This week, I put down my pen after writing the 250th faith story for Eternity News! It’s been an amazing, humbling journey so far.
I started in September, 2019. I thought it would be a wonderful idea to capture hundreds of testimonies – a huge variety of stories of people coming to faith in Jesus, from every kind of background. I began by interviewing my obliging (and easily persuaded) friends. I gave them a nice cup of tea and we chatted. Mostly, I already knew their faith stories, so writing them down felt easy, or like eating sticky date pudding in the winter – rich and satisfying.
After 20, I remember I told Darren, my husband, that I had the best job in the world, and wouldn’t it be amazing if I could write 1000 faith stories?
Finding faith in different places
This week, at 250, I read them all again. I noticed that the interviewees have come from 33 countries and six continents. They’ve included every age bracket. No wonder I’ve found it fascinating!
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Interestingly, of the 250 stories, roughly 20 per cent of interviewees said they have known about Jesus since childhood. Another 20 per cent described their experiences in their late teens that led to trusting Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. The largest group of people (about 30 per cent of the whole cohort) came to faith in Jesus in their mid to late-20s. The remaining 30 per cent were spread out, making decisions from their 30s to 80s.
In the quiet of the night, we know our hearts are messy places … we long for answers and truth and beauty and acceptance.
It seems that many of the 20-year-olds were asking big questions, often resulting from deep struggle. Family members had died or there was prolonged illness. They were looking at the world and saying, ‘Something is not right here.’ At other times, the person had everything going right, like Agnes. She had her dream job but felt there had to be more to life. Most of them began to realise that not only was something not right out there in the world but also something was not right inside them.
The essence of faith stories
And that’s where we, as the readers, relate to the process, whatever age we are, and whatever language we’re speaking. In the quiet of the night, we know our hearts are messy places, and we cannot fix them, or hide the awful scribbles and confusion and darkness, however much we might like to. We long for answers and truth and beauty and acceptance.
Every single story has been different. Yet in essence they’ve been the same.
Of course, that’s what I’ve come to see, through the writing more than the percentages and the numbers: God’s astounding grace. He loves us. Every day, he is at work in the world, in crazily unique ways, drawing people into a living relationship with himself, through his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Every day, he is fixing our mess, and he has fixed it for all time through the redeeming cross of Jesus and the empty tomb.
This is God’s gracious work, welcoming us in, offering us peace and relationship and forgiveness. Every single story has been different. Yet in essence, they’ve been the same: ‘Jesus died for me.’
All kinds of faith stories
I love how Hadija heard the word ‘Jesus’ while praying in a mountainous Muslim village in Russia. I love that Caroline grew up in country Australia, not knowing a single Christian yet having a genuine sense of God’s love for her. I love the way Russ described his atheist background, yet after his cancer journey, he knew he wanted to thank God. I love that Shaun studied multiple science degrees and then realised he was actually a ‘creation’ and needed Jesus. I love that Yvonne read a Bible in a Chinese library and God spoke powerfully through his word. I love that Tim went to seven different churches, and then at the seventh church, the pastor prayed for him, and he heard the gospel and trusted Jesus. I love that Rajat prayed for his mum in a Hindu village in India and she was miraculously healed, and he came to faith in Jesus. I love all the stories!
I also love the fact that, sometimes, the person’s understanding of God’s grace and mercy happens in an instant, and they respond in repentance and faith. At other times, it seems to take months and years for the person to come to know and love the Lord Jesus, submitting to his Lordship. Indeed, writing these stories has reminded me that we’re all on a long and winding journey and that God is at work in everything.
Perhaps, like Judith, in another year, or even ten, we will look back and describe things differently. Perhaps we will tell each other that God has been at work in our hearts, even at age 92, humbling us and growing our faith in him. Perhaps at Easter, we will want to weep even more at the cross of Jesus and celebrate even more at the empty tomb. That’s my prayer and longing for myself.
This week Darren reminded me that I still have 750 faith stories to go if I want to get to 1000. He said that at this rate, it might take another 15 years. I smiled at the thought. If I do happen to be still sitting here at my desk, interviewing and writing and waiting on God, in another 15 years’ time, I’ll be deeply thankful.
That reminds me: Darren and I have a dream for next year. We’d love to take ‘Faith Stories’ on the road and visit lots of smaller, rural churches, gathering and sharing faith stories. If you would like us to visit your church, please let us know. Also, if you have been one of the 250 people who have shared with me, thank you! If you haven’t and would like to, please email me at [email protected]
Or, equally, you could dob in an easily persuaded friend or family member … and convince them to share their story more widely. For me, gathering and writing 250 faith stories has continued to feel like eating sticky date pudding in the winter… except far, far richer and more satisfying and surprising than I ever imagined.