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Book Review: Heartache and Hope in Haiti: The Britney Gengel Story by Len and Cherylann Gengel

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Nature often wreaks havoc on the world. Many times we see the destruction through the view of a camera, while other times the action is on our doorstep. Never sure where disaster will strike, when the damage happens elsewhere, we watch in sadness. When nature’s fury hits close to home, despair overcomes those involved.

In Heartache and Hope in Haiti: The Britney Gengel Story by Len and CheryLann Gengel , the authors share with us the pain and disbelief at the impact of such a powerful force. In 2010 their daughter Britney, a sophomore at Lynn University, traveled to Haiti with a group of students to work for an aid group.

This was their chance to give back to the world, and Britney in particular was touched. After a short time in Haiti, she determined that her life’s work would be to help open an orphanage in this country where hope was alive in its children. Then, an earthquake leveled Port-au-Prince and the hotel she had been staying in.

Unable to contact her, her family lived in fear, alternately dreading and then excited by hope. But their Britney was never coming home again.

Here begins the life of rebuilding and an account of how Len and Cherylann chose to take a vision and make it real. Shaking off their own grief, they take Britney’s dream and move it towards reality.

This is a heartfelt and hurt-filled story, but packed with love and hope. To see how others transcend past the pain of losing a child and find a way to offer hope is a testament to that love. They chose to take that anguish and use the power of that pain to move forward and build the dream that keeps their daughter alive in a very different way.

While I had heard about the Haiti earthquake, I was able to view it from afar where it didn’t touch me. Even hearing the stories and seeing the footage, the sadness and caring were there, but the destruction seemed remote and far away.

With the story of Britney and the Gengel’s efforts to make her wishes come true, however, you have no choice but to become a part of the devastation and pain. You feel the horror and the hope as they wait for news. If you have children this will tear at your soul. Reading the stories of the children and the people in Haiti bring home the devastation in a way that even pictures on the news were unable to capture.

This is a remarkable story, built with courage and love. The inspiration lends us an example of how goodness flows in even the worst of times. This would be a marvelous book for a reading group. The story pulls you in and the chills and despair felt by the Gengel’s becomes your own.

The profits of the book will benefit the orphanage now built in Britney’s name for the honor of the children of Haiti. You cannot move away from this story unmoved. You will marvel at the tenacity of the will to make a dream succeed.

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About Leslie Wright

Leslie Wright is an author and blogger in the Northwest.