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Stronger than Death Book Trailer

Annalena Tonelli spent 34 years living and working in the Horn of Africa. Somalis loved her, and still talk about her with great affection, still carry on her legacy, still continue her work.

But someone killed her. Why?

Why did she stay so long as a foreigner, in the face of massacres, famine, tuberculosis, terror, and war? How did she build a strong local community across religious and racial boundaries, boundaries that today often divide communities?

This is not the story of a white savior, or is it? It isn’t the story of a saint either, or is it? Annalena was far from perfect but her example challenges us all to be a little braver. A little more loving. A little more willing to reach out to someone with empathy, faith, and action.


Available from Barnes and Noble, IndieBound, and Amazon.

Thanks to Matt Erickson for providing video clips and photographs and to the Plough Publishing video team!

Stronger than Death, Book Cover Reveal!

I wrote a book.

I’ve actually written many books, from the cloth-covered book about animals running a race I wrote in elementary school, to the several novels that are completed and gathering dust on my hard drives (for very good reasons!), to my self-published books the Djiboutilicious cookbook, Finding Home, and two editions of Welcome to Djibouti.

This coming book has been the work of my heart for almost five years. It is the biography of Annalena Tonelli, a woman who faced disease, terrorism, massacres, lonely isolation, and chose love over fear.

“People would call her a doctor, a missionary, and a nun. And they would call her a saint… Should Annalena be made into a saint? That was how I thought of her, at first. I only knew the high points in Annalena’s life. I knew nothing of the dark valleys, her secret and controversial compromise. I knew she had accomplished something remarkable, something about tuberculosis but also about love and faith…”

It is the product of collaboration with Matt Erickson, so many people I interviewed all over the world, those I followed and pestered, and the Plough Publishing team.

A few months ago I shared the book cover in my Stories from the Horn newsletter.

Now, I want to share the cover here, too.

You may have already seen it, if you’ve visited the Plough, Indiebound, or Amazon, but let’s make this the formal “cover reveal”.

Are cover reveal parties a thing? Like for pregnant moms and gender reveal parties? I feel like they should be, with balloons and a cake a fireworks. Well…oh well.

There is so much I want to tell you about the book, like who endorsed it and some behind the scenes stuff. Like how I’ve been changed through this project. Like how it feels to write a book while dealing with cancer. Like all the ways this book connects to current issues from Ebola to cross cultural relationships and humanitarian aid, to conquering fear and talking about race and faith. I love the way this woman turns these conversations upside down in surprising, even shocking ways.

But for now, here’s the cover! No drama, no explosions, no band playing in the background. Just me and my excited little heart.

(Number 1 new release in Kenyan History!)

You can preorder it here




What could be stronger than death? Only a love bigger than fear and bigger than hate. We need this message more than ever.

Tuberculosis in a Teacup

Quick link: Tea Time at the TB Clinic

Over at EthnoTraveler, I write about whether or not to drink when I’m offered a glass of coffee outside the Tuberculosis clinic. I’ve been studying TB, reading so much about it that sometimes I feel like my chest hurts (can you give yourself TB just by thinking about it a lot?). I also know that it would be incredibly rude to refuse the proffered drink.

What to do?

tuberculosis coffee

An elderly man waves me over, insistent. He is wearing gray trousers, a collared shirt, and a prayer cap. He shouts across the dirt road, in Somali, “Come, white lady, come and sit down with us.” Others laugh and tell him I can’t understand and then they laugh at me when I shout back that I do understand.

I cross the narrow road, careful to avoid puddles of a mysterious green liquid, and sit down on top of an overturned empty can of powdered milk. These double all over Djibouti City as chairs at roadside restaurants and tea stalls. Sitting down is easy to do. I have more trouble obeying his next command.

“Drink,” he says, and hands me a tiny glass of steaming Nescafé. “I am paying for it, drink.” He slaps a fifty-franc coin onto the wooden table where a woman has balanced more glasses and thermoses and a tray of fried biscuits.

The amber-colored glass is the size of a shot glass. Surely that small amount of strong coffee can’t contain too many germs. Right? Surely the water was boiled enough to kill them off. Right?

Click here to read the rest: Tea Time at the TB Clinic




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