Why write true stories of faith?
When I was a young mum in New Zealand, our family kept a small cardboard box on the dining table. We would write down instances of answered prayer and keep the scraps of paper in the box.
One day, my three-year old son lost his Thomas the Tank Engine toy train. We prayed for it, and he later found it under his bed. I probably wrote down his words for him – don’t think he could write then. Now, about seventeen years later, I think back and remember words to the effect of, ‘I looked under my bed and saw the train engine face glowing.’
It would be easy to dismiss this story as childish. That’s not God answering prayer; that’s looking for stuff. Everybody does it, whether you are a praying person or not, whether God exists or not. Sometimes you find stuff and sometimes you don’t.
But is there more to that story than finding a toy train? Were my son and I learning to turn to God in time of need and so to acknowledge God? Did the act of writing imprint that small incident in our minds as a reminder of God with us?
In the Old Testament, Jacob fled from his father’s house because his brother Esau wanted to kill him. In the dessert, Jacob dreamt of angels and of God. When he woke up, Jacob built an altar to God and said, ‘Surely God is in this place and I knew it not.’ If we were to examine our lives, perhaps there have been many instances when God was with us and we knew it not at the time. Perhaps we have many stories of faith yet untold.
A call-out to all writers from Stories of Life
I am writing this guest post as a member of the Stories of Life team. Stories of Life is a writing competition that seeks to share and celebrate true stories of faith and testimony. Submissions are accepted from 1 April to 31 July. The categories are:
- · Tabor Open Stories of Life (1000 to 1500 words, AUD10 entry fee)
- · Eternity Matters Short Stories of Life (up to 500 words, AUD 10 entry fee)
- · Lutheran Education Young Stories of Life (500 – 1000 words, for writers below the age of 17, free to enter)
First, second and third cash prizes are awarded in each category. Our 2019 judges are: Simon Kennedy (Open), Kit Densley (Short), Ruth Bonetti (Young).
Selected stories will also be published in the annual Stories of Life anthology. Since 2016, we have published 129 short stories. Some of these stories will be broadcast on radio in Adelaide, and published on our Stories of Life website.
|Contributors at the 2018 Stories of Life book launch|
What we are looking for.
The genre of writing sought is narrative non-fiction, also called creative non-fiction. That is to say, we encourage creativity. All literary devices used by fiction writers may be used to enable to reader to vicariously experience what it was like when God revealed himself to you (or someone else – you can write another person’s story with his or her permission).
A child might pray about and write of toy trains found under small beds. As we grow up our concerns change: from existential questions to personal challenges, from local concerns to big issues. We know that we haven’t fossilised into old age as long as we can still see and respond to what goes on around us, whether in grief, mirth, despair, or wonder.
For the writer, part of that response is usually to write. The act of writing sharpens our observations and clarifies our thinking. Unlike news reporting, narrative non-fiction requires the writer to interpret what has happened. This may be subtle and brief, but the writer’s worldview will be evident through the story telling. Interpretation requires honest reflection and may require opening some of the most vulnerable parts of our soul to others.
It is not without risk to write in this way, but the potential pay-offs are manyfold. We are strengthened in our faith. We encourage others, often regardless of their faith position, because stories that reveal deep truths resonate with the human soul. If art is a form of worship – and for writers stories are our art form – then to write is to worship.
As the apostle Paul wrote, we have different gifts according to the grace given to each one of us. If it is writing, let us write. Even if non-fiction is not the genre you usually operate in, may I ask you to consider writing a true story of faith and testimony and sending it to us? We would love to hear from you.
- · 6 June - registration closing date for our Editing Workshop
- · 13 June - Editing Workshop 13 June. Participation via Skype supported.
- · 31 July - Closing date for submissions
- · October – stories selected for publication announced
- · November – prize winners announced at the 2019 Stories of Life book launch
May-Kuan Lim is a freelance writer who is publishing her book, Refuge, as a serial online release. It is a collection of true stories of people who have resettled in Australia since the Vietnam War. She is a member of Writers SA and Oral History Australia. She also runs Ethical Storytelling workshops, does the laundry and cooks dinners. It is a varied life.