David Edgren is an experienced storyteller and author of eight books, who currently works as a school chaplain in the Yarra Valley, Victoria. He talked about his most recent book and what he learned on the journey.
What was the story that led to your new book?
Education Care Projects Kenya (ECPK) founder Carole Platt invited me to join her for a trip to Kenya to tell Bible stories to rescued orphan children. I offered to write a book about the trip—and she said yes!
When did you travel to Kenya? And give us a quick overview of the itinerary.
We left on Christmas day, 2017, and stayed for three weeks. While in Kenya, we spent one week living in a Maasai community and one week in Eldoret at Hands of Hope Academy. I did a week of Bible storytelling in each place. The rest of the time was spent in travel and two days seeing the “big five” African animals in Maasai Mara!
Tell us briefly about the work of Education Care Projects Kenya.
ECPK rescues children from slavery—including many types of abuse too confronting to mention here—and places them in Adventist schools where they receive a wholistic education and are cared for with love and support. There are no paid employees at ECPK. Every cent donated goes directly to the education of children in Kenya.
How is this book supporting the work of Education Care Projects Kenya?
I have gifted the book and all money it generates to ECPK. All book sales I make, go to ECPK. I also send ECPK my royalty cheques from sales in Adventist bookstores. Every time a copy of One Trip to Kenya sells, school children in Kenya are blessed!
You have visited a number of churches to share these stories and the book. What responses have you received?
More than $10,000 has been donated by the members of the 19 churches I visited in 2019! I gifted any donor with a book. One child came up with a $2 coin and said, “This is all I have.” I handed her a book and said, “Thank you!” At other churches (yes, more than one!) rolls of $50 notes were pressed into my hand by people who could.
Why does storytelling matter when considering issues such as international poverty, education and aid?
Storytelling changes the way we perceive reality. Brain scientists tell us that a story is as powerful as experience if you engage with the story emotionally. All memory is, essentially, stored and triggered through emotion. A believed story affects response in the same way as experience.
We can’t all go to every hurting place on the planet. But we can care enough to listen to the stories of those who have. And when a story causes our heart strings to tighten, we should allow ourselves to resonate at that new frequency. So storytellers keep changing the world, one story at a time.
As you reflect back on the journey, what is the most significant thing that still resonates in your mind or heart?
God is love and He especially loves children. Orphans are the least of “the least of these”. In Matthew 25, Jesus says He takes personally what we do and do not do for the poor. In Matthew 18, He answers the question, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” by calling a child to Himself. In the next chapter, Jesus says, “The Kingdom belongs to such as these.”
Someone “such as” a child is a person in a constant state of suspended disbelief. They let the stories in. And they believe. And they act in faith on those beliefs. And then they call the rest of us to believe—and they do it, as Jesus did, with a story.
One Trip to Kenya and other books by David Edgren are available from Adventist bookshops in Australia and New Zealand or online.