Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Book Review: 50 Children by Steven Pressman

50 Children by Steven Pressman

Gil and Eleanor Kraus and their two children enjoyed the good life, thanks to Gil’s work as a Philadelphia lawyer. When he came home one January evening in 1939 and announced he was invited to become part of an effort by a Jewish fraternal organization to rescue children from Nazi Germany, his wife was dismayed, to say the least. They were Jewish. Who would want to travel to Germany when Jews were doing their best to escape from there? But Gil was undeterred and cautiously moved forward.

50 Children recounts the countless setbacks and rejections for assistance from government officials and from friends and associates. But by persevering Gil found people and ways to support his mission and maneuvered his way through immigration limitations by acquiring unused visas for the children. Eleanor herself joined in the effort and secured 50 families as sponsors for children, should their mission succeed. And it did. The couple rescued from Nazi-controlled Vienna and brought to America the single largest group of unaccompanied children just before World War 2 began. There is no doubt they saved children’s lives.


Gil and Eleanor Kraus were maternal grandparents to author Steve Pressman’s wife, Liz. She had kept her grandmother’s typed manuscript describing the rescue, which formed the basis for this book. 50 Children includes a photo section as well as a synopsis of the lives of many of the children. It also includes an Afterword, Notes and an Index. An interesting read and an important one that inspires us to do what we can when faced with unthinkable and unacceptable circumstances.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Book Review: The Circle Maker

The Circle Maker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears

If you’re looking for a book to refresh your prayer life, this is the book for you. In three main sections (circles)—Dream Big, Pray Hard and Think Long--author Mark Batterson gets you thinking about the content of your own prayers and then suggests ways to enliven your prayer life.

The book opens with a legend about a man named Honi who lived in the first century B. C. During a time of drought, he prayed for rain in the midst of a circle he had drawn, swearing he would not move from the circle until the rains came. And the rains came down.

Woven throughout the book is how Batterson, a pastor, dreamed of establishing a church in Washington D. C. and how he circled the area praying for a specific location. Today the National Community Church is recognized as one of America’s 25 most innovative churches.

Batterson suggests circling scripture verses as you read that will serve as promises to reinforce prayer requests. He helps you draw prayer circles around your family by choosing words that capture your vision for loved ones and regularly incorporating them into your prayers. He reminds readers that God is not on our time table, so it’s important to keep praying year after year, as long as necessary. Some of our prayers may bear fruit long after we’re gone.

Written in a conversational style, the book is easy to read and entertaining. I notice some reviewers fault Batterson for promoting a “name it and claim it” approach. I did not find that to be true. The book motivated me to be more deliberate in thinking through exactly what I am praying for and staying faithful to the task.