25 September, 2015

Tell Your Story*

One of the things that prompted me to get into writing back when my children were still very young was someone telling me at a missionary women's retreat that we needed to write our stories down. I still very much believe this, and you're seeing it here on my blog. 

I could write several stories about this old car. I don't know that
many of them are much more than entertaining. However,
this car is where I met my first Japanese person, where I first
learned that many Japanese women who become Christians
will not marry because they significantly outnumber
Christian Japanese men.
Many writers are aiming to have a book published. I may yet have such an desire, but at present I feel that my call is to tell not just my own story (via this blog and in various other short-formats like magazine and devotional articles) but to enable others to tell their stories.

I didn't not foresee becoming a magazine editor, but now I can see that that position is indeed enabling me to facilitate others to tell their stories. Every missionary has stories. But many missionaries struggle to find venues for their stories, so they generally don't bother. 

At least these days we missionary women have venues like velvetashes.com and thriveministry.org, but these are just sharing between women who are like us: women serving outside our home cultures.

But finding venues outside of that audience is hard. Believe me, I've searched for potential venues for short stories I've written about my life, and there aren't many with general audiences. Even less for non-Americans. Avenues for publishing missionary biographies aren't numerous either.

Missionaries are ordinary people who live in often extraordinary circumstances. Just this alone, without the call from God to do this, leads to interesting stories. Because missionaries are led by God to do these unusual things in unusual places we have much to learn from them. Their stories aren't just interesting, they are often challenging, entertaining or sobering, they often have spiritual lessons for us too.

I'd rather hear the story of a missionary in the Syrian crisis than something put together by a journalist, who might have biases we don't know about (or be forced to write from the perspective of his editor). Hearing from a missionary in that situation will take us into the hearts of the people, and hopefully something closer to the truth of what's happening on the ground (admittedly someone on the ground like a missionary might not have a bigger picture, something a journalist might be better at).

I know that my blog received many clicks during the disaster in 2011. People wanted to hear from someone on the ground. I did my best to write as someone who was on the edge of the disaster.

We humans are made for stories and storytelling. That's a big way that we learn. So I challenge you, no matter who you are or where you live, tell your stories. Seek to tell your stories to people who are like you, but especially to people who aren't. 

While we were in Australia I had the blessing to be a part of a ladies' Bible study that comprised of a number of women from different backgrounds to me. We had single mums, a lady going through divorce, a former drug addict, a lady who had narcissistic parents, a mum who's husband struggles with pornography, and others who struggled with depression, anxiety, migraines, a mum with a disabled child and women with parents in aged care, one who dropped in for a week or two who'd experienced Vanuatu's devastating cyclone, and me, who came from another perspective on many things.

You get the picture. We shared our stories as we went along, prayed for one another, struggled with each other's weaknesses, but generally supported and encouraged one another. It was a privilege to get to know these ladies, though their stories.

I want to challenge you to share your stories. No matter who you are or where you are, seek to share your stories with others, especially others who aren't like you. It won't be easy, but it is how we learn. It means that your stories and what you've learned from them, don't stop with you, but can help others to learn and grow. Your experience is unique, if you can, share it.

*This is in response to a writing theme prompt for this week on Velvet Ashes' The Grove, an online community of Christian women serving overseas.


Amy Young said...

Wendy, I'm so glad you linked up with Velvet Ashes! And I agree, I prefer to hear from someone living in a place than merely passing through for a journalistic story!!

Wendy said...

Thanks for stopping by Amy.

JN said...

I just finished reading Kate McCord's Why God Calls Us to Dangerous Places. She weaves her stories (and those of others) with Scripture. Also love her book In the Land of Blue Burqas. She tells stories of her time in Afghanistan, but more than that the way she models telling stories as a means of evangelism is instructive for any believer.
- Judith