Beth and Jay had a stirring in their hearts. They were well off but felt empty. They no longer wanted their life to be about themselves. They decided on a mission trip and went to Kenya in July of 2007. The experience reignited a passion within them. “We challenge you to pursue your dream,” they write, “identify your passion, and use your God given talents to serve others.” (20)
They considered a change in lifestyle, selling their home and traveling in an RV. Jay's profitable work as a mortgage broker began to dry up. Despite the “what ifs,” they decide to go forward.
They take a break from the current events and tell their stories. Beth's life was one of rebellion and trouble. She became a Christian while dating a fellow who brought her to church. She and Jay dated for a year and a half and had pre-marital sex (they write quite a bit on this). They married. Beth suffered depression after their third child and tried to commit suicide (Jay rescued her just in time). She took five years to rebuild her life and points out that God is able to take broken lives and make something beautiful with them.
After they returned from Africa Jay and Beth went to see the work being done for the homeless living under a bridge in Atlanta. That experience convinced them that traveling the country serving others was what they were supposed to do and they put their house up for sale. It took six months. They bought a forty foot RV with an office in the back as Jay would continue his work.
They started on their tour, naming it the ARK Tour (Acts of Random Kindness). They went to Florida and played in the sand. They worked on the purpose of their trip: “to live simply, to love our family, and to serve others. Now all we had to do was figure out how to make this new life of service happen.” (71)
They went to New Orleans and were astonished at the devastation that still existed. They did not do any acts of kindness there, however. They went other places, spent a month in Denver. Jay's work dried up and money was tight. (Jay's work eventually dries up altogether and we never really know how they continue to fund their travels.)
As the book continues, they tell where they went and what they did. (They don't mention actually serving others until page 80.) Generally, they would go to a church, park the RV in their parking lot, stay for a while and help with some ministry.
At one point they were going to form an association with Crazy Love. They had heard Chan speak and a friend had suggested the possible association. That idea fell through, however.
They had an article written about them in the Ladies' Home Journal and later a segment on Good Morning America.
Jay eventually came up with the idea of Passion to Action, or P2A, as their ministry is now known. They ride around the country in their RV, homeschooling their kids, helping inspire others to ministry.
I really have mixed emotions about this book. Initially, they seem to receive much more from others than they give. People let them stay in their homes or basements, sometimes weeks at a time. Others offered their driveways with full (complimentary) hookups. The family was given a free hot air balloon ride. They got free t-shirts printed for them. They were given food and meals. They took a family ski vacation – which they could do because people were letting them stay in their basement, free. They were given two days of skiing free with a free day of lessons for the kids. They got their RV generator repaired for free. It was arranged for them to stay in an upscale RV park, for free. They were taken boating. They received free marketing and design work (worth $25,000 to $30,000) for their P2A ministry.
(Part of me says, who wouldn't like to travel the country in an RV, staying for free in parking lots and people's homes, occasionally helping a church with their homeless ministry, getting free balloon rides, ski lessons, etc.?)
Some things just seem a bit strange to me. For example, at one point their son needed a microscope for his biology class. They did not have the money so a high school biology teacher gave them a used one from the school. A few weeks later, however, Beth has the money, I guess, to fly to her ailing father. She flew back to her husband and kids a week later. (134-135) She says she went back to see her dad more times. So, no money for a microscope but money for several flights?
Some parts of the book could certainly have been left out. They spend some time explaining the dumping of the “grey” and “black” waters. They share dumb driving experiences. Jay writes about getting rid of mice in the RV.
The “service” they do is usually helping at homeless missions, things like that. They would go to a church, get free parking with someone, then help in the ministries the church was already doing, such as helping one church providing a weekly meal to racetrack workers. Another example is serving lunch and ice cream at a rescue mission, playing with the kids. It seems to me that these are the kinds of ministries people in the church who work at jobs full time do on the weekends. (I guess I don't think their "service to others" was anything other than what most Christians do anyway.)
Interestingly enough, they ended 2009 exhausted. They were going at a pace too fast. (143) (Really!)
While I am not very impressed with this book, it does have two strengths. The first is the stories Jay and Beth tell about other people sacrificing their own lives to benefit others. One example is the couple, Gerald and Liesa, who sold their upscale home and moved to the “war zone” of Albuquerque.
The other strength is that Jay finally figured out their mission. As late as August of 2009, when they were asked what their mission was, Jay responded, “We're still trying to clarify that...” (137) Near the end of the book, when they took off for California, they write, “Our mission this time wasn't just to serve those who are in need, but to inspire others to do the same. We felt equipped to empower those we inspired with tools to help them effectively serve, and we were excited to help people discover their own passion and put it into action to serve others.” (156) Jay says of himself, I am a deeply passionate person who loves to activate and mobilize others to serve those in need.” (125) And that seems to be the strength of this ministry, not doing great things themselves but motivating others to do so. “We encourage you to see how God empowers you to serve others with dignity and discover what your passion is and how uniquely gifted you are.” (166)
You can go to their website to see what they are up to: www.Passiontoaction.org.
Guideposts, 172 pages.
I received an egalley of this book for the purpose of this review.