Jeanette Windle is the author of Congo Dawn along with ECPA Christian Book Award finalists Veiled Freedom and Freedom's Stand and a dozen other international intrigue releases for both adults and children. I was fortunate to meet with her in Philadelphia last summer. She is a woman who is passionate about her writing and about the issues she addresses.
Jeanette, welcome to Overcoming With God. We appreciate your willingness to share your testimony of overcoming with our readers. Would you tell us about the most difficult thing in your life you have had to overcome, with God’s help?
I can say honestly there are simply too many to narrow down the most difficult, some that remain too painful to share in public forum (if readers really want to glimpse the most private and profound of God's mercies and overcoming in my life, read my fiction, because my protagonists invariably walk through storms and struggles that God has walked me through). However I would like to share one of the more difficult chapters in my life because it is also one of my greatest stories of God's grace and love.
My husband and I had been serving as missionaries for many years in the Andean highlands of Bolivia, South America, when we began praying for a daughter. We had three sons, our oldest Mike, our adopted son Josh who had come into our lives after many years of not being able to conceive, then our miracle son born just ten months after Josh, Stephen. With all three sons now school age, we began praying for open doors to adopt a baby girl. In the fall of 1990, God gave us a beautiful two-month-old daughter we named Tanya Elizabeth. My sons were ecstatic with their baby sister. We had a wonderful first Christmas with her. But that very Christmas night we woke up about 3AM wondering why Tanya had never cried for her feeding. That was when we discovered that somewhere in the night Tanya had died of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
I had always considered myself a strong person. There had been hardships before in my life. Growing up as a daughter of American missionaries in the guerrilla zones of Colombia/Venezuela, I'd encountered bandits, riots, political and physical threat. As an adult, I'd endured a knife at my oldest son's throat, muggings, robberies, personal assault, more riots and unrest.
Though I'd known fear, I'd always come through, put the past behind me. I had always known God was there, recognized God's control in every situation. I was a survivor.
Then came Tanya's loss. I had no idea bottom could be so far down. It wasn't just the loss of our daughter, but of the hope of ever having another child ever. We could not have any more children. When our hearts healed enough some months later to submit our names again for adoption, a corrupt local welfare administration informed us bluntly our last attempt had made clear our missionary salary could not compete with what had become a booming black-market for international adoptions.
As the months went by, I could not push the memory and loss of my beautiful baby girl from my mind as I'd managed with every other bad happening in my life. I couldn't bear to look at little girl's dresses and dolls and hair ribbons in the open air market. I remember breaking down in tears after delivering a gift to a dear friend who after two boys had just delivered a baby girl.
What I never asked was why.' After all, why not? In the Bolivian highlands, I lived surrounded by misery. Children starved in the streets. I knew women who'd lost their entire family to disease and malnutrition. National ministry leaders who'd lost loved ones because they had no access to the medical care available to my family.
Logically I knew millions were far worse off than I. I still had a husband, three adorable sons, a roof over my head and food to eat. Like Job, I never questioned that this was God's doing, not Satan or man or just the way the world was. God was in total control, and He alone had chosen to allow this in my life. So I bowed my head and submitted, but the pain was still there and deep.
I still remember vividly the night before American Thanksgiving, 1991, when our middle adopted son Josh, who was five at the time, called me into his bedroom after lights out. The next day I'd be hosting the entire expatriate missionary community for Thanksgiving. But the day had another significance. Because of odd Bolivian laws as to age of adoptive parents, the time needed for processing adoptions, our own upcoming furlough back to the US, the next day was the absolute final deadline for our adoption of a child in Bolivia--ever! With no such possibility in sight, I had just that day laid aside my last hope that we might have a daughter .
Leaning out of his upper bunk, Josh demanded anxiously, "Mom, does God really answer prayer?"
"Why do you ask that?" I asked him.
"Because we have been praying so long for another baby sister, and we still don't have one."
What could I say? I knew the Biblical answers, and I'm sure I gave some correct parental theological response. But I wasn't so sure I believed it myself. All I knew was that God knew exactly what He was doing with my world. And that I was still hurting.
One passage to which I was drawn repeatedly at the time was Lamentations 3:19-26). "I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." (NIV)
In those words was the hope I could cling to in life's storms. Not looking back to the affliction and wandering, bitterness and gall, but forward to the love, compassion, faithfulness of our Lord, new every morning.
Is God's compassion and love for real? You bet they are! I remember vividly as I woke up the next moment thinking, "Okay, this is the day. Don't think about it. Focus on getting ready for company."
I'd taken my three sons to a neighbor for a birthday party and was stuffing chickens (no turkey!) when the phone rang. On the phone was the social worker who'd processed our first adoption.
"Do you still want a daughter?" she asked. "Because I have a baby girl here abandoned on the farm where my brother works. If you want her, you can take her directly home, and I will personally do your family court paperwork so she doesn't go into the system to be sold to the highest bidder."
When the neighbor brought my sons back from that party, their baby sister was sitting in a stroller in the front room. To this day our daughter Ellie reminds her big brothers that she is God's answer to their prayers (and sometimes they kid that they wish they hadn't prayed so hard!)
Did God have to answer my prayer? (though, in fact, I had already given up on praying) No, He didn't. There have been times before and since then when His answer has just been 'No'. That I've simply had to endure, grieve, come through loss. But that moment when the phone rang was like God reaching down from heaven to say: "Jeanette, here's just a little something to say I love you. I have always loved you, I will always love you."
Trouble has come into my life often enough since then. It will in the future too, I know. The son who asked that question about prayer has taught me that a child wandering from God can be a worse grief than a child's death. And has taught me as well how much God loves us even when we fail because I know how deeply I love my son and how much greater God's love is than mine.
As for me, in everything that has ever come into my life since that day, one thing I have never doubted for a moment is God's all-encompassing love and compassion for me. I have always been able to look back, point at that moment, and say, "He did that just because He loved me;. If I've let Him down often enough, He has never let me down. And He won't let me down now."
Our heavenly Father's compassions never fail. They are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness.
What is your favorite bible verse and why?
While again I have too many favorite verses (including the passage above) to choose just one, I do have what I call my "life verse", which God laid on my heart during my teen years. "Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."--Philippians 1:6 (NIV)
This verse continues to mean much to me because I am so deeply conscious of how far I fall short of being like my Savior. In the midst of struggle when at times it seems that the good work God began of transforming me into the image of His Son is going backwards instead of forwards, the promise that one day God--and not I!--will bring that task to completion when I am at last in the presence of Jesus Christ is an anchor I can hold onto amidst any storm.
Disability friendliness: Is this latest release available in audio format or do you have any other works available on audio? Do your e-books have audio capability? Do you have any in large print?
Both Congo Dawn and my last title, Freedom's Stand, are available in audio-book. All of my titles are available in e-book and can be listened to through the audio function of the e-book, at least for the Kindle downloads.
What has been the most important thing you hope your readers will get from your books and why?
My ultimate goal in every book I write, however much a "thriller," is to share with the reader my own heartfelt conviction that, for all the turmoil and conflict and pain in our world, this universe does make sense and has both a purpose and a loving Creator. The scenarios in my books are only too real. But if a life spent in some of the planet’s more difficult corners has taught me more than I wish I knew about the depravity of which a godless mankind is capable, it has taught me far more of God’s overriding sovereignty and love. If I did not have the absolute assurance that the course of human history and current events as well as my own life lie in the hands of a loving heavenly Father, I would not have the nerve to research, much less write, the stories that I do.
As you researched your books, did you learn anything that particularly touched your heart?
One impact of writing each new book set in a different corner of the planet has been impelling me to more prayer for that part of the world and especially my brothers and sisters in Christ there. While writing my two Afghanistan titles, Veiled Freedom and Freedom's Stand, for instance, I will never forget sitting in a women's prayer time in Kabul (behind closed doors as is necessary under the current regime as much as under the Taliban). One woman prayed that God raise His hedge of protection around us against the power of the Prince of Persia. The hair stood up on my arms as it suddenly sank home that I was sitting literally in ancient Persia, territory of the same demonic prince (see Daniel 10) who was powerful enough to hold off for twenty-one days the angel sent to answer Daniel's prayer. Only when Michael the Archangel entered the fight was that angelic messenger able to break through. That experience above all motivated me to pray deeply and constantly for those serving the living God in the midst of such spiritual war zones in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
In this latest work, do you have any topics useful for bibliotherapy, or therapeutic influence through reading about a disorder or situation?
The seeming paradox of an all-loving, all-powerful heavenly Father intersecting with ultimate human suffering is a strong theme in Congo Dawn, especially related to violence against women, children at risk, human trafficking. My last two Afghanistan titles, Veiled Freedom and Freedom's Stand, deal strongly with freedom of faith issues.
Thank you, Jeanette, for agreeing to answer these questions. Your testimony is one of the most powerful I have seen here on OWG!
Jeanette's books are available for purchase online and in bookstores. (Click here.)
GIVEAWAY: Jeanette has generously offered an autographed copy of Congo Dawn to one of our readers (within North America.)
Share the following TO ENTER: What is one of the prayers God answered for you? Leave your email address if we don't already know you well.