Inspiring stories

“God made man because he loves stories.”
Elie Wiesel

I heard this quotation at a reception I attended this week for Prison Fellowship. PF have recently moved to new offices in the building I work in, so they invited me to come and learn a bit about their work.

What I heard and read were stories; stories of broken lives transformed, stories of volunteers extending love to society’s rejects, stories of bereaved parents offering forgiveness to their son’s killers.

Stories, in short, of people.

I learned that one of PF’s most successful programmes is called Sycamore Tree. During this 6-week course, prisoners meet with people who have been the victims of crime. For many of them, this is revelatory; most of them have simply never grasped the fact that a victim is a person. The idea that their actions had consequences for someone else is utterly foreign to them.

In my ignorance, I had assumed that criminals didn’t care about their victims. What good could restorative justice programmes do, I wondered, wouldn’t they just be more painful for the victims as they had to look into the blank, cold dismissiveness of a man to whom their feelings meant nothing?

I’m sure there are criminals like that – there are those who feel so disenchanted with and rejected by the world, that they want to cause pain to people in it – but there are many who just don’t know.

Stories are powerful things, through them you can communicate truths which lectures and academic reports could never convey. They carry a message through the brain and into the heart. And the most powerful stories of all are the true ones, people’s real live experiences of the world and their testimony of dealing with issues.

I will soon be writing about one such biography here, the stunning, incredible testimony of love, generosity and faith in the darkest of circumstances. I’ll be holding a competition to win copies of the book – I went on ebay and bought three specially – but while I tantalise you with that thought tell me whose story inspires you.

Whose life has made you see something differently?
Whose experiences have you learned from?
Who do you aspire to be like…and why?

Links back to your blog are allowed, if you’ve written about someone inspiring over there – think of it as an informal (and very impromtu) blog carnival!

4 Comments On This Topic
  1. Father Stephen
    on Jun 4th at 9:45 am

    Now this, together with what you wrote yesterday on Peter’s blog, reminds me of an ex-prisoner I once knew. We were leaving church one day, not long after I first met him, and as we approached the door he stepped back to let me go first – or so I thought. I made some comment about his politeness to which he explained that he wasn’t being polite, it was that he had spent so long inside where he was not permitted to open doors and had always to step back and allow the prison officer (he used a more colloquial term) to unlock it, that he sometimes forgot that he was now allowed to open doors himself.

    On the other hand he was a very enthusiastic man who did not believe in the philosophy of metaphorically trying doors to see where they may lead. No, his philosophy was smash them down without any doubt or fear. That, of course, is what got him locked up in the first place – going where he should not have gone. So he always had this tussle in life. He always wanted to get to the other side of the door but had been trained to hold back until it was opened.

    Fortunately God knows the problem. So instead of leaving us to try one door after another (gently or forcefully) in the hope one might lead us somewhere good, He acts a bit like the prison officer. He knows where we should go and where it would be wrong for us to go, so He goes ahead and opens the right door. See Revelation chapter 3 verses 7 & 8.

    • newsong40
      on Jun 4th at 10:03 am

      Yes, I’ve heard that about ex-offenders having to re-learn freedom. (I probably first heard it from you, telling me this episode!)

      Interesting thoughts – have you ever thought of writing your own blog? You can write posts for mine sometime if you like…!

  2. Phyllis Avrit
    on Jun 7th at 9:34 pm

    When I see someone facing tragedy that has eclipsed their lives, and in the midst of their pain they look to God and affirm His goodness and their trust in Him, I am deeply touched. I’m moved because I see so clearly the power of God in them, and know I am seeing God in action.

    I changed the names of the people whose stories I am sharing.

    Tami lost her father to the Vietnam war. Her mom raised her. Then about 15 years ago the news reported 3 men that may be POWs and still alive, and her father was reported to be one of the men. Hope sprung up. Then it turned out not to be true. Hope died. Then her soul-mate, her husband died of melanoma a few months after her 5th baby was born. Pain and loss beyond words, and yet she clung to God. This woman of God is serving Him with Campus Crusade, now without her husband. She is a testimony of God’s grace and she is a living example to me. I want to be like her. She has lived so dependent on her Father, her life is a blessing to everyone who knows her.

    Rebecca was overcome with feelings of extreme fear and turmoil. Her body kept going into ‘fight or flight’ mode and her heart raced. She couldn’t eat. Couldn’t sleep. Couldn’t do anything but sit and rock gently back and forth. She didn’t know what was going on, but she kept her eyes on Jesus throughout, and knew He was there in the struggle with her. In her deepest hour of fear, she clung to her Rock. Though everything in her body told her to be afraid, her spirit was calm. She is fine now, but I remember those dark days of hers, when all I could do was be there for her. She taught me what complete trust was all about.

    Darlene is facing a deadly disease. She’s sick from all the medicine. She is a newlywed and a missionary. Her whole life is ahead of her, and she was just diagnosed with advanced cancer. She and her husband are trusting God. What bright lights they are.

    Terri is watching her sister go through a fight for her life too. Her sister is young and has a little girl and loving husband. Their faith is strong and their tears are real. This hurts. But God is still there, cupping them in His hands, gathering all their tears, and helping them get through this.

    These are the people that encourage me to new heights. They are the ones who radiate Christ in all their pain.

    There are others, but I don’t know them personally.

    William Wilberforce, because God radically changed his life and turned his focus not on his power, wealth or intellect, but on those who needed someone to fight for them~ blacks that were savagely sold into slavery and to treatment that no man deserved. He turned to the poor in his country, and the animals that were abused and worked to death. He became their voice and changed not only England, but the whole world. He taught what Christian compassion looked like. He spent all his wealth helping others, and died with no home of his own but living with one of his sons. That’s totally living what you profess.

    Then there’s Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He also left the comfort of his surroundings to stand against evil in the Nazi regime. He called the church to action. He risked everything and was hung two weeks before US soldiers liberated the camp he was being held at. He was the picture of total trust in His Lord, right up to the end.

    Joni Eareckson Tada is remarkable to me. She became a quadriplegic as a teenager. She speaks the truth with clarity and boldness and her faith in God goes way deeper than most. Now she battles breast cancer and is in such pain. She models Paul’s words in Philippians 4:1 “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”

    All these examples urge me on, encourage me to take a bigger step of faith and see what God is going to do. They remind me that He will never abandon me. He is GOOD. He is holy. And He is enough.

    • newsong40
      on Jun 7th at 10:09 pm

      Wow, thank you so much, Phyllis. It brought tears to my eyes reading those amazing stories of faith – particularly those first few who no-one’s ever going to make a movie about – I guess in some ways it’s easier to relate to people living in this time and place, dealing with things that could strike any one of us any day. It amazes me to see their strength and their faith even when the night is very dark and the road very long.
      Thank you so much for sharing these wonderful stories of inspirational people.
      Love you! x


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