The Christian friends who gave me Passport Through Darkness warned, “This is a missionary book you can’t put down!” Having read it, I would agree. Before reading it, I only knew it was the story of a Christian woman from Alabama who began an orphanage in Sudan, but I soon learned that was only the tip of the iceberg.
About a decade ago, Kimberly Smith, along with her husband Milton, started to realize that her corporate executive job, their affluent lifestyle, and their large blended family were not all there was to life. As a result, when Milton discovered the need for missionary leadership in a student ministry at the University of Salamanca, they stepped out in faith to move to Spain with their two youngest teenage children, the only ones still living at home.
While in Salamanca, they also developed a street ministry in which their university students could get involved. This led to the “accidental” discovery of sexual abuse occurring in a small orphanage in Portugal that housed 19 African children. Through their involvement in exposing this scandal, Kimberly and Milton began to learn more about the atrocities of human trafficking and moved to Romania and eventually to Sudan to help some of the most vulnerable children in the world.
Because of serious health issues, Milton’s role was mostly confined to the US-based administration of their ministry, Make Way Partners, from their home in Alabama. This left the travel and hands-on leadership of the ministry to Kimberly.
Not only did Kimberly have some incredibly challenging adventures in her travels in the Darfur area of Sudan, but during this time she discovered some deep darkness in her own heart. The book is mostly about the physical, emotional, and spiritual challenges and eventual growth in the life of this very determined woman. As the book cover indicates, “It was in that broken place that a self-centered life was transformed into an international effort to save thousands from modern-day slavery, persecution, disease, and genocide.”
I won’t reveal to you some of the darkest secrets of this book, but I guarantee you will be held captive by them. What makes Passport Through Darkness most fascinating to me is Kimberly’s openness about her own fears, guilt and shame, blunders in starting a new ministry, and challenges in maintaining a close marriage with Milton from a distance of thousands of miles.
While reading the book, I scratched my head at times as to why Kimberly, with no training in medicine, development work, or missiology, with no knowledge of African culture, and no experience in running an orphanage, would launch out almost completely on her own in such a challenging venture in one of the poorest and most brutal parts of the world. Nevertheless, I could never doubt her faith in God, her passion, and her courage. Oh, one more lesson – this book reminded me again that if we just “play it safe” in life, little of real consequence will be initiated and accomplished.
What to expect
Passport Through Darkness will expose you to human trafficking and other atrocities that are incredibly hard to read about. In addition, it will break your heart to read of the initial indifference of American Christians to the plight of these people when Kimberly began to recount her stories in the churches.
Most of all you will be touched deeply by a woman who put her life on the line for what she believed was God’s unique calling for her. It may even challenge you to step outside your own comfort zone to attempt what God is nudging you to do.