A Dream So Big

On March 12, 1998, Stephen Wrigley Peifer died. Born with a rare disease, the eight-day-old baby never had a chance to live.

Stephen was not the only one who died that day. Something also died in his parents and two brothers. Steve and Nancy Peifer found themselves in a place beyond grief. A way of living came to an end. They both recognized that their lives simply could not go on.

Nine years later, in an internationally televised special, CNN recognized Steve as a “Hero.”

What happened in those years?

The Peifers released their life to fall into the ground and die (John 12:24). Out of their profound grief, they moved to Kenya to spend one year serving as dorm parents at Rift Valley Academy in Kijabe. They needed a place far away. They had no intentions of staying in Kenya beyond one year.

But, as the true face of poverty and hunger came into clear focus, they both recognized they simply could not return to their old life. They clearly saw that “their” life did not belong to them. They had to pour it all out. Destiny was pulling them up into something larger than their own family and their own grief.

And then the God of all the earth whispered two revelations to Steve. One was about how to feed the children of Kenya. The other revealed how to build an economic future for those kids.

Today, as a result of that Voice, 20,000 children have enough to eat each day. They have also helped to get brilliantly-designed solar-powered computer labs built in some of the most isolated areas of Kenya. That story in itself just takes your breath away. With all due respect to CNN and the Peifers, this is not a story of heroes; it’s the story of God stepping onto His earth to care for His Own.

That powerful story is captured in the new book, A Dream So Big by Steve Peifer (Zondervan, 2013).

Pain is a Portal

The early passages of the book on the life and death of Stephen carry an overwhelming and pristine emotional power. The reader is carried to an unearthly place as the heart of a family is excavated by God’s enormous shovel.

The reader never sees the political flattening and reductionism of the sterile concepts we call “pro life” and “pro choice.” This is a story of God! He sits so far above the suffocating and mildewed “issues.” When Nancy pours her heart out to God, she heard Him say, “Stephen has more purpose than just fulfilling your motherhood!” From there, we watch as their pain becomes a portal for God’s kindness and provision for Kenya’s next generation.

These wise parents don’t think of Stephen as a “short” or even “tragic” life. His was a complete and purposeful life. The book is dedicated: “To Stephen Wrigley Peifer, Born March 4, 1998. Having fulfilled the purpose the Father had for him, he returned to the Father March 12, 1998.”

A Dream so Big is also a fine look at a real marriage. When life kicks them to the curb, and the possibilities of going to Africa first appear, Steve blurts out, “I could do that.” And Nancy, who had always dreamed of Africa, turns to her husband and says, “Don’t you play with me about this!”

These are battered and bruised grownups caught in the grip of Almighty God. Nothing cheap, cute, or “Christian” here at all.

Surpassing Grace

The Bible says that where sin increased, grace increased more (Romans 5:20). It is also true that where injury, illness, train wrecks, death, and other losses increase, they leverage a larger load of grace.

The Peifer family’s heart was cut open by the loss of their son and brother; today 20,000 children have enough to eat each day. Furthermore, after losing Stephen, they (in one of the most beautiful narratives of this grand story), gained two children.

Grace always surpasses the loss.

A Dream So Big is one beautiful and moving story of the largeness of God. It pinned me to my reading chair and would not let me move. I groaned in pain, used up many tissues, and laughed deeply at the inevitable and magnificent victory of God in His earth.

I know what book I’ll be giving to friends in the near future.

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