If someone asked you to tell a story, what would it be? Would it be a well-known fairy tale, a mystery or perhaps a thriller? It might be a heart-breaking tragedy or a love story with a happy ending… but would you choose something that really happened or would you make it up?
As a child I loved stories. I read them and I wrote them, so it was no surprise I ended up as a journalist. That has involved listening to other people’s stories and re-telling them in an interesting way, or sometimes piecing together a story from lots of different viewpoints and sources. I can’t forget some of the best newspaper stories I’ve written including the sad ones like the toddler twins with a rare and incurable disease who died holding hands or the funny ones like the vicar on a run with his dog being tossed into the river by an overprotective cow.
Stories captivate us. We want to find out what happened next or understand why something has happened. We get drawn in by the characters and if it’s a good book they become important to us and we think about them even when we’re not reading the story.
I’m in the process of making up a story… writing fiction. The trouble is the characters aren’t behaving quite as they should and there’s a problem in the plot. Hopefully, I’ll get it sorted soon. But as I pour over my plans and struggle with sentences and speech marks, I’m realising the best stories are playing out all around me.
Working for Scripture Union International over the past year I’ve heard many moving and inspiring stories from around the world. These are true stories of how lives have been transformed through an encounter with God. One was about a 14-year-old girl who fled from the fighting in South Sudan into Uganda. She lost her parents, saw terrible violence and just escaped with her life. On the road into Uganda, she was helped by a woman from her village who agreed to adopt her as part of her own family. They moved into one of the huge displacement camps in Northern Uganda. But because of the girl’s terrible experiences and the way she had to work so hard to look after the woman’s younger children, walking miles to fetch water, she became bitter and angry. She blamed the woman for her hardship and all that had gone wrong in her life. She decided to take her revenge. She made plans to poison the woman or one of her children. Before she could put her plan into action she wandered into a meeting in the camp being run by Scripture Union (SU) volunteers. They were talking about forgiveness and about God’s love and they sang songs too. As she listened something amazing happened to this young girl. She realised what she’d been planning was wrong and she began to cry. She didn’t go ahead with her deadly plans. Instead she asked for forgiveness and her life was transformed as she began to see her situation in a new light.
It’s so good to know that God’s ‘Big Story’ is also ours and there really is a happy ending!
You can listen to more stories from SU Uganda and other parts of the world here.