If you’re looking for a powerful, gripping, TRUE story about the love of God and how he works in our lives, you’ll probably enjoy Same Kind of Different As Me: A Modern-Day Slave, an International Art Dealer, and the Unlikely Woman Who Bound Them Together by Ron Hall and Denver Moore. I’ve wanted to read this book for awhile, since we have a slight personal connection-the mother of a very close friend of mine is part of the story-so I was glad to see it offered for review by Thomas Nelson.
A true, inspirational story that crosses the barriers of society.
Meet Denver, raised under plantation-style slavery in Louisiana until he escaped “da Man”—in the 1960s—by hopping a train. Then, after another 18 homeless years on the streets of Dallas, God moved . . . and a godly woman named Deborah prayed, listened, and obeyed. Mountains began to move, beginning with her husband, Ron, an international art dealer accustomed to the world of Armani suits and art-collecting millionaires.
The story takes a devasting twist when Deborah discovers she has cancer. Will Deborah live or die? Will Denver learn to trust a white man? Will Ron embrace his dying wife’s vision to rescue Denver? Or will Denver be the one rescuing Ron?
There’s pain and laughter, doubt and tears, and in the end a triumphal story that readers will never forget.
The story centers around a couple, Ron and Deborah, who feel called to minister to the homeless, Denver, one of those they minister to, and the deep bond that forms between the three, especially after Deborah is tragically diagnosed with cancer.
The chapters alternate between Ron and Denver narrating. I must admit that at first I found this slightly annoying. The first several chapters tell about their respective childhoods and lives up to the point that they met, so it really jumps around quite a bit, from Ron’s upbringing in Texas to Denver’s in Louisiana and back again. I’m not sure there was really a better way to accomplish the goal of setting the story up, though. Once the storyline gets to the point where their paths converge, I didn’t mind the switching back and forth at all.
Denver’s circumstances were appalling to read about. Deborah’s attitude and willingness to forgive Ron’s selfishness and infidelity were humbling and inspiring to read. But once their paths all crossed at the Union Gospel Mission, I literally couldn’t put the book down! Reading how the walls Denver had built around himself came down in response to Deborah and Ron’s kindness and authenticity and about the bond that developed between them was inspiring to say the least. And, lest anyone think the impact was one-sided, listen to Ron’s words:
“In some ways, Denver became the professor and I the student as he shared his particular brand of spiritual insight and plain old country wisdom.” (p. 113)
Reading about the Union Gospel Mission was wonderful! Sister Bettie, who lives at the mission, is the mother of a close friend of mine and we’ve often heard stories about her work there and at the Lot, an empty lot in one of the worst neighborhoods in Fort Worth that she cleared out and fixed up, where she feeds 200 to 250 people a week and holds open-air services. Denver was one of her main helpers and often sang at her services.
The impact that Deborah’s (“Miss Debbie’s) illness had on both Ron and Denver was huge. It’s just incredible to see how God worked through this awful circumstance to bring about his purposes. As Denver says, “Our limitation is God’s opportunity”.
It seems that we try sometimes to make things too complicated in order to make God fit into our perception of what he should be. Through his extremely difficult life, God gave Denver incredible insight. His simple, matter-of-fact faith in response to difficult circumstances is an example to everyone, and the way God used him to minister to Ron during Deborah’s last days was truly incredible.
I’ll share a couple of quotes I found particularly powerful that demonstrate the impact Deborah’s illness had on her husband Ron and friend Denver.
Denver, speaking to Ron:
“I know you is hurtin and questionin God…I’m hurtin, too. And you is probably wonderin why a saint like Miss Debbie is in that room sufferin when all them street bums she ministered to seem to be gettin along just fine. Well, let me tell you somethin: God calls some good ones like Miss Debbie home so He can accomplish His purposes down here on the earth…I ain’t saying God can’t use bums and the addicts to work His will down here-He’s God, and He can sure ‘nough do anything He wants. I’m just tellin you He sometimes needs to call the good ones home to bring glory to His name. And I can tell you something else-I don’t care what no doctors say, Miss Debbie ain’t going nowhere till she finished the work here on earth that God gave her to do. You can take THAT to the bank.” (p.170)
Ron, on Denver:
“Then tears spilled from his eyes. I had never seen him weep. His tears flowed into the lines in his face like rivers of grief, and it hit me again how much he loved Deborah. I marveled at the intricate tapestry of God’s providence. Deborah, led by God to deliver mercy and compassion, had rescued this wreck of a man who, when she fell ill, in turn became her chief intercessor. For nineteen months, he prayed through the night until dawn and delivered the word of God to our door like a kind of heavenly paperboy. I was embarrassed that I once thought myself superior to him, stooping to sprinkle my wealth and wisdom into his lowly life.” (p. 183)
Of course, the impact extended far beyond just Ron and Denver…God used…and IS using…their story to powerfully affect the least fortunate among us and those who are called to help them.
I found Same Kind of Different As Me compelling, beautiful, and heart-wrenching. This amazing true story held my attention as well as any novel and deepened my appreciation for how intricately God weaves our every circumstance together for his purposes and glory. Amazing!
Highly recommended…but have the Kleenex box handy! I look forward to reading the sequel, What Difference Do It Make?: Stories of Hope and Healing.