alluded to a special sense of God’s hand on the project. As I prepared for the first of several overseas trips that took me to parts of the world where kids lived openly on the streets, I felt impressed to read Charles Dickens’ classic story of the Victorian urchin who famously asked, “Can I have some more?”

I was astonished to find a darker, grimmer original tale, very different from the romanticized version I was familiar with from the movies. I learned that Dickens presented Fagin, the leader of the street gang Oliver becomes part of, as a symbol for the devil. At one point in the story Oliver is rescued and taken to a new life in the countryside. There, one day Fagin’s face mysteriously appears at the window, calling Oliver to return to him.

Days after reading this passage, I found myself in Brazil, talking with one of the leaders of a Youth With A Mission outreach to street kids. He spoke of how hard it was for the kids to break from their past. And how some of those who came to the ministry’s rehab house would tell of seeing a mysterious face at the window, beckoning them to return to the streets.

In reading Oliver Twist, I also discovered that Oliver is actually the illegitimate heir to a fortune, being denied his rightful inheritance by Fagin and his gang. The spiritual parallels between Dickens’ story and the realities I encountered were remarkable.

That fictitious storyline of the battle for a young boy continues to be played out in real life to this day. Forces of darkness conspire to keep so many street kids from their rightful inheritance of love, security and hope. So I’m glad that—even if it’s just a few—people continue to get to read what I learned on the streets with the children.

Street Children is available in digital format here, with all author royalties going to street kid ministries.

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