I must say, it really feels like this year, the Lord is bringing the exact books into my life that I need to read.
I review books for Ambassador International, and when I received the monthly e-mail advertising which new books were available for review, I gave the message a quick scan and nearly deleted it, having determined that I had already committed to doing too much during that month.
Then an author’s name caught my eye.
Mthethwa. I know that surname, I thought.
I recognized it as a South African name, and having spent a decade living in that breathtaking country, my interest was piqued.
I made some quick clicks online and soon discovered that Holly is a white, American Christian who went to South Africa to do volunteer work and ended up marrying a black, South African man.
Now I was too interested to simply delete the e-mail from Ambassador. Instead, I let the arrow of my mouse hover over Hot Chocolate in June, and clicked “Request this Book.”
I’m so glad I did.
It turns out those few details were not the only things that Holly and I have in common.
In fact, in subsequent online conversations, she and I have decided that if we were to meet in person, we would be fast friends.
Holly starts her book by sharing the harrowing story of her father’s sudden onset of cancer and steady decline thereafter. I, too, have watched a beloved parent waste away to that awful, awful disease.
She had my eyes welled up in tears with her beautiful writing as she recounted the details of those long and emotional months.
Following her father’s death, Holly traveled to India and later to South Africa, both for short-term volunteer positions.
Having also visited India on a missions trip, I so enjoyed reading about Holly’s experience as she witnessed cultural differences, extreme poverty and the heavy veil of Hinduism during her trip. I could so relate to her own “Americanisms” as she shared the challenges and joys of ministering in a foreign context.
What I appreciated most about Hot Chocolate in June is Holly’s honesty as she fluctuates among a myriad of emotions and points in her spiritual walk. She openly shares the frustration of the Apostle Paul, who often “had the desire to do good, but could not carry it out” (Romans 7:18). She writes of her relational struggles and asks important questions of herself as she realizes, “I was willing to stick it out and persevere for all of the things that didn’t really matter in the larger scheme of things, but was I willing to do it for people, for relationship? … I realized this was going to require effort for the rest of my life ….”
Holly acknowledges the ongoing challenge as a Christian to die to self — yet she continues to trust the Lord and seek His will in her life.
During her brief stint working in an orphanage in South Africa, Holly met a man named Oscar. Prior to her trip, she had accepted a position to work as an auditor in Wyoming. Though her heartstrings were tugged to stay in South Africa, she fulfilled her commitment and moved by herself to a state in which she had never lived.
While she was there, her relationship with Oscar flourished, and to make a long story short, they got engaged and then married. Holly moved to South Africa, and as she described her initial challenges as an American in a foreign land, I found myself nodding my head, saying, “Yep. I totally get that. Mm-hmm. Me, too.”
I, too, have sipped hot chocolate in June, desperately trying to find internal warmth in the midst of a chilly S’African winter, with no indoor heating to be found.
As she wraps up this chapter of her story, Holly reflects upon how the Lord has shaped and molded her as she grasps her position in Christ.
This book was indeed a blessing to me as it allowed me to follow Holly’s journey thus far, and to clearly see the Lord at work in her life.
To learn more about this book, click here.
To connect with the author online, visit her at her blog or on Twitter @hollymthethwa
Please note: I received a free copy of this book from Ambassador International for review, and the opinions are my own.