By Kari Costanza. The first of four pieces on traveling with Max Lucado.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I met Max Lucado. He’s a big name who’s written a lot of books—85 books in all.
Back in December 2008, we’d started planning Max’s trip to Ethiopia. He wanted to write a book based on Acts. He wanted to find out how World Vision worked. We decided to take him to a place where World Vision has child sponsorship and where one of Jesus’ disciples might have traveled. It turned out that two disciples might have gone to Ethiopia: Matthew and Matthias, the disciple chosen to replace Judas.
I was a little apprehensive. What would Max be like? Would he be high-maintenance? Demanding? How would he interact with the children? With World Vision staff? “Don’t worry,” I was told, “Max is the friendliest man you’ll ever meet. Completely disarming. When he talks to you,” they said, “he really talks to you. It’s as if you’re the only person in the room.”
We’ll see, I thought. We’ll see.
The trip in May began at World Vision’s main office in Addis Ababa. Our Ethiopian staff gave Max the big picture—how World Vision responded to the famine in the mid-1980s. How sponsorship had grown over the years. How places of death and sorrow were now blossoming with life. I stole glances at Max. He was engaged. Interested. But was he the friendliest man I’d ever meet?
We then piled into cars and traveled south to Adama, formerly called Nazret. I love that name; Ethiopia is filled with wonderful references to its Christian heritage. The first event for Max was a meeting of the Hope and Light Association—a group dedicated to fighting the stigma of HIV and AIDS. He and World Vision U.S. President Rich Stearns (another very nice man) would participate in a candlelight coffee ceremony with association members.
I sat behind Max and his wife, Denalyn. They were tired from travel—it takes almost 24 hours to get to Ethiopia. They’d hit the ground running with very little sleep. I was worried. Were they too tired? Was this too much?
A little girl answered my questions.
Dressed in her prettiest, frilliest dress, 1-year-old Deborah tottered from her mother’s arms, up the aisle, and plopped herself right into Max Lucado’s lap. He cuddled her like a granddaughter. Deborah liked Max’s lap. She didn’t leave it through the ceremony—except for when Max and Rich lit candles to commemorate the occasion.
Deborah was all the proof I needed. Children know nice. I was going to like this guy.
Next Memorable Max Moment: close encounters with a camel.