By Caroline Smith
In the world of travel guides, accounts of people travelling around the globe, and becoming acquainted with strangers are not uncommon.
Jim O’Donohue’s The World by Faith breaks this pattern in several ways, detailing a journey around the world taken not only with a young family, but also inspired by the belief that wherever they go, God will provide them with shelter and support.
Published in 2015, the story goes back much further, to January 1980, when Jim – a member of Pentecostal group the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship International – decided to take his family to the group’s world convention in Anaheim (California) later that year.
The family – Jim, his wife Anne-Marie, and children Anita, Bridget and baby Matthew – were living in their native New Zealand at the time, and had tentatively considered going to the national convention in Auckland, despite being on a tight budget.
But after seeing footage from a previous world convention, Jim resolved to attend the next one, prompting them to book a world trip taking them first to Auckland, then to a number of countries on the way to California and then back home.
With the scene set, O’Donohue details his efforts to secure funds for the trip by taking out a loan on the value of some land they own in Invercargill (New Zealand). Despite their financially tight circumstances, Jim believes he is being guided by God to take this journey, and this challenge to faith is echoed at different moments throughout the book.
After attending the national convention, the family sets off to Fiji, where they befriend local people in Nandi and Lautoka – often sharing meals with them – and find accommodation with a parishioner in the latter.
This approach also becomes a feature in their story – the family will often search for local Catholic Churches wherever they are, and source accommodation and other support from the Parish Priest or members of the faith community.
After Fiji comes Hawaii, and then California in the US, where the family attends the world convention, catching up with friends from the Fellowship, including some New Zealanders. However, their faith is tested by difficulties in finding accommodation, until they approach a woman at the convention who offers to let them stay with her family, and whose husband offers them extra cash for their trip.
They move on to New Mexico, Colorado and finally Montana, where they stay with a member of the Fellowship in the town of Billings and make many friends, borrowing a car to undertake their next part of the trip, visiting the in-laws in Canada.
Their stay in North America ends in Washington DC, the city from which they set off for London and then Spain – where they plan to visit a site of Marion Visitation in the town of Garabandel. The Spanish leg of the trip is perhaps where they encounter the greatest challenges, due to linguistic differences and having nowhere to stay. However, their difficulties usually give way to good luck – after traipsing through Bilbao late at night in search of a hostel, they find one, and then a few days later are offered decent accommodation, meals and spending money by a local man in Garabendel.
They journey on to Rome (Italy) and then Bombay (now Mumbai, India), where again they meet difficulties, missing the last flight to Singapore and having nowhere to stay. And again their luck returns, as a hotel patron who Jim approaches offers the family his room to stay in, as he is not using it.
Their trip becomes much easier from Singapore onwards, as they have contacts there and in Perth and Canberra, where they stop on the way back to New Zealand. Looking at The World by Faith as a whole, it offers a different take on the travel writing genre, as the O’Donohues are constantly called to pray and ask for guidance in their decision-making throughout the trip.
There are times when some of the situations described might be frustrating to the reader – particularly considering that small children are involved – but the family manages to survive and find help regardless noting the generosity of local people.
Those who would like more information on The World by Faith, or to request a copy, should email: firstname.lastname@example.org