Violet’s Notebook

Violet plopped the thick notebook in front of me the way a proud student presents a class project to their teacher. From her expectant smile I knew what my reading material would be for the rest of the day.

Twenty years ago I directed Violet’s first ISP trip. Today, as Associate Director for some of our ISP trips, Violet collects all the reports and materials from each of our training conferences. I thumbed through copies of emails, maps, hotel brochures, updates, small group photos, statistics and evaluations. Like the family historian, she had cataloged it all! Have to admit I did not share her enthusiasm for detail.

Then I turned to the back of her notebook.

Working with teachers in another language leaves a lot on the cutting room floor. I often listen to their stories through broken English or the pre-digested words of an interpreter. I smile and try to piece together the heart behind their words. But here were the stories of every teacher who has ever come to one of our conferences on this island–painstakingly translated into English. Some names were familiar to me. We’d shared a meal, I’d answered their questions, listened or prayed as they opened up about their lives. ISP conferences create an environment for safe sharing. Thanks to Violet’s notebook I could step into their stories at a whole new level.

I read stories of growing up under performance driven fathers in a performance driven society; being the youngest of eight and fighting for a place in the family; stories of abusive parents, kind teachers who believed in them, divorce, broken hearts, lost loves, the pressure not to shame the family by abandoning Taoism, teenage rebellion, and sometimes a Christian friend.

Their stories sounded a lot like our own, and I began to see the heroic and noble sacrifices of those God has brought our way. What an honor it is to serve God’s children in far away places. Each story unique, yet with a common Savior, on a familiar road to wholeness, acceptance, and love. Glad Violet goes to all the trouble of collecting their stories. Bet she reminds the Father of His own penchant to treasure our stories and keep them safe in His book.