Willing to Walk on Water by Caroline Barnett
This new book by Caroline Barnett entitled Willing to Walk on Water is a fountainhead of encouragement for those desiring to step out in faith and help others. Barnett, alongside with her husband Matthew, are instrumental in the ministry of The Dream Center in Los Angeles, California. The Dream Center is devoted to helping the needs of the community through various ways; food for the needy, discipleship programs for those in addictions, foster care family support and many other ways. Part of the goal of this book is the telling of Caroline’s story of her own life in following God in the midst of serving others. Furthermore, she provides a kind of roadmap to those who might be discouraged with the radical problems of our world but nevertheless want to help make things better.
Caroline began her road to service as a volunteer right after turning 18. Every Friday and Saturday she would head out with a group of people to minister, pray, and talk with prostitutes who were on the street corners of L.A. (3-5). The first chapter here relates her experience but more acutely draws attention to the willingness factor in serving others. Caroline records her time as one of having peaks and valleys but regardless she knew she loved her neighbor and God while volunteering. At the end of the chapter, Caroline gives some helpful ways one might start to address the needs in your own community: babysit for a single mom, mow a neighbor’s yard, plan a party for impoverished children (18). All of these ideas concern the immediate needs of those who are in many ways within walking distance from where you live. The goal here for this chapter was that if you are willing to love others, including those in terrible situations, you will find a way to address the situations no matter what.
Caroline then goes on to relate her experience as a food truck organizer for the Dream Center. She brings out some helpful hints concerning volunteers: keep them happy, be creative with them, match personality types with jobs, and the reality of complainers (32-33). Throwing volunteers at a project without assessing personalities, skills, and involvement level is bound to fail. Making volunteer opportunities exciting eases the anxiety of people and the frustration that might ensue. It truly is amazing how God was constantly providing the Dream Center with more resources to help those in need. I think a big part of the book was the truth that when we serve others by serving Christ, we are overwhelmed by his generosity in return.
The book is filled with stories of people hitting rock bottom, meeting the Dream Center and being radically changed for good. Yet, not all the stories are full of rags to riches. Caroline tells of her great pain of desiring to have a child, getting pregnant and then miscarrying. The gut wrenching feeling of wanting something so bad and not having it turn it out can be devastating. Caroline meditated on Psalm 34:18 and began to slowly heal from this blow. The time was even hard for Matthew, but he even writes, “Every season of brokenness makes you stronger” (148). The loss of a child could’ve broken their will to live and serve at the Dream Center but they used it as a way to respond to God’s grace. The stories alone are worth reading over and over again in this book. Caroline draws us into terrible situations that don’t always have a happy ending but always hold out hope for healing through Jesus Christ and the ministry of the Dream Center.
For those wanting to see change in their own lives and the lives of others, this book will be of great encouragement. Caroline does deal with what it means to follow Christ, sin, and addressing social issues, but her primary motivation is to provide encouragement to those wanting to serve. I hope this book will give believers a push to walk forward into the world’s problems with a cup of water and the message of the good news.
Thanks to Tyndale Publisher for the review copy of this book in exchange for review.