This post contains affiliate links. Charles Mulli: We Are Family by Janet & Geoff Benge is one of the most graphic, emotionally difficult books we have read for our religion curriculum. I do recommend this book, but I would only read it with kids who are 10 and older.
About Charles Mulli: We Are Family
Charles Mulli was born in 1949 in Kenya to a submissive mother and an abusive, alcoholic father. He was one of many children born to the family, but for reasons unexplained, his family repeatedly abandoned him. First, they left him with his maternal grandmother. Though she wanted to help him, she herself was poor, and her children forbade her to feed Charles. Instead, he had to go around town begging for food. Later, after staying with his own family for awhile, his parents shipped him off to his paternal grandfather, who fed him, but shipped him back to his family after some time. When he’s kicked out of his own family once again, he tried to stay with his maternal aunt, but her husband wouldn’t allow it.
Charles supports himself from a very young age and is independent from his early teens. Through luck, sheer determination, and a brilliant mind, Charles is a rich man by the time he’s in his mid to late 20s.
He marries young, and by tradition, his wife stays with his father’s family for a few years. (I was horrified by the thought. Charles’ father repeatedly beats Charles’ mother beyond recognition. Why in the world would he send his wife into that situation?) However, after some time, Charles’ wife, Esther, refuses to stay with Charles’ family.
Charles warns his father that if his father beats his mother again, Charles will take him to the tribal elders. If that happens, Charles’ father is guaranteed to either die or be disabled from his punishment. Yet, he doesn’t stop, and Charles stays true to his word. He takes his father to the tribal elders where he’s whipped. Before the elders can kill his father, Charles intervenes. In time, Charles’ father turns his life around, becomes a Christian, and no longer beats his wife. (Warning–the tribal punishment scene is very difficult to read.)
My Thoughts on This Book
Charles Mulli’s story is one of inspiration. I am amazed at all he accomplished. His story is also heartbreaking, and I felt so bad for him as a little boy to grow up in such a traumatic environment.
I was shocked when Charles, a devout Christian, decided to sell all of his businesses and instead open an orphan home for street children. Both the girls and I feel that he shortchanged his own children to do this. It seems like there should have been a way for him to take care of the street children while also remaining loyal to, and engaged with, his own children.
I give Charles Mulli: We Are Family by Janet & Geoff Benge 4 out of 5 stars on the Mom’s Plans’ scale.
Read more great books by Janet & Geoff Benge
Corrie ten Boom: Keeper of the Angels’ Den by Janet & Geoff Benge
William Wilberforce: Take Up the Fight by Janet & Goeff Benge