“We were living in a small town in the Himalayas [in Nepal], which was quite remote …
“It was during a civil war. So we had shoot-on-site curfews every evening.
“We had an army camp really nearby. So we would often hear gunfire and have to work out if it was practice or if we actually did need to get under the beds.
“And then I was homeschooling our three sons. We didn’t have any internet and we were a long way from anything else, like museums or anywhere that you may want to take your kids …
“It was 2005. My closest Nepali friend was diagnosed with a brain tumour that year and she was very unwell. She was given six months to live.
“And then, at the same time, it started raining again. And in Nepal, it rains for 120 days in a row during the monsoon. It was our seventh monsoon.
“So at every level, things were hard.”
You may recognise this extraordinary story. It’s told by one of Australia’s best-loved storytellers Naomi Reed on the latest episode of Eternity’s new podcast Run Like a Woman. And like all the stories Naomi tells, it’s true.
“I began to write really as a means of trying to work out what is God doing in all of this? And how does he work through seasons of life that are hard.” – Naomi Reed
Others have read some of Naomi’s 10 books for adults and children, including the autobiographical series about her 13 years as a missionary physiotherapist in Nepal – My Seventh Monsoon, No Ordinary View (which won 2009 Australian Christian Book of the Year) and Heading Home.
But 20 years into Naomi’s unexpected career in storytelling, how have these stories impacted her personally? In answering this question, Naomi begins with her own story.
“Last year in the pandemic, I started a book club online,” she tells Run Like a Woman hosts Penny Mulvey and Bec Abbott.
“A few people had read my book My Seventh Monsoon. I, myself hadn’t read it for about probably ten years. I wrote it when I was 37 and I’m now 53. And reading it again, I was actually a bit surprised by the honesty. Maybe I wouldn’t have shared that vulnerably now in my fifties …
“But I’m really glad that I did. And I’m so thankful to God for the way he then used it. People read it and it turned into lots of other things and lots of encouragement and people writing to me and saying thank you because it’s helped them to grow in their own walk with Jesus.”
That first book led Naomi to share her story not only through published works but also in person.
After returning home to Australia from Nepal, she says, “I then started getting invitations to share at women’s groups and book clubs and conferences, and that kind of kept going for about 12 years. Every week, there’d be more invitations. [I’d think] ‘That’s a good idea. That’s a good gospel opportunity.’ And so I kept going. And writing more books and speaking more. [Until] I didn’t have any time to be a physio.”
In more recent years, Naomi’s focus has been on telling other people’s stories. Many have been women. And the type of stories she is most interested in are like her own – stories that wrestle with faith in the face of hardship.
“I began to write really as a means of trying to work out what is God doing in all of this? And how does he work through seasons of life that are hard,” she says.
Naomi has recorded dramatic stories of biblical women – including Mary, the mother of Jesus, retelling the Christmas story as a 70-year-old woman, and the widow who offers two coins – but all she has – as a temple offering, as told in Mark 12.
“At the funeral parlour, they all laid hands on him for hours, praying. Even then, it was expected that God could still do a miracle.” – Naomi Reed
Last year Naomi co-wrote a book with Feby Chan – the wife of Andrew Chan who was executed for drug smuggling as part of the ‘Bali Nine’. Naomi describes Feby’s story, as told in Walking Him Home, as “a testimony to the love and faithfulness of God, even within pain and deep discouragement.”
“The first thing I realised when I met Feby is that she is a really prayerful woman … She’d come from not only a really prayerful background but a church culture in Indonesia where they’ve seen miracles and they expect miracles,” Naomi shares.
“She got to know Andrew through doing a prayer ministry at the prison and then over time, they became friends and shared a lot. They became more intimate and then became engaged to be married. But throughout that whole time, she absolutely expected God to do the miraculous thing and just save him. By the end, a million people were praying as well. And so she expected that miracle, even to the day before he was executed.
Naomi continues: “[Andrew] had said to them, ‘I want you to take my body back to Australia and I want you praying – pray me back to life,’ knowing that God could answer. So even at the end … at the funeral parlour, they all laid hands on him for hours, praying. Even then, it was expected that God could still do a miracle.
“So you can imagine the incredible pain [Feby] felt that God didn’t answer the way she thought he might have …
“And for me, that’s actually the point that I think is really important: What does it mean when God hasn’t done what we thought he would have? What does it mean to then slowly keep on walking, keeping on getting out of bed, keeping on trusting God … What does that journey look like?”
“It’s a sacred thing to be able to sit with each other in the hard places and not just tell the stories where everything turned out nice in the end.” – Naomi Reed
And while Feby’s story is exceptional, Naomi says she feels just as “privileged” to write the stories of others.
Having written a book of faith stories in 2017 – Finding Faith – Reed was inspired to seek out more “ordinary” people and their “extraordinary” stories of God in their lives. And so Eternity‘s Faith Stories series was born.
“It almost feels sacred every time [I collect a faith story] because I ask them deep questions about how they first came to know the Lord, or the background to that, and what they’re struggling with. And what’s the biggest questions that they sit with; what are their issues of fear and longing. And every time [they share those] hidden things …
“It’s a sacred thing to be able to sit with each other in the hard places and not just tell the stories where everything turned out nice in the end. Because that’s not the gospel, it’s not that everything’s going to turn nice here on this earth.
‘The gospel is that Jesus died for us so that we could know him, so that we could know his presence and leading and comfort and hope. He’s never going to leave us and he’s preparing a place for us where then, there’ll be no hidden places. But now we’re living with them and now is the time to encourage each other.”
Season 1 of Run Like a Woman has launched on the Eternity Podcast Network – subscribe today!
Listen to Episode 3 of Run Like a Woman – ‘The power of women’s stories’ via the link below: