[This is Brandon. I have hijacked the blog for this post.]
Any of you who know my wife know that the last thing Jeneil (Neally, to me) will do is talk about herself. Or make someone uncomfortable by addressing her needs and wants. Jeneil just doesn’t do personal marketing or advocacy. It is always about the other person. I have actually tried to gently move her out of some of the extremes of this behavior because it has caused dysfunction in our family life at times. (She had gotten much better.) But, the point remains, she almost never talks about or promotes herself in any way. So, I have to be her advocate, her personal marketing director.
15 years ago (Oct 1996) I first laid eyes on my nerdy wife sitting on a couch oblivious to all the happenings around her at a Navigator (a Christian group) retreat. She was studying while all the other Christian college kids were mingling and socializing hoping that the Lord might be playing spouse-matchmaker that weekend. I interrupted her studying. I can’t honestly remember much of that weekend, except I learned this girl had written a book. It was still in manuscript form, but I wanted to read it. She eventually got me a copy. It ended up being what initially made me fall in love with my wife.
You didn’t know Jeneil had written a book? Yea, I was sure most who read this blog wouldn’t know, because Jeneil wouldn’t be the one to tell you.
It is her (nearly) unedited journal from her service in 1995 in Mother Teresa’s orphanage in Ethiopia. Long before Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, and Bono decided to visit on their world tours, Jeneil labored to care for those women and the orphans with no news cameras to capture her selflessness. She loved those women and children. Her book takes you with her. You can feel the sickness, the drool, the bodily fluids, the things we would never touch in a million years. You are scared when this young, naïve girl is stuck on the streets of Addis Abba at night, locked out of the compound until morning (you can imagine what almost happens). You feel guilty as she vividly puts the poverty we will most likely never know in your face. You see the people through her eyes as I believe the Lord sees them. You just can’t put it down.
Before she graduated from college in 1997, she had been on the short list of some publishing houses with the help of one of her professors at Dartmouth. But it just didn’t get published and she lost contact with the publishing houses. Then we got married in 1999. One of the first things we did was self-publish her book through Xlibris. We have always put away any money we made from the sales in an account that we intend to someday hand-deliver to the mission. We haven’t been able to travel back to Ethiopia yet, but the money sits waiting. It won’t match what Bono and Brangelina have delivered, but I believe it will be with a different kind of compassion and love that no amount of money can manufacture.
I hear and see many of the e-mails and comments that readers of this blog send to my wife. If those very gracious comments are true, then my hunch is that many would like to read more about my wife’s insights and experiences. It has been my privilege to know her and be changed by her for the last 15 years. Her book is more of the same writing that will challenge you to internally examine yourself and to externally try to do something about that conviction.
You can get Sunburned Faces here.