What Are You Going to Do?: The Inspiring Story of Everett Swanson and the Founding of Compassion International – Eric Wilson and Matt Bronleewe

What Are You Going to Do?: The Inspiring Story of Everett Swanson and the Founding of Compassion International by Eric Wilson, Matt Bronleewe
Also by this author: 1 Step Away, The Best of Evil, A Shred of Truth, Expiration Date, Dark to Mortal Eyes, American Leftovers, What Are You Going to Do?: How One Simple Question Transformed Lives Around the World: The Inspiring Story of Everett Swanson and the Founding of Compassion International
Published by Moody Publishers on January 2, 2024
Genres: Non-Fiction, Christian Life, Memoir, Social Justice
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three-half-stars

What Are You Going to Do? tells an inspiring true story. In the early 1950s, war scattered hundreds of thousands of orphans across South Korea. Many Koreans sacrificed everything to help. When Everett Swanson arrived to preach to troops on the front lines, he stumbled upon starving orphans. The plight of these children broke his heart. He faced the question: “What are you going to do?”

Authors Matt Bronleewe and Eric Wilson tell how Swanson’s answer to those six little words led to the organization known today as Compassion International. Seventy years later, Compassion International sponsors over two million children all over the world, providing meals, education, vocational training, Bibles, letters of support, and more.

We are often faced with the same question, “What am I going to do?” And, like Swanson, we feel inadequate, afraid, or ill-equipped. Readers will see how small faithful choices can lead to larger ones—and in so doing, change the world for generations to come. Everyone—young and old—should be acquainted with this amazing story of faith, courage, and compassion.

This powerful biography tells the story of how Everett Swanson founded the ministry that is now known as Compassion International. The biography begins with his childhood and teen years, and portrays his experiences with faith and the calling he felt to become an evangelist. He and his wife traveled America when he worked as an itinerant preacher, and then he became a pastor as their family grew. Over time, he returned to his passion of traveling evangelism, and in God’s providence, doors opened for him to minister in war-torn Korea. His exposure to the dire needs there, especially among the orphan population, led to him founding a ministry to orphans, raising awareness and funds in the United States to channel into reputable orphanages and other ministries on the ground in South Korea.

Eric Wilson and Matt Bronleewe did extensive research to write this biography, including countless hours of interviews. They synthesized all of this information into a compelling, fast-paced read, and I like how it includes occasional perspective shifts, sharing stories from Korean orphans and Korean ministry directors. As the authors note, Swanson was ahead of his time in his approach to missions and relief work, since he channeled funds into good things that Koreans were doing to help their communities, giving them the freedom and flexibility to make decisions about what worked best in their context. I appreciate that this book also represents that focus by including some of their stories, instead of only telling his.

I found What Are You Going to Do? very inspiring, and I really enjoyed it. Although I have been familiar with the work of Compassion International for many years, I never knew the history of how it began, and I found this story incredibly powerful and hopeful. It was so encouraging to learn about how people responded to these dire needs, and to consider how the ministry has grown from there. For those who are not familiar with Compassion’s current work and impact, the authors summarize that towards the end of the book, as they reflect on Swanson’s legacy. The authors also share helpful asides throughout the book to explain different historical and cultural things, making this book more accessible to younger readers and readers from different backgrounds.

Unfortunately, the book’s readability suffers from a stylistic choice. At the beginning of the book, the authors explain in a short note that they did not put any of the dialogue in quotation marks, since it is fictional, representative dialogue and they don’t know what people actually said. I wish that they had used some other symbol instead. Without any punctuation to signal transitions between exposition and dialogue, I frequently found myself confused and needed to reread things. I often couldn’t tell at first that we’d moved into dialogue, and would be surprised to see an attribution that revealed that someone was speaking. There were also many times where I couldn’t tell if a conversation was continuing or not, or if we were back to the authors’ voice.

What Are You Going to Do?: The Inspiring Story of Everett Swanson and the Founding of Compassion International tells an incredible true story, and it is deeply inspiring. I would recommend this to people who want to read an inspiring missionary biography, or even just a powerful true story about people making a difference in others’ lives. This book will primarily appeal to Christians because of Swanson’s beliefs and influence in church circles, but the book doesn’t presume that all readers share Swanson’s faith, and it can appeal to anyone who wants to read a deeply touching true story.

three-half-stars