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Editor's note: Author Becky Masterman is a Heifer supporter and recently had her novel Rage Against the Dying nominated for best first novel by the Mystery Writers of America.

While my position on matters of faith changes from moment to moment, the thing that has always been constant with me is prayer.  It’s one thing you can do when you’re grateful, or sad, or powerless in a sister’s illness.  And you just never know. 

But even prayer failed me some years ago when the image of a starving child started into my head whenever I began.  I mentioned this to a friend, “It must mean that prayer is useless, that my wants are trivial in the face of such suffering.”  She said, “I don’t think so.  I think you need to find that child and feed him.” 

 She made me remember another friend, 10 years before, who gave me a share of a llama, and I had merely thought, “Oh how cute.”  But now I was reminded of Heifer International’s work.  I gave a relatively small donation, hoping it would somehow find its way.

Cover art for Becky Masterman's novel Rage Against the Dying
Author Becky Masterman donates 10 percent of her royalties to Heifer International.

 The image of the child disappeared from my prayers, but not from my heart and mind.  Over the years I found delight and an unexpected gift of whimsy in the symbolic giving that sustained people I would never know.  I gave business associates mosquito nets as holiday gifts.  I gave my Capricorn sister a goat for her 70th birthday.  I gave my new son-in-law a water buffalo and a flock of geese and called it a dowry.  My husband told his children we’d prefer an animal as a Christmas gift, and every year the grandchildren peruse the on-line catalog to find a suitable animal.  A new generation of sharing is begun.  They’re particularly fond of pigs.

In 2013, after 20 years of writing novels that didn’t sell, I found some moderate success with a thriller called Rage Against the Dying.  Publishing deals with not only a US publisher, but with foreign publishers in 10 other countries, allowed me to up my relationship with Heifer considerably.  I committed to giving at least 10% of my royalties to fund larger projects.  This excites me, and sometimes encourages me to keep writing when the writing gets awfully difficult.  No matter how selfless we try to be, there’s always payback, isn’t there?

Recently someone from Heifer invited me to write this post, as part of their Read to Feed Month.  I was able to share more good news.  The Mystery Writers of America had nominated Rage against the Dying for for best first novel.  That had led to a request from publishers for more books.  And a movie option.   We’re talking lots of livestock, here.

Read to Feed: How wonderful when everything works together somehow for the good—stories that people want to read, contributing to the fight against starvation.  There is something in prayer, or beyond prayer, after all.        


Heifer International

Heifer International is a nonprofit, non-governmental organization working with communities to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth.