The Gospel of Father Joe
Three decades ago in a cordoned-off corner of the developing world an angry Catholic priest armed only with pencil, paper, and crayons, declared a revolution. From a shanty school shared with Buddhists and Muslims in Bangkok's squatter slums, Father Joe Maier began his advance on abject poverty. Today, his Human Development Foundation and Mercy Centre charity is responsible for thirty-two preschools that have taught more than seventy thousand children how to read and write. Despite the crippling neglect found in impoverishment, he is raising international scholars and injecting a sense of purpose into shantytowns and squatter camps that used to have neither.
While extremists and jihadists rant, rave, and wrestle over the first rights to God, "Father Joe" quietly exudes God's universal, selfless spirit. The Johnny Appleseed of Bangkok built his preschools in the city's worst slums without permission or legal permits. He then kept planting despite orders from the Thai government and Catholic Church to stop. Whenever police were dispatched to shut construction down, Father Joe would shrug and say go ahead. "But you'll have to explain it to them," he'd growl, pointing to the children, "and to them," pointing to the grandmothers and mothers.
The people and the priest grew a slum oasis this way and, today, the Mercy Centre counts forty-two hundred preschool seats in a three-year program that graduates seven hundred students yearly. It also has Thailand's largest free AIDS hospice, several orphanages, a school for older street kids, youth sports leagues, and more.
During the 2004 birthday celebration for Thailand's Her Majesty Queen Sirikit, the country's national heroes were recognized. To Father Joe went the award for the foreigner who has contributed the most over the long term to the protection of women and children.
In The Gospel of Father Joe, journalist Greg Barrett tells the inspiring story of a remarkable and ecumenical holy man in a way that will encourage readers to believe that they too can make a world of difference.
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About the Author
Greg Barrett is a twenty-year veteran of local, national, and foreign reporting for wire and newspapers in Georgia, the Carolinas, Hawaii, and Maryland. He was a roving correspondent based in the Washington, D.C., bureau for Gannett News Service/USA Today when he met Father Joe Maier, and most recently he worked as a state correspondent for the Baltimore Sun. He lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and two sons.
Table of ContentsForeword.
PART I: THE CRUCIBLE.
1. Mustard Seeds.
2. The Joe in the Know.
3. Undeveloped, Unpaved Parallels.
4. Rise of the Underground.
6. Where Right Equals Might.
PART II: MANIFEST CHANGE.
7. Sticks, Stones, and Bags of Bones.
8. Dead End or Turnaround?
9. The Sanctity and Sanctimony of Life.
10. Wars on Terror.
11. Religious Medal, Spiritual Mettle.
12. Forged by Mercy and Mary.
13. Any Dream Will Do.
PART III: THE LIGHT.
14. Weapons of Mass Construction.
15. Fruit of the Spirit.
17. Devil in the Details.
18. Mercy’s Mercy.
19. Slaves of the Economy.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is an amazing story about an amazing man of God. Father Joe tells it like it is. Though the story is sad and hard to take at times, it is a story that all people NEED to hear. In our world of me me me... the author shows us the dedication and selflessness of Father Joe Maier and the Mercy Centre. The situation of the Slums of Bangkok is so deplorable, so seemingly hopeless, yet the compassion of Father Joe is so pure. I cried over these sweet children. Abandoned by life, yet rescued by Father Joe and given a safe haven within the walls of the Mercy Centre. This author writes with sparkling eloquence. Presenting this very sad story with compassion that can only come straight from the heart. I highly recommend this book. It is heart warming, insightful and proves that hope is not lost.
A must read for everyone who wants to learn how bad things really are for some people in the world. This books shows just how divided our world is between the oppresed and downtrodden and the people who have it made. This book will open your eyes to the suffering of so many children who can be saved by simple measures. It shows a priest not afraid to buck the system to DO AS JESUS WOULD HAVE DONE.
The Gospel of Father Joe is a compelling story of the inhumanity endured by the slum children of Bangkok. Compelling because in reading it you see the light shining through the mercy of Mercy Centre and its leader, Father Joe Maier. The reader learns the tragic personal stories of Boi, Fern, Joop and others and how their lives are transformed by the loving care of a mixed religious community in Mercy. But the light that shines through are the stories of those who survive, thrive and are encouraged to the point of going on with the Travel Team for their higher educations and a life outside the slums of Bangkok. The author, Greg Barrett, explores Fr. Joe¿s philosophies for life that have made him a man who can laugh and play with these children while living 30 plus years in the slums with them, and who loves and accepts everyone even as he repels the evil that he so often has to deal with. We learn how he can integrate his teachings from the Catholic church with the Muslim and Buddhist populations with whom he has daily contact. This is truly the story of a modern-day, living saint.
This is a story that was destined to be told. Thankfully, it chose an author who could handle serious and often grim content with aplomb, resulting in a book that is very readable. Greg Barrett has clearly taken the cause of Father Joe Maier to heart, and through the Gospel of Father Joe, wants the reader to do the same. The slums of Bangkok are indicative of the unspeakable behaviors humans allow to happen to one another, and force upon one another. Sadly, Bangkok is not the only place we treat each other in reprehensible and shameful ways. So very fortunate are the women and children in this humanities-war torn area to have an angel in the form of a gruff and grumpy man named Father Joseph Maier, and his creation, The Mercy Center. Reader alert: Knowledge like this can never be conveniently unknown.
Fact is stranger than fiction and the author here does a wonderful job of using nonfiction narrative to take the readers into a part of the world that they otherwise would never see. As Desmond Tutu says in the foreword, it is a must-read for all of us, e.g. Democrat and Republican, Methodist, Catholic, agnostic ... everyone. Although sad stories drive many of the scenes the inspiring heroics of Father Joe buoy us with hope. Things can change! I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
Here's a dose of compassion that comes carrying the scent of the sewer and the sight of aids-infected children and squalor sufficient to rust delicate sensitivities. Father Joe is cut from the same cloth as Mother Teresa and those others who have walked into the gutter and seen 'the least of them.' Thanks to the author for shining the light on the light.