From as long as I can remember, God has been part of my life. Family members over several generations have shared their amazing personal stories of faith with me.
The story of our lives is a collection of many different chapters; dreams and disappointments, joy and sadness, celebrations and struggles.
When my family experienced a particularly painful and difficult chapter, I found myself facing real questions that challenged my faith.
Being a follower of Jesus does not mean that our lives are a fairy tale story.
In fact the bible is clear that we will all encounter the storms of life as we journey through it.
‘In this life you will have trouble, but take heart, for I have overcome the world.’
John 16 v33
I had read these words, spoken by Jesus to his disciples many times over the years.
Was it really possible to ‘take heart’, even in times of trouble, when the reality felt more like ‘losing heart’?
I found I was drawn to stories of people who had faced many different storms in their own lives.
Their testimonies were that the truth of Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection brought them hope and strength.
Their faith and trust in God even in the times of difficulty, pain & loss was inspirational.
The famous English preacher Charles Spurgeon describes them;
‘The best likeness of Christ ….. is His living biographies, written in the words and actions of His people’
Sermon 13, Titled ‘ Christ’s people , imitators of Him’, preached at Exeter Hall, The Strand, London. England. April 1855.
God used the words of many ‘Living biographies’ to speak His hope into my heart. This gave me strength to continue walking with Him and a renewed trust and confidence that this wasn’t the end of my story.
One of the life stories I’d read was by Frances J Crosby. She is famous for her many well known hymns. She faced many storms in her own life. As I read her story, I was really struck by her words in her hymn Blessed Assurance.
I felt God start to speak to me about creating opportunities for women where stories of life, faith and hope, could be told through art, music and the spoken word.
This would be a way to share God’s love in our communities through His library of ‘Living biographies’.
An outreach event?
I’d been meeting with a group of ladies and we’d been praying for our local area.
We represented a wide number of different church communities & denominations who had a vision to share God’s love. We were of different ages and stages of life, as well as being very diverse in our personalities and styles.
Our desire was for God to bless our communities, as we worked together to share the good news of the gospel.
As I shared with one particular friend, she said that God had been speaking to her too – these events began to take some shape.
Faith grew in our hearts as we began to see how God could use this for His glory.
We wanted to give opportunity for many different creative expressions & gifts to be shared, so we started to connect with local people. They were invited to come and share their gifts with us as part of this event.
There were amazing displays of different creative art exhibits to look at and we heard some beautiful music and songs. Each one shared part of a story.
We asked a few ladies to speak publicly and others wrote their stories down, which were printed as part of an event booklet.
We hosted our first event in our local town hall and amazingly our venue was full and we had no spare seats.
Here are some of their comments from that event;
‘I realised that I am not alone in my struggles’
‘I was so struck by the openness, vulnerability and honesty in how each story was shared, it gave me hope’
‘An inspirational evening, I felt God’s love just for me, like never before’
We were delighted when ladies from another town contacted us and asked if we would help them to host their own event.
As before, local churches worked together & hosted the evening. They used the same format to share stories of faith, life and hope.
Many have contacted the team to say how they were touched by God’s love & presence;
‘This is my story, this is my song was a brilliant opportunity to do what women do best: to lean on, learn from and reach out to other women, regardless of background or status or any other social trappings.
There is something truly inspiring about hearing “ordinary” women sharing extraordinary stories of perseverance in the face of difficult circumstances, and in seeing God’s mercy, grace and blessings encountered in everyday life
I don’t think there was a woman in the room who wasn’t touched by the humanity and openness of each of the contributors, and the warmth and comfort of the setting put everyone at ease.’
It was such a privilege to hear how many people experienced God’s love personally at these events.
Hope for the Future
As we’d been praying & planning for the first event, many of us felt that it wasn’t just a one off for Oxfordshire, England.
God had spoken to us about these events becoming a resource that anyone could access and use in their own community.
In preparation for this, we have made all the advertising and promotional literature available as a pack for public use.
This pack contains; posters, tickets, Facebook graphics for an online invite page, and some other helpful contact details and information.
I know that I will face many other chapters, as the storms of life come and go, but knowing that God is always with me and has placed others around me who will stand with me through it, gives me strength in even the darkest days.
Being part of these outreach events has had such a positive effect in my own life. My desire is for them to be a blessing that God continues to use to share His love and hope.
I hope this will be your story too.
Contact Charlotte at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.