"God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house. God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives. God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war. God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives and God is with us if we are with Him." – Paul David “Bono” Hewson
Austin Gutwein sets the tone for his story with this quote. It’s a reminder that no matter the situation, God is still with us. In 2004, Austin was nine years-old and began a journey that would not only change his life but so many others as well. He watched a DVD about a little girl named Maggie. Maggie lives in Zambia and is being raised by her great-grandmother. Both her parents, along with her aunts and uncles, are all dead due to AIDS. AIDS is a disease running rampant through Africa, leaving many children without anyone to care for them when family members lose the fight against it. After seeing Maggie’s situation, Austin couldn’t forget about her and he finally decided to do something about it.
Thinking about what he liked to do, Austin chose basketball to be the way he’d help the thousands of orphans in Africa. Just as people get sponsors for running a marathon, Austin decided he’d get sponsors for shooting free throws. This is where Hoops of Hope began. Hoops of Hope is an organization started by Austin and his family. Each year, thousands upon thousands of people shoot free throws and the money raised goes to doing great things in Africa. Because of Austin, orphans are being sponsored through World Vision, a school has been built, caregivers have been equipped with supplies to help those who are dying, a medical testing lab has been built and a second clinic is in the works for this year.
Austin gives all the credit for everything he’s helped accomplish to God. He knows none of this was possible without Him. His desire is for all those who pick up this book to find your passion and then use it to do something bigger than yourself. You don’t have to do something big to make a difference. When you start something, others will follow – they will want to make a difference too. Making a difference is contagious. “After all, if AIDS is contagious and brings death, shouldn’t hope be contagious and bring life?”
I really enjoyed this book. It inspired me to use my talents to help change this world. If a nine year old can shoot free throws, I know I can do something as well. We can’t be afraid to step out of our comfort zone. We have to be willing to do what God’s leading us to do and go where He’s leading us to go. “In order to take your best shot, in order to truly do something that’s bigger than yourself, you need to be able to see differently. You need to be able to look at the world and observe things that some people don’t even notice. You have to be able to see and you have to have a vision. Vision is your cause. Vision is your purpose. Vision is your heartbeat. Vision is what you get when you see a need that captures your attention and have the passion to do what you love to do. Having your own vision opens you to God’s possibilities. It blows the dust off of your dreams and highlights the fact that God wants to use you to make a difference.”