I Am Awake:Book Study

I Am Awake:Book Study

“There are thousands and thousands of homeless children on the streets of Brazil. There is no way you can help them all.” No way you can help them all–those words have played over and over in my head for years. To me, they were fighting words. A challenge. A dare that made me want to say, “Don’t tell me what I can’t do. Don’t tell me I can’t make a difference. Don’t tell me I can’t change the world.” ~Noel Yeatts, Awake

Noel Yeatts
Image via Noel Yeatts

The Lucky One- Chapter 1

In the first chapter of Noel Yeatts book, Awake, she shares the story of Nildo, a homeless boy she and her sister befriended on the streets of Brazil. After buying him some clothes and a meal, the group Noel was traveling with was forced to move on quickly without Nildo. That night after collecting money from the group, they realized they had enough to provide care for him for at least 2 years. Nildo’s life would be forever changed. Clearly, Noel’s would be too.

Reading Nildo’s story, I can’t help but think I’d have done the same thing–al least,  I hope I would–
But I also know how overwhelming it can be when you’re staring down an issue that is massively bigger than yourself.

Extreme poverty is so much bigger than me. It’s not a stretch to understand why people assume that they cannot make a difference.

But what about Nildo–does one life changed make any real difference in the bigger picture? Are there less homeless starving children living on the streets of Brazil because of this one act?

Yes. At least one less. And that’s the point, ONE life changed matters.

Noel’s initial interaction with Nildo resembles what so many of us want to do.

We want to clothe and feed the poor and starving. However helpful that may be, that help is temporary.

In order to help those suffocating under the weight of poverty and affliction, we have to invest in them. Our good intentions alone aren’t usually enough to create lasting change.


Noel Yeatts
Image via Noel Yeatts

Comfortably Numb- Chapter 2

Noel says, “We want to change the world”, and I think this is generally true.

We all want to have an impact, to do something that lasts beyond ourselves. The problem for most of us is, we simply don’t know where to start.

The other question we must answer in order to truly make a difference, is: am I willing? 

Just because I want to do something, doesn’t mean I am willing to do it. Willing means work. Willing means risk and potential heartbreak, willing means commitment, investment, and generosity.

If I’m honest, I have to ask myself this every single day–am I willing?

Will I invest whatever resources I have to help make an impact or will I close my eyes again?

Margarita’s horrific story causes my belly to burn with righteous anger. To think of a child experiencing the things she did, and then struggling with infections and the various other trauma’s that she did, ought to be enough to fire anyone up.

But as upset as her story makes me, I discovered after reading it, how quickly I managed to put it out of my mind. Too quickly. Reading it again, I felt the heat burn again in my gut–but I wonder how long it will last.

Between my various daily tasks and activities, it’s all to easy to avoid thinking about stories like Margarita’s or Nildo. Sometimes, this avoidance is intentional, but I think most of the time, it’s a product of my environment.

If we chose, we can live our whole life so filled with these distractions that we never have to face–or be confronted with–real, desperate needs. ~Noel Yeatts, Awake

Most of us are blessed to live very removed from this type of suffering. As a result our sensibilities grow dull and we become lethargic to taking real action.

It doesn’t require much for me to become outraged at the various atrocities I read about in this book.

But how long will my outrage last? Is the fire in my belly enough to make me move out of my comfort zone into action? The outrage is easy, it’s in becoming active that I stall. As Noel writes, “I want to see the needs. I want to feel the needs. I want to touch them.”

After reading Noel’s book, I don’t have a lot of answers.


More than anything I am left asking myself a lot of questions–mainly, am I willing?

Are you?


Awake Book  This post is part of the book study for Noel Yeatts book, Awake: Doing A World Of Good One Person At A Time. You’re welcome to join us for this book study even if you haven’t read the book. Jump in in the comments and discuss it with us. 




  1. Oh, goodness! Kris, this post is so very good. My heart is convicted and stirred, again. And yiur words confirm so much to me right now. I’ve got so much to say. Hopefully, I’ll get the chance! Thank you for living your life so generously!

    1. Thanks, Michele. I felt like I should have some grand revelation or resolution but at the end of the day, I really just have so many questions, and so many things to discuss with God. I appreciate your encouragement to join this. I am praying God speaks to me and makes the answers plain.

  2. I too felt that flame of righteous anger while reading this book which filled me with a passion to act……and then I forgot. Distracted with laundry and dishes and littles to care for. My daily duties became distractions which extinguish the flame. I’m praying that God will keep that fire lit so that I may serve Him better but serving those in need.

  3. Noel Brewer Yeatts

    I love your honesty in this post. And this line … “in order to help those suffocating under the weight of poverty and affliction, we have to invest in them. Our good intentions alone aren’t usually enough to create lasting change.” Wow – such powerful words and something we must all consider. Thanks for writing this!

    1. Noel, it is such a blessing to see you here in my comment thread. Thank you! And thank you for this challenging book. You have helped open my eyes and stir my heart again for these difficult issues. Thank you so much….

  4. Oh, your words sink deep this morning as I listen to the rain beating the ground outside. This is the question… am I willing? Willing to be broken for the broken? Willing to step into another world, a world full of hurt and suffering?
    “To change a life, paths must cross and worlds must collide.” Noel Yeatts
    My greatest fear is that I am not, that this “righteous anger” will subside and I will continue to live numb, half awake. I am praying everyday that He will keep my eyes and heart open and willing.

    1. Kelli, I often fear the anger will subside–and I can only pray that what happens instead is that God transforms the anger into action, and that my eyes would remain open–and my heart would be moved enough to find it uncomfortable to be comfortable, if that makes sense… Thank you for sharing so genuinely.

    2. Kelli,

      God can help us all. This is His heart, His mission in this earth for us — to save lives.

      If the devil cannot stop us from doing God’s work, he will most certainly try and keep us so distracted that we are not every effective. I’ve seen this over and over in my everyday life.

  5. Jessica Goodman

    I have felt the stir to help others and a new passion I did not know I had. I agree that the environment that we live in distracts us easily from the things that causes us great passion because in our environment helping people with poverty or afflictions is not the normal. Our environment makes us care more about ourselves and our wants. This book has made me pray more to God that he will lead me to where I can help others. I agree we all question if we are willing to do something but I have read a quote somewhere that says we should just stop questioning and just do it no matter how hard it is.

    1. Yes, I agree to an extent, we cannot remain in the shadow of questioning and we must instead be moved to action, even if we don’t know how it will all look. it’s not difficult to find those in need, even within our our neighborhoods! We don’t have to travel far to serve. Praying with you!!

    2. Jessica,

      There is a common thread I see, about the distractions in our life. Many that are only found in the first world. I pray God helps us to see, and keep seeing. And when we see, that we use the blessings we’ve been given as a resource to help others. It’s no easy thing. I know.

  6. LOVE this, Kris! It’s stuff like this that continues to stir us all. It’s why I try to blog a lot about my mission trips and ministry experiences. But still, I know the feeling of the fading outrage… and I don’t want my outrage to end.

    But that question… “am I willing?” That’s a big one. It sometimes gets easier to let the outrage fade when we truly count the cost. We’ve got to be outraged to the point where we can’t imagine NOT doing something.

    great post.

    1. Thanks, Dan. As you well know, your book, Unlikely Missionary first planted the seeds for these things in me, and now Noel’s book and so may others continue to water that seed as it grows. I don’t want my outrage to end either. I don’t want apathy. We must do what we can. Thank you for challenging me always!!

    2. Dan,

      I think I romanticized compassion. After this weekend, I’m seeing differently. I’m realizing that there is a cost greater than I knew. I think we all have a bit of willingness to begin. It’s staying the course when it gets down and dirty that’s the hard part. I honestly don’t know how some of these missionaries/leaders do it. I have a new found respect for the people who are behind the organizations that are truly on the front lines.

      1. It’s definitely a selfless endeavor. Like you saw at The Idea Camp, many who I see making a big impact are doing so even when it means giving up things that might otherwise be “important” to the rest of us. It’s definitely not pretty work… it’s down-in-the-trenches dirty work sometimes. I do know that it can also be very rewarding… but it’s not always glamorous.

        I definitely thing the messiness of the works sometimes drive the question about how willing we are. My family just did an adopt-a-block thing this weekend. Many of the kids we worked with were attention-starved, and had snotty noses. My daughter is now getting a snotty nose after being out there with those kids. Many of us then face the “tough” decision… do I go back if my kids are going to get sick every time we go out there?

        1. Dan,

          You could’ve totally been a guide in a breakout. Though, attending The Idea Camp was definitely worth it for me, the conversations were mostly about “problems within problems” that were way over my head. I’m still learning about “the” problem. If it wasn’t that, it was about the problems within organizations themselves.

          But this mini breakout session off Kris’ blog is what was missing there. 🙂 You know, the “layman’s” version of all this. For the one who has a desire, is willing, but has no idea what they are getting themselves into, but still wants to and needs to know what that looks like. What hinders the everyday, ordinary folk from affecting change. You know what I mean?

          Mike said he was really bummed about you not being there, because what you would bring to the table was so necessary, especially with Activist Faith. I think he called you a launch pad. LOL 😉

          Next time??

          1. Ha! I was supposed to be leading a break-out session… one of the reasons I was bummed to not be there. I definitely had something to say about it all… Definitely next time, ESPECIALLY if we can get it here in FL!

  7. I poured my life into helping 80 Rwandan orphans for five years and when that project matured and the kids became adults I let go of it. I’m now asking God where he wants me partnering to help make a difference again. It’s important for me to have a world perspective and not get complacent in the daily minutia. This conjures up some of those same thoughts. Thanks for sparking the conversation Kris.

  8. DeanneMoore

    I am…willing. But…there is an emotional price to pay. Often, like Noel said, we numb ourselves. We feel powerless especially when we cannot interact daily with people we have come to know and love and said good-bye. It is also hard because others don’t understand the emotional investment we have made, and how our time with the poor, the hurting, those who only dream of freedom, has profoundly impacted our lives. I have never come home and walked in the door the same person who walked out into the world. And then we are home and we have to live in the place where God has put us and figure out a way to impact the world from where we are. Just a couple of weeks ago I was confronted with an opportunity to minister in my home community in a similar way I did in a country in Eastern Europe (it was a little thing really). It felt weird to do it here, just awkward, but God said, “You were willing there. Will you be willing here?” I was (willing) by God’s grace…and was blessed beyond measure. But to tell the honest truth, I almost missed it because of awkward…

    1. Deanne, there is an emotional price to pay, and sometimes, the cost is more than that even, but the truth is, the Gospel doesn’t call us to be comfortable. We are called to act, to serve, to bend and to give until there’s nothing left. To give out of our own poverty even. This is a weighty call, and one that many of us risk missing because following Christ’s example IS often awkward. Praying strength and willingness for us both! Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

    2. Margo

      That’s been coming up in my mind, Deanne; how I probably will never go to Africa or Guatamala, but there must surely be needs here in Arizona. Something I can do to reach out to the needy. But something stops me, and I’m not sure what.

  9. Margo

    This book so far has broken my heart in so many ways, and in some ways I feel guilty because I have been blessed to live here in this country while they have not. And I know that guilt is not the answer, action is. I sponsor a child in Uganda, I care for seniors with Alzheimers, I pick up stray animals and nurse them back to health, I stop and give a homeless person food; all this is second nature to me, I don’t even question doing it. But there are still those countless, nameless ones in other lands that need so much. And sometimes I think I should go to Africa, get involved, DO something. Am I willing? My head says Yes, I can do that. But in reality my Yes is followed by fear: fear of the unknown, fear of leaving my pets, fear of not having money to support any endeavor. So, in reality, I guess I’m not willing. Not enough. And that, too, breaks my heart.

    1. You know, Margo, I think the common response is for us to feel like we need to hop on a plane and go somewhere else to serve, but the truth is, you ARE serving a great many right in your own community–and maybe that’s precisely where God has called you to. I’d say you ARE willing–You are already doing it, my friend. May the Lord graciously encourage your heart and show you how much He values you!! 😉

      1. Margo

        Oh, hugs to you Kris, but I want to do more! Sometimes I want to sell all my stuff so I can sponsor more children! Yes, may the Lord show me the way and give me his grace!!

        1. Jessica Goodman

          I agree with the guilt. Reading Awake has made me feel so guilty and like you said it just makes you want to sell everything just so you can help others. I am glad I am not the only one feeling the guilt.

  10. This book has made me even more aware that God put me on this earth to bring about change. To stop for the one. To see the one. I can no longer sit back and watch the heartache and not even shed a tear. God is moving on my heart, breaking my heart for what breaks His. Please God, may I never be the same.

    1. Barbie,

      I believe God is trying to get a message to His people, for us to just do what is in front of us to do. Why is that so hard sometimes? I think we believe the smallness of it doesn’t really matter, perhaps?


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