Shaken, by Kariss Lynch and published by Realms (2014) is Book One in the Heart of a Warrior Series. This story really got me down on my knees for Haiti and other poverty stricken countries. I liked that this book was a little more realistic than some others I have read. It wasn’t completely happy at all times and explored issues of trauma following a tragedy. There are some very happy, peaceful parts of the book, but I also learned a lot about life’s challenges.

The story centers around Kaylan Richards and her best friend Sarah Beth, who have a passion to be used to change the country of Haiti. Kaylan comes from a very loving Christian home with three brothers.

As the novel begins, she has just graduated from the University of Alabama with a degree in nutrition and is trying to decide when is the best time to tell her family that she has decided to take a short-term missions trip to Haiti. Her graduation party is in full swing at her parents’ house. Among the guests is Nick, her brother Micah’s best friend. He and Micah are Navy SEALS. Before Nick left for Afghanistan a year ago, he and Kaylan dated. Now he regrets breaking up with Kaylan and will do anything to win her back.

Later that evening, with Sarah Beth by her side, Kaylan explains to her family why she wants to go to Haiti and forgo her internship in California. She states that Haiti is the most impoverished nation in the Western Hemisphere. She wants to train parents how to take care of their children’s nutritional needs and share Jesus. She and her friend want to change some of the negative patterns the people are caught up in. While her family is concerned and questions her timing, they admire her determination and self-sacrifice.

The young women travel to Haiti and move in with Rhonda, a long-term missionary, who lives in Port-Au-Prince. Kaylan begins helping Rhonda at the clinic and Sara Beth, whose specialty is education, helps teach children. The local voodoo priest, Eliezer, is hostile to Kaylan and Sarah Beth. He has a degree of control over the people and he doesn’t want to give it up. He threatens Kaylan and Sarah Beth, telling them to stop interfering.

Meanwhile, Nick and Micah are on missions with the SEALS. Nick misses Kaylan and writes to her often, receiving letters back from her as well. He is not able to tell her exactly where he is or what he is doing.

About three weeks after the young women arrive in Haiti, the huge earthquake hits. The description of what happened is somber and frightening. Kaylan and Sarah Beth are trapped under their beds. Finally, Kaylan is able to get out and go to Sarah Beth. Quite a few hours pass before Kaylan is rescued, but Sara Beth doesn’t make it out alive.

Kaylan is crushed in mind and spirit. She keeps putting one foot in front of the other, helping others amidst overwhelming grief. The voodoo priest, Eliezer, confronts her, accusing her of being at fault for the earthquake, and even for Sara Beth’s death. Kaylan is not thinking rationally and begins to believe him.

Micah and Nick hear the news about Haiti. They get permission to take supplies there and to bring Kaylan home. They find her in the rubble and ruin and get her home as quickly as possible. Nick stays around for several weeks, but Kaylan is not herself. She has become despondent and bitter toward the Lord. Nick finally has to return to his work with the SEALS. He assures her that the Lord will take care of her.

Kaylan slowly begins to put her mind and time toward relief efforts for Haiti. She also teaches dance to little children. When she and Sarah Beth were children, they would often dance together. On leave again, Nick finds her in the dance studio. Kaylan is praying for the first time in many weeks. She tells the Lord she will begin to trust Him in the middle of all the tragedy. Nick and Kaylan have a lovely reunion and decide to go steady.

This is a series, so the ending isn’t complete, but you have the impression that Kaylan and Nick are doing well with each other and with the Lord. So much has been healed. They both decide they want to focus on the future and not the past.

This is a particularly enlightening book as all of our lives are challenging and even tragic at times. This story can help in dealing with such experiences. It also encourages us to see how we can be used to pray for other countries and to go there if the Lord is calling us.

Patsy Ledbetter says she has many titles, but her favorite is being mom to her five children. Her two daughters, two sons and one son-in-law are her joy. A teacher with forty years experience Patsy has taught children of all ages and also special needs children and adults. She writes occasionally for a local newspaper and performs in church theater productions on a regular basis. Her husband is the church choir and orchestra director. They have been married for 32 years. She says, “It is my desire to bring honor and glory to my Lord Jesus in every area where He has allowed me to minister.”