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Jantsen's Gift: A True Story of Grief,…

Jantsen's Gift: A True Story of Grief, Rescue, and Grace

by Pam Cope

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This is a remarkable story about a woman who is changing the world, one child at a time, when at many points in her life, she never thought she had the power to even change herself. It is also a story about no matter how dark and confused life may seem, there is a way out, to step outside ourselves and do real good in the small time we may have on this planet. Ms. Cope's story is nothing short of mindblowing (and the death of her son is so incredibly sad), a woman, like you and me, who finally believed she could make a difference (despite being perceived as the "crazy lady from Missouri") and did just that. I sort of hate when anyone says "everyone should read this book" but, everyone should read this book. I recently traveled to Africa (Tanzania/Arusha and not Ghana, where the author does her work), but boy, she put me right back there. The work Touch a Life does is outstanding - rescuing children from slavery/trafficking/sex trade(s) - and the work continues. There are some very difficult parts, e.g., the reality that white American men (college age up to grown men) are actually the ones in Vietman/Cambodia keeping the market for child sex alive, was a sickening reality. The slavery/trafficking is shocking. No matter how many times one might read about it, it's quite different to experience it "first hand" with Cope (being a mother, she brought a very passionate, caring focus to her reporting, each child had a name and/or story). Anyway, the book is outstanding, the topic one of the most important ones from a humanity and future of our world, perspective. This is one of those life-changing books because you simply cannot go back to naivete after you read it. Highly recommended. ( )
  CarolynSchroeder | Feb 8, 2011 |
A True Story of Grief, Rescue and Grace
by Pam Cope, with Aimee Molloy
Grand Central Publishing
Hachette Book Group
April 2009

If you have ever wondered if one person can really make a difference, then you have not read Jantsen’s Gift by Pam Cope. After the tragic death of her son, Pam, a self described hairdresser, wife and soccer mom was unsure how she was going to live through each day. She was desperate, full of self-loathing, her grief was so enormous, she had no idea how she would ever get out of bed to carry on life without him.

One day, desperate, unable to cope, desolate with grief she has a chat with God,

“I cannot do this anymore. I cannot live this life....I cannot forge a life of meaning from this sorrow. Please, just take me. Or at least tell me: What do you want from me.”

Having learned from her husband Randy that the memorial fund established in her son’s name had grown to twenty five thousand, Pam decides to take a trip to Vietnam with a friend in order to visit orphanages. This initial leap of courage to take a trip that required traveling across the globe away from the comfort zone of Neosho, Missouri was the impetuous that Pam needed to begin her healing.

On her visit she met Vinh Thien a small infant boy, who had been abandoned by his mother. Despite all the many children Pam and Randy had met during their visit, Vinh stood out and without any explanation, she just knew she wanted to take him home. He would ultimately become Van Alan Cope. It was a long arduous process complete with red tape and bureaucratic double talk, but one that would help to show Pam what her path in life was to be. She was never, or seemingly never daunted by the insurmountable odds against everything she tried to implement. Her tenacious will seemed to be driven by a purpose unseen until her son’s death. Through Jantsen’s spirit she learned to live differently, perhaps that was his gift.

Throwing all her energy into saving children, Pam took on nascent roles of speaker, fund-raiser, administrator, Mom Pam (adopted mother), politician, and social worker and director to defend, protect and rescue neglected and abandoned children. She saved hundreds of children from the streets of Vietnam by providing shelter, basic needs and an education.

Pam founded the Touch A Life organization, it’s mission to help save at-risk youths globally. After reading an article in The New York Times in 2006, Pam headed to Northern Ghana to help save children forced into hard labor as slaves. Even though laws against child trafficking are in place, the practice continues without interference from authorities.
Brutally honest, inspirational without preaching, you feel the author’s pain and anguish, you feel her surrender and release, you feel her acceptance and grace.

In her words,

“I never thought that Jantsen’s death would lead me to grace, and it is my hope that nobody ever has to go through what I went through to arrive there. Even writing this book feels like another step away from Jantsen. I do take comfort in the idea that even one more person will et to know a little about him, but the fact that I can write about his death without crawling to my bed and staying there, curled up in my grief for weeks, shows how far I’ve come.”

Highly moving and emotional story of one woman’s struggle to endure loss. Pam Cope’s story is gut wrenching and sad yet offers hope for all of us who look for life’s purpose and what truly matters. Jantsen’s Gift should be on everyone’s wish list. ( )
  WisteriaLeigh | Feb 4, 2010 |
Jantsen's Gift had me hooked almost from page one. Pam Cope's memories of the grief that followed the death of her son, and her slow climb back to life, combined seamlessly with journalist Aimee Molloy's beautiful prose.

The pair capture the pain of losing a child almost too well--the first section is a hard read, emotionally. This makes the relief almost palpable when Cope first travels to Viet Nam and begins to embrace life again. The pace really picks up when she's inspired to get involved in helping orphaned Vietnamese children, and then later to help rescue children in Ghana who have been sold as fishermen's slaves by their impoverished families. When I reached the photos in the middle of the book, I was wondering where I could sign up to adopt my own. (Don't worry, it passed.)

The only trouble, for me, comes near the end of the book, when Cope describes choosing which picture to show at a presentation: she bypasses the shining faces of the kids they had rescued from slavery in Ghana, and the orphans in Cambodia or Vietnam. Instead, she chooses the picture of the boy with empty eyes who hasn't been rescued. Then she launches into how much work is yet to be done, and how even little girls have raised enough money to rescue Ghanaian slave children, and there's this undercurrent of "how can you just sit there and do nothing when I sold my 5000 square foot house to help these kids?" that makes me squirm just a little. Is that why she wrote the book, to convince people to head over to Touch a Life and donate enough money to quiet the discomfort in their hearts?

Yeah, probably not. I'm just so cynical sometimes. It's a good book, I'm glad I read it. I should just leave it at that. (More on Worducopia) ( )
1 vote Alirambles | Jul 23, 2009 |
To an outsider, Pam Cope's life looked pretty darn perfect until her 15 year old son collapsed and died unexpectedly. This devastating blow sent Pam into a downward spiral that she couldn't pull out of and which made a mockery of her previous life. Her husband held their family together, waiting for the day that Pam decided to face life again. And that day did eventually come, but her priorities had shifted. She knew that she needed to honor Jantsen's memory and to make a difference in the world. This awakening gelled on a trip to Vietnam that she, husband Randy, and daughter Crista took to visit an orphanage started by a friend and to try and escape some of the suffocating grief they felt at home. Not only did the Copes come home determined to adopt the little boy they met in Vietnam who was an immediate part of their hearts, but they had found a purpose for some of the money collected in Jantsen's name after his death: to care for and make a difference in the lives of children who had few others to care for or about them. This wasn't the end of the grief at losing Jantsen or a cure-all for their family but it became a guiding principle that helped them get over the hurdles still in their path (Randy's chance to grieve properly, disappointments over the dispersal of some of the funds, the challenges of starting a non-profit, etc.). Their story is still a work in process. Jantsen's absence will always be a gaping hole but the creation of their foundation Touch a Life is a testament to the great love they bore their son and continue to bear for children of the world.

Each chapter after Jantsen's death starts with the recounting of a short letter to Jantsen from the journal Pam continues to keep years after his death. Cope and Molloy have juxtaposed the grief of losing a child with the admirable and inspiring story of one family who has taken that sorrow and channeled it into something beautiful and full of grace. This is not an easy book to read, dealing as it does with the loss of a child and the horrible conditions, including slavery in which other children continue to live even today. But it is ultimately a hopeful book. If such a sad event can lead to even the smallest spark of hope, it will not be dismissed as simply another tragedy to avoid in conversation. It's hard to critique the writing when the topic is so very personal (I wept copiously as I read) but there were a few bits in the book that made me roll my eyes or wish the narrative line would speed up. These bits were not overwhelming though and so didn't overpower my general feeling about the book which was that this was a moving book that deserves a wide audience. Inspiring and heart breaking, I hope the publicity from the book makes it possible for more children to be saved. Jantsen's life might have been a gift to the Cope family but his family's gift will be an enduring one to the wider world. ( )
  whitreidtan | May 13, 2009 |
Pam Cope is a wife and mother from Neosho, Missouri. She lived through, barely, a parent's worst nightmare - her son Jantsen's sudden death at the age of fifteen. Prior to her son's death, Pam had been searching for something to give her life meaning. She tried excessive shopping, numerous self-help books and so forth. Nothing helped. The grief from her son's death overwhelmed her and added to her feelings of aimlessness. Within the year following his death Pam had no desire to eat, leave the house or do anything but curl up and cry. She sunk into a life-threatening depression.

Many things came together to help Pam climb out of the black hole. One of them was the reassuring voice of God in the quiet of her bedroom. She also had an extremely supportive husband, daughter, other family members, friends and a good doctor.

Once she was back on the road to recovery one of her tasks was to decide how to spend the money given in memory of her son. She searched many charitable projects. She and her husband felt the need to do something for children. Close friends were working with an orphanage in Vietnam so the family traveled to the orphanage to see if this was the right place for the money - Jantsen's gift.

Not only was it the right place for Jantsen's gift but they met a baby there who captured their hearts. This trip was the beginning of a whole new way of life for Pam and her husband Randy. They went on to establish an organization, Touch A Life Foundation, that has also changed the lives of many children.

In addition to Vietnam, they have helped children in Cambodia and Ghana in West Africa. As they say on their website, "The focus of the organization is to stand in the gap for hurting and exploited children." The help they have given children is both financial and personal. They've been able to rescue children caught in life-threatening situations. Many others have joined in with the Copes to help Touch A Life. To learn more about the organization, go here.

I'm very honored to have had the opportunity to read this book. It's one of those books everyone should read. ( )
  JoyfullyRetired | May 9, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0446199699, Hardcover)

Nine years ago, Pam Cope owned a cozy hair salon in the tiny town of Neosho, Missouri, and her life revolved around her son's baseball games, her daughter's dance lessons, and family trips to places like Disney World. She had never been out of the country, nor had she any desire to travel far from home.

Then, on June 16th, 1999, her life changed forever with the death of her 15-year-old son from an undiagnosed heart ailment.

Needing to get as far away as possible from everything that reminded her of her loss, she accepted a friend's invitation to travel to Vietnam, and, from the moment she stepped off the plane, everything she had been feeling since her son's death began to shift. By the time she returned home, she had a new mission: to use her pain to change the world, one small step at a time, one child at a time. Today, she is the mother of two children adopted from Vietnam. More than that, she and her husband have created a foundation called "Touch A Life," dedicated to helping desperate children in countries as far-flung as Vietnam, Cambodia and Ghana.

Pam Cope's story is on one level a moving, personal account of loss and recovery, but on a deeper level, it offers inspiration to anyone who has ever suffered great personal tragedy or those of us who dream about making a difference in the world.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:03 -0400)

Pam Cope's story is on one level a moving, personal account of loss and recovery, but on a deeper level, it offers inspiration to anyone who has ever suffered great personal tragedy or those of us who dream about making a difference in the world.

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