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As Many as the Stars

A Book Review

As Many as the Stars: A Story of Change for the Children of China by Robert Glover with Theodore Bruin.  Hodder Faith, 2020. Currently available in the UK at Amazon; preorders available on Amazon for release outside the UK in October 2021.

In our post-Covid world, as international borders slammed shut and personal boundaries narrowed to the four walls of our own homes, a book that allows the reader to zoom (ha!) out and regain a sense of the macro feels like stepping on to a wide beach and taking in the vast view of the ocean or catching a brilliant sunset over wide-open plains.  Refreshing and inspiring. As Many as the Stars by Robert Glover and Theodore Bruin, is one such book.  For those of us who have slogged in the trenches this past year, perhaps feeling that very little progress was to be made during lockdown, this book is a chance to raise one’s head and enjoy a quick eagle-eye view of God’s hand still at work in the big picture.

This engaging memoir tells the story of how Robert Glover, his wife Elizabeth, and their six children came to China from the UK and created the charity Care for Children. Based first in Shanghai and later Beijing, the Glovers partnered with high-level government officials while also getting to know their immediate neighbors—often those recently displaced by the rapid urbanization of China in the early 2000s and then absorbed by the sprawl of those mega-cities.  With both great respect for China’s leaders and deep compassion for her most vulnerable citizens, the Glover family followed God’s call to China in 1998 following a providential exploratory trip in 1996. 

The earlier chapters of the book reveal the voice of the Lord speaking words of promise and vision to Robert and Elizabeth and his perfect provision in equipping them for the task ahead while growing their family to eight in idyllic Guernsey.  The chapters detailing Robert’s first trip to China show the hand of God at work to arrange meetings and direct resources of power and wealth to accomplish his purposes—this tale is especially thrilling as the Lord ordained several providential meetings that would prove to become important relationships.  Several famous names appear, but the story does not focus on rubbing shoulders with people of influence and means, but rather on how the Lord used them to start a new work very quickly.

The rest of the book tells the story of their next 15 years in China and beyond, building Care for Children and partnering with Civil Affairs officials in Shanghai and then at the national level in Beijing to establish a new family-based system of foster care for children under the care of Social Welfare Institutes (SWI, China’s government-managed institutional orphanages). 

Having worked as a volunteer in a provincial capital SWI during these same years, I found it fascinating to read what was happening in the halls of power to bring about the changes I was witness to in my own city, as roughly half of the children in institutional care here were moved to foster families. The behind-the-scenes stories of those in places of power in the government who brought this about were deeply touching, I was often moved to tears. God used those officials to restore more than a million abandoned or orphaned children to family life, but he was also at work in many of their lives personally which Glover testifies to.  It is worth it to read this book for those stories alone.  It is a powerful reminder that the Lord is at work everywhere and no level of society is too low to be beneath his notice, or too high to escape it.

In writing of the family’s life in China, I particularly enjoyed the brief glimpses of people touched by their day-to-day lives in the chapter “Gospel Living.” Throughout this book, the Glovers’ respect for all they meet stands out. From people without homes living on the street to high government officials, the Glovers were able to connect on a personal level.  They found creative ways to meet practical needs and address poverty while restoring dignity and hope.  As parents, they instilled their children with values of compassion, kindness, and respect for every person. All too many who have worked for any length of time in China have succumbed to cynicism and stereotyping and I found the attitude of the family especially refreshing.

If the account could be longer or broader in scope, it would be fascinating to hear stories of the children placed in foster families beyond the numbers, both the good and bad. For instance, we know of foster families in our city who very much embraced their foster children as their own sons and daughters, providing for them with inheritances and homes as young adults just as they did for their biological children. But there are also very real problems that plague a system put in place long before social workers could be adequately trained, such as lack of training and support for special needs, conflicts with the international adoption system, and tragic cases of abuse.  But China’s social woes are well documented elsewhere. Enjoy this book as the personal tale that it is, and rejoice in this account of God’s promises as fulfilled to this family, that blessed over a million children in China with restored family life.

One editorial note, the many typos around the pinyin used for Chinese words detracts from the engaging story and undermines Glover’s obvious high respect for Chinese culture. For instance, guanxi is misspelled throughout the book, tone markers are randomly placed over only one syllable, and spaces sometimes appear in the middle of words.  Hopefully this inspiring story will find many readers and future editions may be corrected.

Our thanks to John Murray Press for supplying a copy of As Many as the Stars: A Story of Change for the Children of China for this review.

Post updated on April 27, 2021.

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Image credit: Ryan Hutton on Unsplash.

Heather Kaiser

Heather Kaiser has been living and working in China for over 25 years, and has volunteered at the local orphanage since 2006.  View Full Bio

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