Extraordinary stories of ordinary people to inspire God’s greatness in you.
Born Jewish in New York City, Helen Joy Davidman (1915-1960) was an atheist, and a successful author and poet when God touched her life. As a new Christian, she was profoundly influenced by the writings of C.S. Lewis and began writing to him as she grew in her faith. The divorced Davidman and the unmarried Lewis corresponded for two years, matching wit and intellect. This lovely friendship eventually blossomed into one of the unlikeliest of romances and marriages in all of Christianity. Following Joy’s death just four years after they were married, Lewis was inspired to write his most honest and insightful book, A Grief Observed, in which he wrestled with Joy’s loss and his faith in God.
Joni Eareckson Tada was born in 1949 and was only seventeen when a diving accident left her a quadriplegic. She sank into a deep depression, struggled with thoughts of suicide and began to doubt God. But he never abandoned her. God lifted her from the depths of her despair and she wrote about God’s saving grace and the new life she found in Joni, her 1976 bestselling autobiography. Today, she is a beloved speaker, author, and artist who inspires so many with her story of God’s faithfulness even when heartbreaking, life-changing events threaten to overwhelm us. In 1997, Joni established Joni & Friends, an organization that is dedicated to “accelerating Christian ministry in the disability community,” and has served hundreds of thousands of people. Joni has written more than forty books on the subjects of disability and Christianity, recorded several albums, and starred in the film adaptation of her life. Joni is the living embodiment of God’s faithfulness and remains a devoted advocate for the disabled. You can learn more about the great work that Joni is doing at www.Joniandfriends.org.
Wilma Glodean Rudolph (1940-1994) weighed 4 1/2 pounds at birth and as a child endured scarlet fever and pneumonia only to contract polio at age five. Infantile paralysis left her unable to walk without a brace until she was twelve years old, but buried inside Wilma was a fierce determination to not just walk unhindered, but to run. And run she did. Over a period of several years she lost every race she entered, but then she began to win, eventually earning a bronze medal at the 1956 Olympics, followed by three gold medals at the 1960 Olympics, after which Rudolph was dubbed the “fastest woman ever.” Wilma retired at the height of her career, shortly after the 1960 Olympics. Her autobiography Wilma: The Wilma Rudolph Story was published in 1977, and she died in 1994 at the age of fifty-four. Wilma’s life is shining example of how God helps you achieve your dreams, even when the odds are against you.
Andrew van der Bijl was born in the Netherlands in 1928. In the United States he is known as Brother Andrew, or “God’s Smuggler,” a Christian missionary who smuggled hundreds of thousands of Bibles in his Volkswagen Beetle—in plain view—into communist countries at the height of the Cold war. He is known for praying, “Lord, make seeing eyes blind,” before stopping at Communist borders for mandatory inspections. His story shows that faith can move mountains…and make seeing eyes “blind.” In his book, Secret Believers, Brother Andrew writes, “Of course it’s dangerous. But it’s a lot more dangerous for all of us if we don’t do it. Even in a conquering army there are casualties. Safety is not the issue when we look at the Great Commission. The purpose of the church cannot be to survive, or even to thrive, but to serve.” In 1955, van der Bijl founded Open Doors, an international organization that serves and aids persecuted Christians worldwide.
Meet the real author of the classic bestselling devotional My Utmost for His Highest: Oswald Chambers’ wife, Gertrude “Biddy” Chambers (1884-1966). Born in England in 1884, Gertrude set sail for America in 1908 and aboard the ship she met Oswald Chambers. They married in 1910 and later started a Bible School that offered correspondence classes, making use of Gertrude’s astonishing ability to dictate at a rate of 250 words a minute. After Oswald died in 1917 at the age of 43 following complications from appendix surgery, Gertrude used her gift of shorthand to turn the notes she’d lovingly taken of her husband’s sermons first into pamphlets, and then into the book that became My Utmost for His Highest. This classic devotional has influenced generations of Christians, and has remained available since it was first published in 1927, with more than 13 million copies in print. During the course of her long life, Mrs. Chambers wrote over thirty other books in her husband’s name.
Frances Jane Crosby (1820-1915), known as “Fanny,” was born in Brewster, New York. Blinded as an infant due to a doctor’s error, at eight Crosby’s opening line of her first poem read, “O, what a happy child I am although I cannot see!” God gifted Fanny with an irrepressible spirit and excellent memory—by 10 she could recite the first four books of the Old Testament as well as the Gospels! Fanny went on to write over eight thousand hymns and gospel songs over 51 years, and was known as the “Queen of Gospel Song Writers” By the end of the 19th century she was known throughout the country. Crosby was also a missionary, a teacher, a poet and an author having published four books of poetry and two autobiographies. Classic Crosby tunes include songs such as “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior,” “Blessed Assurance” and “To God Be the Glory”---a song that includes a line which sums up Crosby’s life: “Great things He has done.” Crosby died in 1915.
Charles Wendell “Chuck” Colson (1931-2012) served as Special Counsel to President Richard Nixon from 1969-1973, but is best known as Nixon’s “hatchet man.” Colson, who was sent to prison for his role in the Watergate scandal, once boasted that he would "walk over his own grandmother if necessary,” if it suited his purposes. But in the confines of his jail cell Colson read C.S. Lewis’s book Mere Christianity and there he met God. Colson was truly a changed man, and in 1976, he published a memoir about his transformation, Born Again, which was the first of over thirty books that he would write. He went on to create the non-profit ministry Prison Fellowship, and later Prison Fellowship International, both organizations focused on the needs of prisoners and their families and the importance of teaching and training from a Christian world view. Colson hosted, “Breakpoint,” a daily radio commentary that was heard in over a thousand outlets across the country.
Louis Zamperini (1917-2014) was a troubled kid who took up running to gain direction in life and excelled to attend the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. In 1941 he enlisted in the Army, ready to serve his country in WWII. His plane was shot down at sea, and he wound up adrift on a life raft for 47 days, fighting off shark attacks and surviving by eating fish and birds. He was then captured by the Japanese, held as a prisoner of war and tortured. He eventually returned home and received a hero’s welcome, but plagued by post-traumatic stress and nightmares, Zamperini started to drink. His wife eventually led him to a Billy Graham Crusade in 1949 and he gave his life to Christ. That night his years of PTSD, alcohol abuse and insomnia ended, and he later forgave the notoriously brutal prison guard who had tortured him. His life is chronicled in the book Unbroken, and in the movies, Captured by Grace, Unbroken, and the sequel, Unbroken: Path to Redemption.
Bookkeeper Antoinette Tuff was depressed and hurting when she showed up for work on August 20, 2013 at Ronald E. McNair School in Atlanta. Her husband of 33 years had recently left her and she was struggling to adjust as a single mom. When Michael Hill barged into the school at 1pm, he came to kill, but instead, he encountered Antoinette who used the power of God’s love to save a thousand students and staff, and the life of one desperate, broken soul. As Hill held her hostage, Tuff talked compassionately to him and realized that he was bipolar and had stopped taking his medicine. Antoinette finally convinced Michael to let the police come and take him to the hospital, and he surrendered peacefully. On an ordinary summer day, Antoinette became an accidental hostage negotiator and hero. Tuff later told CNN, “God has a way showing you what’s really in you.”
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