Provocative! Inspiring! Emotional! Powerful! Zion’s Readers were fortunate to encounter a book in April that truly deserves all these descriptions. In April we read “Same Kind of Different As Me” by Ron Hall and Denver Moore. Published in 2006, this factual recounting of events from 2000, which tells the story of possibly the most unlikely of friends, moved all of us. Ron is a man of humble beginnings who, through luck and hard work, becomes a fine art broker. He mixes with the movers and shakers ofTexas, sometimes to the detriment of his family life. Denveris a man shaped by early years of abject poverty and loss in ruralLouisiana, such painful formative years so matter-of-factly described that it was a shock to our Readers’ senses. He has traded that place for the mean streets of Fort Worth, Texas, and his path crosses Ron’s at the Union Gospel Mission where Ron’s wife, Debbie, has felt called to have both her and Ron become involved. Denvereats meals there, but keeps interaction with others to little or none, having surrounded himself with protective walls of distrust. Debbie, an extremely faithful, patient, and tenacious woman, decides to break through those walls and, at the same time, widen her husband’s spiritual horizons.
The story of that journey to trust and friendship is told by both men in alternating chapters and voices. Zion’s Readers could see the ambivalence and sincerity in the back-and-forth, advance and retreat of this developing relationship. Denver’s understanding of the true meaning of friendship as opposed to “catch and release” acquaintanceship made our Readers begin to notice the complexity of this man. Another startling revelation was how illiterate, homelessDenvercould have so thorough an understanding of various scripture passages. Although he had a steady diet of revival style preaching as a child and sermons before meals at the Mission, it seemed to our Readers that Denver’s lack of possessions and separation from the demands of civilization gave him a simple, open approach to scripture; an acceptance of the mysterious that is foreign to those of us embroiled in the hustle and bustle of our daily lives. Denverknew how to focus when he prayed and expected God to talk to him. And often,Denverwould bring Ron messages from God, messages that made Ron aware of this mystical connection. . . including a warning that something bad was going to happen to Debbie.
Debbie is stricken with a terminal disease, and how she, Ron, their children, andDenverdeal with her declining health and their relationships with each other and God kept our Readers on the edge of their seats. Tears flowed and many of us stayed up late into the night to finish this book – just could not put it down. These characters were real people on the book’s pages, flawed, in life and death situations, and we could relate to their thoughts and emotions. We struggled with the eternal questions “Why do bad things happen to good people?”, “Would God cause something bad to happen to someone in order to bring something good from it?” We were stunned by the “brutal stupidity and banality of racism and evil” still present in some segments of society. We consideredDenver’s opinion that “Our limitation is God’s opportunity” and realized, as Pastor Kim stated, that we often become too self-sufficient and leave no room for God’s grace.
As we Readers came to appreciateDenver’s and Ron’s strong, although different, connections to God, we pondered whether the distraction of civilization’s trappings and our search for the rational somehow keep us from a connection to the sacred and mystical. Denver’s visitation from Debbie after her death was discussed and compared to some Readers’ similar experiences. Are humans able to straddle two worlds and exist simultaneously in both? From the death bed experiences of some congregation members recounted to us, the answer is yes. As the book related how so many people from various stages of life were gathered in prayer for Debbie, we wondered how we, as a church community, can grow together in prayer? How do we break down our own walls of distrust to find the security of being known without barriers and the trust it takes in order to have our relationships flourish in our families, in our communities, in our ministries, in our connection to God? Are we willing to risk the pain of that kind of intimacy? The opinion was offered that, in contrast to the strength that is valued in the world, we need to rediscover the vulnerability and openness that we had as children. It is not an easy task. As Ron Hall pointed out, he is still struggling with all these questions, but he is secure in his belief that God understands his feelings.
As Zion’s Readers delved into all these topics, we shared experiences and feelings, emotions and skepticism. Through it all, we became closer and realized the blessings that this Book Club has brought to us. We thoroughly recommend “Same Kind of Different as Me” to all readers, with seven of us giving it two thumbs up and one of us giving it one thumb up. It is a book that will touch your soul.