'God is at work, and our stories are not over yet'
Naomi Reed shares two of her favourite faith stories from 2023
“Thank you to all those who’ve been reading faith stories with me this year! It’s been an absolute privilege spending time in that sacred place – listening to people share from their pain and struggle, their questions and weariness, and then hearing their profound descriptions of the way God has held and restored them in Christ. If you have been one of the 300 people who has shared your faith story with me, thank you!
I’m now about to take some time away from gathering faith stories. I would love to pause and weave together 50 of the best stories into a little book that we could give away to others. I would love to capture the beautiful variety of ways that God works in the human heart – indeed in our own hearts – softening us to the Lord Jesus, drawing us into eternal hope and transforming us over time. In order to capture some of that wider perspective, I think I need a break from frantically gathering faith stories, and a return instead to rest and wonder, relying on God’s Spirit for new words and paragraphs.
Two of my favourite faith stories this year have come from Ann and Les. They’re a gorgeous couple in their seventies who I met through mutual friends. Back in April, we shared a starlit meal together in country NSW. During the evening, I actually lost my voice, which was frustrating, but I couldn’t stop listening to Ann and Les, which is a testament to their storytelling!
Ann told me about her conversion at 8 years old. She was sent off to Sunday school by her unbelieving parents. On one Sunday, she watched her teacher draw a picture of the Good Shepherd, who went after the one lost sheep.
Ann was so moved by the story and by the Shepherd’s love that she immediately put her trust in Jesus and went home, excitedly, to tell her parents. They were not impressed! But over the next few decades, both of Ann’s parents came to faith in the Lord Jesus. It was a combination of seeing the impact of prayer in Ann and Les’s life, as well as being on the receiving end of kindness from the local Christian community. Kindness is so important … as are faithful Sunday school teachers!
Everything changed for Les in that moment.
Les, on the other hand, had a very troubled childhood. His mother died when he was six, and his father’s new partnership brought violence and abuse into their home. Les quickly developed ways of escape – to pubs, clubs, snooker halls – all the places that felt safer than home. By his late teens, Les was full of fears and questions and scars. He felt deeply abandoned.
But then, in 1968, he went to a Billy Graham evangelistic crusade, and heard that God loved him deeply, in all his mess. Everything changed for Les in that moment. His burdens slowly lifted. Since their marriage, Ann and Les have spent the last 50 years mentoring and encouraging younger believers. They certainly encouraged me!
But here’s another interesting thing. After Ann and Les’s faith stories were published by Eternity News in June, they were shared widely – 167 times on Facebook. As a result of their shared stories, many of Ann and Les’s family and friends heard their faith stories for the first time, including those who didn’t share their faith in Jesus.
You have been a wonderful part of the way God works.
Last month, I caught up with Ann and Les again, and they told me what had happened in the months since sharing their faith stories. Apparently, family members who were previously out of touch with them read their stories online, and asked to reconnect, having understood past pain. Other family members commented on their trust in Jesus, having not heard or understood it before. Others had new questions about faith in God. It’s true that God is at work, and our stories are not over yet…
To those of you who have not only enjoyed the stories, but shared them online, thank you. You have been a wonderful part of the way God works, revealing his truth to us in Jesus. To anyone else, who may have ideas or thoughts for the Faith Stories book, please comment below!
Thank you! See you in 2024!”
Faith Stories will return in 2024 after Naomi has taken some time away. But first, stay tuned for the final Faith Story of 2023 at Christmas this year!