Today I am excited to interview Dave Arnold who has launched his first book, Pilgrims of the Alley on Amazon, just this week. It is available both on Paperback and as a Kindle Edition.
He shares a message of hope and how to thrive in purpose as Christians despite being in a fallen world where we constantly feel out of place. This message resonates with what we share on this blog.
Without further ado, let us get to meet Dave and know more about his newly released book:
Maureen: Kindly introduce yourself to our readers, who is Dave Arnold?
Dave: I am a writer, speaker, and an advocate for refugees living in Dearborn, Michigan. I’ve been in full-time ministry since 1998 in a variety of roles: as a pastor, missionary, urban worker, social worker, etc. I’ve been married to Angie for 13 years and we have one son, Luke.
I have been a writer since 2003, where I first started doing freelance work for a variety of magazines and online journals. I also started doing freelance writing with a major church denomination. I am a blogger, too, and have started me own online ministry: www.reflectionsfromthealley.org
Maureen: Have you always thought of one day authoring a book?
Dave: I was inspired to write by a professor I had in college by the name of Dr. Hensley. He taught me to love words and to use words to impact people’s lives. He encouraged me in my writing endeavours. So, in 2003, I started doing freelance writing by writing for different magazines and journals. God really opened up doors for me to write. In 2006, while in was in Chicago, I started writing a bit and started to put together a book. I stopped after a while; but then in 2011, I really sensed God wanting me to write this book.
Dave: The Title, Pilgrims of the Alley, came to me when I was working with World Relief, a refugee agency on Chicago’s north side. I was loading up donated furniture in the back alley and I met this homeless couple. They were going from dumpster-to-dumpster looking for something (although I’m not sure what). I couldn’t shake them from my mind; and the phrase, “pilgrims of the alley” just came to me. And I began thinking about how people who follow Christ in this world are homeless, oftentimes wondering through the alleys of life attempting to live out their faith in an authentic way. Moreover, I believe God is at work in the “alley” – that is, in the tough and undesirable places of our lives and in the world.
If I could sum up my book in one word, it would be the word hope.
Maureen: Share with us the main message of the book.
Dave: Really, it’s a book about hope – a deep hope in a God who is for us and who is leading us through the alleys of life to our ultimate destination with Him (in Heaven). It’s a book inspired by many people who have suffered and persevered amid great difficulties and challenges. I share stories of refugees who escaped through the jungle to get to safety; and my friend who started a business that seeks to bless and serve people in spite of losing his job and house.
My hope is that people will read the book and walk inspired and ready to take action: ready to engage in meaningful work and learn to trust God no matter what.
Maureen: In the book you cover three main stages of displacement, kindly break that down for us in a few words.
Dave: The three stages of Displacement I share in the book are: (1) Disorientation; (2) Blessing; (3) Homecoming.
These three stages I’ve observed in many immigrants and refugees whom I’ve worked with, especially within the first six months or so of their new life in a foreign country.
First is disorientation. Disorientation is the initial “shock” of living in a foreign environment. The challenges of language, culture, finding a job, etc. are at the forefront. Similarly, as followers of Jesus, we often feel disoriented in life – as if we are trying to navigate through a foreign and (often) difficult environment.
Second is blessing. This is where a person starts to assimilate into their new environment: where they learn to adjust, becoming more self-sufficient, etc. For Christians, once we face that life can be profoundly disappointing and disoriented, we then can move through life with the purpose of blessing others by living out our God-ordained purpose.
Third, is homecoming. Most of the immigrants and refugees I’ve worked with have a longing to go back to their homeland. Really, the longing never goes away. For some people – refugees from Somalia or Sudan or Afghanistan – they may never go back to their countries. But that doesn’t mean they don’t miss it and long to see their homes.
As Christians, the Bible tells us our home is not this earth – that this is not all there is. In John 14, Jesus told His disciples He had to leave to go prepare a place for them… and that He will come back and take us to where He is (Heaven).
Maureen: After every chapter, there is a section called, “Reflections of the Alley.” What is that about and how important is reflection as a practice in the society today?
The idea of Reflections From the Alley came alongside of the book a few years ago. (In fact, I decided to name my blog Reflections From the Alley
as a result of this.) I want readers to be able to reflect on what they just read; to think on it and write out some thoughts. And hopefully, they will look back at what they wrote years later and remember what God taught them. There is also a prayer after the reflections the reader can use as a guide.
I think reflecting on what you read or learn or experience is vital to our growth. We are to be both reflective and active.
Maureen: We can either live a life of purpose or go through the motions in life, and get lost in the discouragement of life. Can we thrive in displacement or are we just meant to survive?
Displacement is when we’re struggling or feel out of our natural environment.
I believe with all my heart it is possible to thrive in displacement. Throughout the Bible, you see God’s people thriving in difficulties and challenging situations. But the key is trusting God. We will not make it if we do not trust God. He is the One who sustains us and who helps us thrive.
Maureen: Does life work out the way we think it should Dave? What has been your experience and how are we to live even if life doesn’t work out?
I don’t think life works out the way we think it should (at least not often). We have an idea of how life should be – that we should be happy, have a good job, get married, have kids, etc. – but life always throws us curve balls and is full of challenges.
Dave: We live in a fallen world: a world where tragedies happen and sickness occurs, and wars. Jesus never said He would give us a pain-free happy life; but He did promise He would be with us. When you cling to God and trust Him, life works and you thrive. It may not work the way you hope or think. But there will be joy and peace.
Maureen: You share a lot from people’s personal experiences in the book, yours and other peoples’. What would you say about experiences we go through day-to-day and the importance of learning from others as well?
Dave: I think we learn best from experiences. Going to school is good and learning information; but experience is the best teacher. We should always seek to be learners: to learn from others, to learn from our own experiences. One of the ways I personally do this is by keeping a journal. I jot down what God is teaching me, people who impact me, etc. It’s always helpful to look back and see how God worked.
Maureen: Any last words you would like to share with the readers of this blog Dave?
I do hope you check out my book. It was not written in an office or as theory of nice principles. It’s written from the blood, sweat, and tears of experience and attempting to work out my own faith in this world. It’s a book to read and reflect on; but more importantly, to act on. To be willing to trust deeply in God and do extraordinary things in this world.
In fact, if you buy the book this week (Book Launch Week, Feb. 18-24), you will receive some bonus items (a really good video about World Relief, a refugee organization that is helping the poor and displaced all over the world, and a PDF of the book. In addition, you will be eligible to enter a contest to win free Starbucks gift cards and eBooks.
Thanks for having me Maureen!
Question : Are you a pilgrim of the alley? (Please share on the comments section and check out the book on Amazon)