The Story Behind the Story

I am so pleased to announce that this week, Tyndale House is offering a special ebook sale of my novel, Fly Away. The story takes place in 1987—a time period too recent to be a historical novel like my other books, but too far in the past to be a contemporary novel. That’s because Fly Away was one of the very first books I wrote—and the year really was 1987. I was just starting to dream of being a writer back then, and my first published book was eight years in the future. The story came to me so effortlessly that I remember writing it out longhand on a yellow legal pad in my living room. Later, I typed it into my Atari computer and saved it on several 3½-inch floppy discs. It was published by Beacon Hill Press in 1996 and has been out of print until this year.

 

I remember very well the genesis of the story. Within a short period of time, our family struggled with a series of losses. My father, a World War II veteran like the main character in Fly Away, was hospitalized with a stroke and died a few months later at the age of 62. Dad had been helping to care for my grandmother, so without his help, she had to be moved to a nursing home. My father-in-law also had a stroke and was moved to a nursing home where he later died. And then my mother-in-law was diagnosed with terminal colon cancer.

Mom Austin wanted to spend her final weeks of life in her own home rather than in a hospital.  My husband and I and our three children lived in Canada at the time, but when we learned that Mom had only a few weeks to live, we drove down to Michigan to take care of her. We had just welcomed our daughter, Maya, into the world, and she was less than two weeks old when we arrived in Michigan. For the next month, we took care of Mom and Maya simultaneously, one at the very beginning of her life, the other at the end; one growing stronger each day, the other weaker. Both were being nurtured and comforted by the presence and love of our family.

People had asked if we were concerned that our children would be traumatized by watching their grandmother die. I had never been present when someone died, so I confess I was a little worried about what the experience would be like when the moment of death arrived. Then I recalled that I had been just as worried about what it would be like to give birth for the first time, yet giving birth turned out to be a beautiful, miraculous part of life. Thanks to a wonderful hospice nurse, we were coached in what we needed to do to care for Mom, just as our birth coach had helped us when giving birth. Still, I wondered what Mom’s final moments would be like.

One night at about 3:00 AM, the baby woke up crying. While I checked to see what she needed, my husband went to check on his mother. He came out of her room saying, “Lynn—she’s gone.” Mom had passed away peacefully in her sleep. Almost immediately, the baby fell back to sleep as if she had awakened only to let us know her grandmother had passed away. Our oldest son, Joshua, who was nine, wanted to go into Grandma’s bedroom to say goodbye. He was able to see and understand that she was no longer in her body, but was now in heaven. It was a tender, holy moment for all of us. After so recently experiencing the miracle of birth, we all learned that death is also one of God’s holy moments.

With so many losses in less than a year’s time, writing Fly Away became part of my grieving process. As you read the novel, you’ll probably see how my own thoughts and emotions became intertwined with my plot and characters. The book deals with dying and loss, but I didn’t want it to be a sad book. All of my beloved family members had loved life and had lived it well. They taught me that our faith in Christ gives us the strength and courage we need to face whatever plans He has for us—even when it means saying good-bye. I learned that death is also an important part of life. We will all lose loved ones to it. We will experience it ourselves. So why not explore the mystery of it by making it a theme of a novel? Writers like to ask “What if?” and “Why?” As I wrestled with my own grief, I began to ask those questions.

Telephones still had cords when I wrote Fly Away, and hung on kitchen walls. Shag carpeting and Star Wars figures were all the rage. I was in my thirties, and my two main characters, who are 65, seemed “old” to me. Now I’m a senior citizen like those “old” main characters. But like Wilhelmina Brewster, I don’t believe in retirement. And like Mike Dolan, I want to keep living life to the fullest, right up until the moment when Jesus calls me home.

A Sneak Peek!

After several years of debuting my novels in the fall each year, I’m sorry to say that changes in my publishing schedule mean you’ll have to wait until next spring to read my latest book. In the meantime, I’m excited to show you what the gorgeous cover looks like, and to tell you a little bit about the story. “If I Were You” takes place in London during World War II and is a story of friendship and self-discovery—with a few splashes of romance that I’m sure you’ll enjoy.

The idea for the book came from a true story about a British war bride who moved to America after the war. Of course, writers always like to elaborate on a simple story by asking, “What if…?” and so the plot took a few twists and turns along the way. As I dove into the research, I discovered how greatly the two world wars altered everyday life in England, putting an end to the divide between the upper classes and their servants. Being a huge fan of the TV series, “Downton Abbey,” I knew I wanted to take my story in that direction. My two heroines, Audrey Clarkson and Eve Dawson quickly sprang to life. Then all the rest—their friendship, their rivalry, their loves and losses—fell beautifully into place as these two women searched to redefine who they really were.

One of my favorite parts of writing each novel is researching it. My husband and I wandered around London in June of 2018 so I could put myself in my characters’ shoes, soaking up the sights and getting a feel for what my characters might have seen and experienced some 75 years ago. London is a beautiful, old city with buildings that haven’t changed much in centuries—although, the red, double decker buses do look a bit more modern these days.

We rode everywhere on the underground, and I tried to imagine what it would have been like to sleep down there with thousands of other people every night during The Blitz while bombs pummeled the city. No one knew what the landscape would look like in the morning or if they would even have a home to return to.

I learned that even Buckingham Palace didn’t escape the relentless bombing, and suffered damage along with several other famous buildings in London. Here I am near the palace gates, with the Victoria Monument in the background.

And now, I’m proud to show you the intriguing cover of “If I Were You.” It’s one of my favorite covers ever! I’m curious to know what you think?

Sightings

I am thrilled to announce the release of my newest book, Sightings—Discovering God’s Presence in our Everyday Moments. This non-fiction devotional is a collection of my thoughts and ponderings as I’ve learned to look for “God sightings” in the simple moments of life.


One of the most amazing and comforting promises that Jesus gives us is this: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). But in the busyness of our daily lives, in the challenges and surprises we often face, we don’t always have a sense of Christ’s nearness. We forget to notice all of the little messages He sends to remind us that He is right beside us, watching over us, weaving all things together into a glorious tapestry for our good and for His glory.

Instead of leaving God behind after our Sunday morning worship or our daily devotions, what if we tried to cultivate that sense of His presence in our ordinary moments? What if we watched for Him at home and at work and everywhere we went? This book is a product of my attempt to do just that. I’m learning to see patterns of His redemption everywhere! And to see myself as He sees me—precious and worthy of His love. It’s my hope that readers will learn from Sightings, so that they too, will begin to notice all of the times and places where Jesus shows up in their everyday lives.

Of course, there’s a story behind this book. Earlier this year, my publisher in the Netherlands asked if they could create a devotional from a selection of my blog posts from the past few years. Many of my Dutch readers can’t easily read my posts in English. I said “Yes!” and went to work with their editors to add extra material, creating a devotional entitled “Altijd in God’s Hand” (Always in God’s Hand).

I was so pleased with the final result that I asked my Digital Marketing Assistant, Christine Bierma, to help me publish a version of the book in English. The beautiful cover was designed by Ken Raney at Raney Day Creative (who happens to be author Deb Raney’s husband). Here is the result of our combined efforts.

 

Each chapter in this ten-week devotional includes a daily scripture reading and closing prayer. The Something More section at the end of each week provides an extra challenge or activity to encourage readers to dig deeper. Together, I hope these readings will make an inspiring addition to a daily quiet time with God.

Sightings is now available in print, and the pre-sale e-book format will be released on October 29. Click here to order your copy of Sightings—Discovering God’s Presence in our Everyday Moments today.

If you would like to be part of my launch team, please use this link to apply. The application link will be closed on Friday, October 25, 2019.

Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I was seven or eight years old, growing up in a village in rural New York State, when I learned my first lesson about racism. My mom, my two sisters, and I had traveled to a nearby city on a shopping trip. For a treat, we went to the lunch counter at the dime store for grilled cheese sandwiches and French fries. That’s where I saw the two signs, one labeled ‘Whites Only,’ the other ‘Coloreds.’ I asked Mom about them. Her impassioned explanation made it clear to my young heart that discrimination on the basis of race was a terrible injustice.

As I grew older, news of the Civil Rights Movement appeared on the front pages of the newspapers and in nightly newscasts. I knew that a great war was being fought, with soldiers and guns and the deaths of innocent civilians. The battle divided our nation. I was a teenager when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, his death the result of hatred and racism. In spite of all the laws and amendments our government had passed, the injustice I had glimpsed as a child continued. Sadly, some fifty years later, it still continues.

I recently read an eye-opening book entitled “I Will Not Fear” by Melba Pattillo Beals. It details her lifelong battle against racism and how it shaped her deep faith in God. In 1957, fifteen-year-old Melba was one of nine African American students chosen to integrate Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. Her account of the abuse and torture she suffered at the hands of her fellow students and their parents is chilling. It required faith and enormous courage for Melba and her family to endure harassment, violence, and death threats on a daily basis, simply for the right to attend school.

Melba met Dr. King during that time and poured out her suffering and fear to him. He listened kindly, then told her that perhaps God had assigned this task to her. “You’re not doing this for yourself,” he said. “You are doing this for generations yet unborn.” His words were life-changing. Melba writes, “I had been waiting for white students to change, extend kindness, and welcome me, when maybe it was my task to change.” She became a warrior for God, setting aside her own comfort to serve Him.

After one year of forced integration, the Little Rock school board decided to close Central High School and open a private, all-white school rather than educate their children alongside African Americans. But Melba and the others had made history. In 1999, she and the other eight Little Rock students were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for their role in the integration of Central High School.

Today, Dr. King’s words to Melba inspire me. What task requiring courage and faith might God be asking of me? Would I be willing to suffer injustice for the sake of generations yet unborn? The early Christians suffered much more than I will ever have to endure as they spread the Gospel throughout the world. Dr. King’s advice to Melba reminds me of God’s words of encouragement to the early Christians, and to me: “…let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus…who, for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, scorning its shame…” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

The Final Judges

I had the honor and the privilege, recently, to serve as one of the final judges for a prestigious Christian book award. The judging criteria that I was given served as a great reminder to me of the qualities that I hope to include in my own novels. I’m nearing the final stages of my current work-in-progress, and it has been a great exercise for me as I edit my own novel to compare it to these award-winning criteria. Here are some of them:

Does the book tell an interesting, entertaining story? Is the writing excellent and picturesque, the story well-paced, the dialogue realistic? Are the characters complex and memorable? Does the book address significant issues with God at the center? Is there spiritual depth and a sense of greater meaning for the reader?

A lot of important balls for a writer to juggle!

Coincidentally, I was invited to be a guest at a local book club in Zeeland, Michigan the other night. They had all read my latest book, “Legacy of Mercy.” The ladies were very gracious and sweet, and I’m sure, if it so happened that they didn’t like the book, they would have followed my grandmother’s sage advice, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” They said some very nice things in fact, and were very encouraging and enthusiastic. They also gave me this beautiful planter to show their appreciation.

One of the most satisfying things for me was to hear the ladies talk about my characters. I keep a bulletin board next to my computer with pictures of my characters, and when I begin, they are flat and two-dimensional. It’s up to me to flesh them out and turn them into living, multi-faceted characters. I know that I’ve succeeded when I hear readers chatting about them as if they were real people who they had actually met and gotten to know. Thanks, ladies, for cheering for my heroes and booing my villains!

I enjoyed listening to their discussion with the award-winning criteria fresh in my mind. Yet these women were final judges in the sense that matters most—they were readers. They don’t know all the writerly buzz words like point-of-view and hooks and backstory and viewpoint characters. But they do know whether or not they enjoyed the book. Whether or not they found it so compelling that they stayed awake until after midnight to see how it ended. And they know if the author has given them something to think about after they finish the book.

Awards are nice. I’ve won a few over the years, and they were always an enormous source of encouragement to me. But knowing that my book has touched the heart of just one reader and made a difference in her life, is a reward that no contest can ever give me. Thank you, Zeeland Book Club!

What do you look for in a good book? Are there any criteria you would add to the book award list?

Launch Day

There are two days I look forward to the most in my writing life—the day I turn in the finished manuscript of my novel, and the day the novel is finally released to the public. Tomorrow is launch day for my newest book, “Legacy of Mercy.”

The novel is a sequel to “Waves of Mercy” and features the same main characters. Geesje DeJonge is a 67-year-old widow who told her story of immigrating from the Netherlands in 1847 in the first book. Anna Nicholson is a wealthy 23-year-old woman from Chicago who is engaged to a wealthy banker, and is just beginning her walk of faith under Geesje’s guidance.

I never planned to write this sequel. Aside from my biblical fiction, my books have all been stand-alone novels. But since Anna is only 23, readers of the first book begged me to write about what happens next in her life. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to find out what happens next, too.

As part of my book launch, I have several fun events planned. If you’re in the area, I would love to meet you at one of them and sign a brand-new copy of my book for you.
• On October 2, I’ll be speaking at Christ Memorial Church in Holland, Michigan at 7:00 pm about my writing process and the inspiration for both books.
• On October 4, I’ll be speaking on those same topics at Baker Book House in Grand Rapids, Michigan at 7:00 pm.
• I’ll be at the Barnes & Noble bookstore in Holland on Saturday, October 6 from noon until 2.
• And I’ll be at Georgetown Township Public Library in Jenison, Michigan at 7:00 pm on October 9.
• Last but not least, we’re planning another luncheon and bus tour to visit some of the sites around Holland that are mentioned in my books. (Contact Tam Velderman for more information about the tour at tamvelderman@yahoo.com)

So, how do I entice you to want to read “Legacy of Mercy” without giving away the plot? Well, there’s a mystery that Anna will be trying to solve with a little help from the Pinkerton detectives—a real agency founded in 1850. You may enjoy solving it along with her.
The story takes place in the Gilded Age when society women wore beautiful gowns like these and the one shown on the book cover.
The Gibson Girl hairstyle was a popular look.
And wealthy Chicagoans were building over-the-top mansions to replace the homes destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire.
And staffing them with servants at their back and call.
Every good novel needs a love story, and I hope readers will enjoy the one I’ve created in “Legacy.” Sorry, I can’t tell you who the lucky lovers are, but I hope you’ll be surprised.

I doubt if many of us share Anna’s extravagant lifestyle, but many of us have shared her journey to find God’s purpose for our lives. It’s a theme that’s very dear to me because it also took me a long time to discover my purpose. I love to share my story whenever I’m invited to speak at events because it’s the story of God’s faithfulness. I don’t have the time or space to share it here, but I hope that Anna’s journey will inspire readers who are still seeking.

Finally, I’m giving away two free copies of “Legacy of Mercy” to help celebrate launch day. One winner will be randomly selected from among my newsletter subscribers (go to www.lynnaustin.org to subscribe.) The other winner will be chosen from those who leave a comment below. Good luck! And I hope you enjoy “Legacy of Mercy.”

A Labor of Love and Friendship

I had no idea! When I asked my dear friend, Jacki Kleinheksel, to record the audio version of my novel, Fly Away, I had no idea how much work would go into making it. Fly Away has been out-of-print for several years but I recently made it available again in print and e-book formats. Many of my readers also enjoy listening to recordings of my stories, so I wanted to make an audio version especially for them. With Jacki’s extensive background in drama and musical theater, I figured she would be the perfect person to record Fly Away—and I was right!

Jacki has been active in musicals and community theater productions nearly all her life. Her debut, she told me, began in third grade when she walked down the aisle at church in her bathrobe for a Christmas program, portraying one the three kings. She was hooked! Her early career involved starring in talent and variety shows in junior high where she always volunteered to sing a song. Starstruck by Hollywood, Jacki’s love of theater was launched when she won the leading role in Guys and Dolls in high school.

What followed were years of fun and hard work, performing in plays and musicals as part of community theater groups. Her favorite role? Performing Anna’s soliloquy from The King and I. “I loved that role!” Jacki told me. She especially loved performing characters who were multi-faceted. “There is such joy in working in a theater production with a good script and an excellent director who brings out the best in you. And I love the teamwork of performing with others.” Jacki has also done a one-woman show portraying blind hymn-writer, Fanny Crosby. She performed the play 24 times— “With my eyes closed, since Fanny was blind.”

Fly Away was Jacki’s first audio book. “I loved the challenge of being able to emote 27 different characters.” (I wrote the book and I had no idea there were that many!) She read through the book three times in preparation; first for the pleasure of the story. The second time to make notes and a list of all the characters. The third time she read it aloud, rehearsing all of the characters’ voices. Once she had a sense of them, she divided the book into 4 parts so she could record one part each day. The night before each recording session, she would practice reading that section again. The first studio session took 4 ½ hours. The longest day took 8 hours. At the end of each day, she would go home and review the next portion. “It was exhilarating and exhausting at the same time!”

“The biggest surprise was how still I had to sit. Every sound showed up, including turning the pages. It was like a play without costumes or scenery or makeup—and I was the whole show!” There were do-overs if she made a mistake, something you don’t get in live theater. Her only audience? Her husband Paul and the sound engineer. Would she do another recording? “Absolutely!”

I’ve listened to recorded versions of some of my other novels and I haven’t always been happy with the way the actresses portray my characters. But Jacki’s narration was spot-on perfect! She put so much emotion into the ending that she made me cry—and I wrote the book! I am so thankful for all her hard work and professionalism, and I’m thrilled to announce that readers can now purchase the audio version of Fly Away. I know you’re going to love it!

Hint! Hint!

Greetings from Europe! I have now finished my book tour in the Netherlands and I’m off to speak and sign books in Germany tomorrow. If you’ve been following along with me on Facebook and Instagram, I hope you’ve enjoyed the pictures I’ve sent of all the wonderful places I’ve been and the people I’ve met. Here are just a few:

The “parking lot” at the book store. We just can’t get over all the bicycles.

Speaking at a bookstore in Katwijk.

Oh the cheese! Here we are in Gouda, NL

A mixture of old and new, isn’t that amazing?

A beautiful castle in the country.

Houseboats on the canals.

Life and death. This butterfly landed on the lock to a railroad car like the ones that transported Jews.

In between my tours to those two countries I decided to use my free days off to do some research for my next book. Not the one that will be released this coming October. That one is called “Legacy of Mercy” and has already been written and edited and is in production. For readers who enjoyed “Waves of Mercy” you’ll be happy to know that this is the sequel. You’ll get to find out what happens next when Anna returns to Chicago to marry William, and Geesje settles back to her life in Holland. Here’s the cover:

As soon as I finished writing “Legacy of Mercy” I started writing my next book—after treating myself to a short vacation, of course. I’ve already decided where and when that novel will take place and I’ve done a lot of the research. I’ve created my characters and have begun to write their stories. But for me, one of the best things about being a writer is the chance to travel and do on-site research. It helps bring the story to life if I can get a feel for the colors and smells and sounds (and tastes!) in the novel’s setting. That’s what I’ve just finished doing this week. I don’t want to give away too much—it’s too soon for that. But here are a handful of pictures that may offer a hint or two of where my next novel will take place:

Anyone care to guess where I will take readers in my future book?

Don’t forget to enter my contest! I’m shopping for souvenirs and I’d love to send you one of them. Be sure to join my mailing list and like me on Facebook and Instagram to enter. This contest closes when I get home in two weeks. This contest is limited to US residents only.

Tot Ziens!(See you soon.)


				
			
			
			
			

					

Life-Changing Books

I’ve been thinking about my spiritual journey lately, along with my journey as a writer. The two are closely entwined. And I realized what a powerful, life-changing effect books have had on those journeys. Space doesn’t allow me to list all the books that have influenced me, but four stand out.

The first is “The Hiding Place” by Corrie Ten Boom. Corrie and her family lived uneventful lives in The Netherlands until the Nazis invaded. Then their faith in God and deep love for Christ compelled them to hide Jews in their home, trying to save as many people as possible. Corrie, her sister Betsy, and their father were arrested and sent to prison camps. Only Corrie survived.

I read this book when my husband and I lived in Bogota, Colombia. We had everything a young couple could possibly want; we were newly-married, working our dream jobs, and our first child, Joshua, was born there. I had been raised in a Christian home with godly parents and grandparents, yet when I read “The Hiding Place,” I realized how weak my faith was. I wouldn’t have had the courage to risk my life as Corrie did. Her story convicted me, and I hungered for what she had. I began to seriously pursue a closer walk with God.

I read the second life-changing book shortly after we returned to the United States. “Anointed for Burial” by Todd and DeAnn Burke tells the true story of missionaries to Cambodia in the final, life-threatening years before the nation fell to the Communists. Again, I was impressed by their tremendous faith to endure fiery trials. For months, they lived in such perilous conditions that they needed to hear God speaking on a daily, and sometimes hourly, basis. They developed the habit of reading scripture three times a day, and God miraculously spoke to them through the Bible, offering wisdom and guidance when they needed it most.

Jesus said, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” “Anointed for Burial” convicted me of my need to feed on the Word of God every day. I was faithful to feed my physical body three times a day, so why didn’t I see the greater need to feed my spirit with His Word? I found a daily scripture-reading plan that enabled me to read through the Bible in a year. I began that very day and have continued ever since.

The Bible is the third life-changing book. Like Todd and DeAnn Burke, I have found it to be a comfort and a source of wisdom. But best of all, the picture of God and His eternal plan that emerged as I read it, accomplished what I had longed for back in Bogota—to draw closer to Him, to get to know Him, and to strengthen my spiritual walk.

Next, my husband’s work took us to Canada. My plan had been to have a second child around the time Joshua turned two. But we celebrated his second birthday, then his third and fourth and fifth—and I still wasn’t pregnant. He turned six and started school, and God didn’t seem to hear my prayers. I read the fourth life-changing book, “The Chosen” by Chaim Potok as I wrestled with unanswered prayer. This beautifully-written novel tells the story of an Orthodox Jewish father who, for reasons that aren’t told until the end, stops speaking to his beloved son. When the father finally speaks, he tells how his heart broke the entire time he had kept silent, and how he feared his son would turn away from him forever. But he did it because of the son’s arrogance and self-sufficiency, which needed to be broken. The son needed a loving, compassionate heart so he could understand other people’s pain and accomplish the work God was calling him to do.

I saw in “The Chosen” an allegory of God’s inexplicable silences. And I realized that through my longing for a child, God had led me to become active in the Right-to-Life movement and to help start two crisis pregnancy centers. Through this novel, I discovered that God speaks powerfully through fiction. And it also created in me a longing to write novels like this from a Christian perspective. Christian fiction as we know it today had yet to be born, but I sensed that this was the calling God had for my life. I signed up for a creative writing course at a local college—and a month later, I learned I was pregnant with our son Benjamin. Twenty months after he arrived, our daughter Maya joined us.

My spiritual and writing journeys have been long and satisfying. I have published 25 books, now. Glowing reviews and royalty checks are great, but to me, the most gratifying rewards are letters from readers telling me how one of my stories has impacted their life.

So, how about you? What life-changing books have you read?

The Bus Tour

I’ve done some unusual things during the course of my writing life, but my upcoming bus tour next month will be a first. The idea came from my friend Paul, who thought readers would enjoy touring some of the interesting sites from my novel, “Waves of Mercy.” The novel is set in the town of Holland, Michigan where Paul has lived most of his life, and it tells the story of the Dutch immigrants who founded the town in 1847. Paul happened to mention his idea to a friend from church who leads the 55+ Seniors’ Group—and the “Waves of Mercy” bus tour was born.

I imagined maybe a dozen of us climbing onboard the church van for a spin around town. Ha! I had no idea how popular this tour would be! The group has had to hire two chartered buses carrying 56 passengers each—plus the church van. The “Waves of Mercy” tour will begin at the church with a lunch of Dutch pigs-in-the-blankets and pea soup, then we’re off to see the sites. Here are just a few of them:

A typical settlers’ cabin from 1847

The first church built in 1856

The original light house on Lake Michigan

The Hotel Ottawa Resort on Black Lake

The town’s founding father, Rev. Albertus Van Raalte

I’ve been trying to figure out what makes this tour so appealing to so many people. The sites we’re visiting aren’t unusual ones, but places that can easily be seen in Holland every day. I’ve concluded that it’s the settlers’ courage and faith that makes their story so compelling. They left their homeland of civilized cities to carve out a town in the wilderness because they longed for religious freedom. Their boat caught on fire and was delayed for repairs. The delay kept them from their goal and forced them to spend most of the winter in Detroit. They walked through knee-deep snow to reach the town site because there were no roads. They ran out of food and starved. Their first summer here, so many people died from malaria that they had to build an orphanage to house all the children. But they worked hard, cleared the land, and built farms and businesses. Then, only twenty-four years after the first settlers arrived, fire destroyed the town.
I’m guessing that many of us would have given up—or at least questioned where God was in all these disasters. Had He really called us to settle here or not? It’s so easy to feel like our work is in vain when our carefully made plans start to fall apart. But the settlers’ faith remained strong. Today, there are more than 70 churches in this town of 33,000 people. What an example of perseverance and faith! If they had a life-verse, I think it would be this one:

“Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you.
Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord,
Because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
1 Corinthians 15:58

That verse will give us something to pause and think about on our “Waves of Mercy” bus tour.