It isn’t often that a new voice comes along in publishing that haunts you with its raw, broken beauty and grace. Many nonfiction titles in the inspirational market fail to consider what it means to be a Christian in the midst of cultural challenges and suffering of the kind most Americans have never experienced.
That is why I was so captivated by the powerful, honest memoir, Catching Ricebirds, a Story of Letting Vengeance Go, by Liberian author Marcus Doe (Hendrickson Publishers Marketing, May 2016). In it the author shares his painful journey growing up in Liberia, West Africa, during the bloody 1990 coup to oust President Samuel Doe, who shared his family’s last name. While not related to the president, Doe’s father, Roosevelt Doe, worked for the government in security when rebels overtook the capital of Monrovia, massacring opponents and those from alternate ethnic tribes. Marcus, 11, and his family were forced to flee.
“I have learned throughout my life that sometimes our deepest disappointments and darkest days are when God speaks to us most clearly,” Doe writes in the introduction to his riveting 270-page memoir. “In times of great and desperate confusion, God taps on our hearts. In our loneliest nights He whispers clearly. During our quietest walks, God pulls aside the curtains of our hidden hearts. He says, “Come ye faithful servant and I will give you rest, cast your burdens unto me and I will lift you up.”
These beautiful words set the tone and trajectory for Doe’s story, which follows his youth as the youngest child in a large family; losing his mother to illness; fleeing for his life during the coup; escaping starvation and slaughter; and yearning for revenge.
After immigrating to Ghana in late 1990 and eventually to Boston, Doe doubted God’s existence. “How could I trust a God who left me with nothing? I tried to pray, but couldn’t muster up the words, the faith. If God existed, he definitely did not like me.” Consumed with plans to torture and kill the man who killed his father, Doe instead learned to forgive, in part through several summers working as a counselor at a Jewish summer camp in Maine.
Not since Corrie Ten Boom, author of the World War II memoir, The Hiding Place, who forgave her Nazi captors and shared God’s healing love with those who had murdered millions, has such a powerful and timely story of mercy come to light. “There is no hell so deep,” Ten Boom wrote, “that God’s love is not deeper still.”
Doe proves this once again. “I’d learned firsthand,” he writes, “…that Christ is the only hope for those who’ve been so hurt and for those who have hurt others. God is the only way I’ve been healed, in the past and even now. God had given me this gift to pass on to others.”
Through his powerful story, Doe provides a glimpse into the hardship and sorrow shared by many refugee families and points to the hope and healing found through Christ. This month he is graduating from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts and plans to pursue reconciliation efforts with those hurt by Liberia’s war. For more about the author, visit his web site: http://www.catchingricebirds.com