Tag Archives: christian biographies

no turning back

No Turning Back – the remarkable story of Australian missionary couple to the indigenous

FAITH NEWS SERVICE – Australian newly-weds, Pearl and Bruce Smoker, at the tender age of twenty-four years, left their families and comfortable lives to build and staff a mission station at Fitzroy Crossing in Western Australia in 1951. At that time, missionaries could only live and work amongst the Indigenous Australian people on “missions”, where children and the infirm could live, supported by an inadequate government allowance.

Indigenous Australians moved with the seasons, living with and bonded to the land. The early pastoralists wanted a cheap and stable workforce on their stations. The “Assimilation Policy” of the day required government officials to remove mixed race children from their parents and place them in hostels and with white families, creating the ongoing pain and anguish of the “stolen generation” in Australia.

Missionaries have been criticized for enabling and colluding with this removal of children from their parents by providing hostels for these mixed-race children.

No Turning Back tells the story of the challenges, struggles and joys of a young couple, who obeyed the call of God on their lives and sought to care for and bring the Good News of Jesus to Indigenous Australians at a time when their lives were being disrupted forever by the onslaught of colonial settlement, as well as a government intent on erasing their culture.

Only their faith and the knowledge that if they did not continue, many people would suffer further privation and exploitation, enabled them to continue in the extreme heat and isolation. Abrupt changes in government policy resulted in hundreds of First Nations people becoming the responsibility of the mission.

This book gives and insight into the life of Pearl and Bruce Smoker and inside information about those years and reveals their strong personal calling, stories about the people they loved and the challenges they faced, as they worked at this difficult task without salary and with meagre resources.

No Turning Back is a fascinating story will encourage other Christians to step out of their comfort zones to do something great for God.

About the author
Keren Masters is a Counsellor and Supervisor of Counsellors. She wrote this book to tell her parent’s story and the early history of the colonisation and development of the Kimberley region of Western Australia. She is the only daughter of Pearl and Bruce Smoker, and was born in Halls Creek in 1960, in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. She grew up in Halls Creek and Fitzroy Crossing before attending boarding school in Perth at age twelve. Boarding school wrenched her from living in the bush community, to life in the city; a culture shock as big as the huge changes that were happening in the Kimberley.

Keren is a “third culture kid” whose first language and culture was that of the First Nations children with whom she grew up. She had to learn Australian English and culture as a young teenager at boarding school. Keren had to learn to straddle the two cultures but does not really feel at home in either. This experience gives her some insight into the lives of the many Indigenous Australians who have had to make this same transition.

Keren has two mixed-race children from her first marriage and was widowed at the age of 22. She has remarried, and now has four adult children and is still straddling two cultures while living with her husband in Perth, Western Australia.

when god changed his mind

New Redemption Press book shares mother’s inspiring story of faith through son’s medical trauma

FAITH NEWS SERVICE – A brain arteriovenous malformation (AVM) is a tangle of abnormal blood vessels connecting arteries and veins in the brain.

Thirteen-year-old Isaiah Custodio was a victim, though not a casualty, of the most rare type of AVM, caused when a tangle of blood vessels rupture in the brain. An arteriovenous malformation can develop anywhere in your body but occurs most often in the brain or spine. Even so, brain AVMs are rare and affect less than 1 percent of the population. *

“Life changed for our family after I received a call that Isaiah had a headache,” said Christina Custodio, Isaiah’s mom. “Things deteriorated very quickly after that, and doctors determined Isaiah’s brain was filled with blood from a severe brain hemorrhage.”

Christina documents the emotional journey of mother and son in her new book, When God Changed His Mind. By her son’s side for the entire six-week hospital and rehab stay and during his subsequent recovery, Christina shares of the ups and downs of the exceedingly trying season.

“It was an extremely difficult time, yet it had many beautiful moments—bonding with my son, feeling the love of our community, trusting God, and experiencing joy in the midst of hardship.”

Readers will be moved by Christina’s dedication to her son and by her steadfast faith in God despite uncertain outcomes. She wrote When God Changed His Mind to inspire others to see Jesus and glorify Him in their own hardships and stories.

“Throughout the initial uncertainty for Isaiah’s life and then the ensuing challenges with his recovery, I had an amazing peace from God and trusted Him to provide what we needed,” Christina said. “If we look through the lens of Jesus, we can find joy in any circumstance.”

* https://www.mayoclinic.org › brain-avm › syc-20350260

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Christina Custodio is a gifted writer and speaker. With a degree in psychology and Christian counseling, she pursues many passions, including motivational speaking, blogging, photography, and teaching. She and her husband, Ozzy, live in South Carolina and are parents to Abrianna, Isaiah, and Olivia. For review copies and media interviews, contact:

Christina Custodio
Email: christinacustodiospeaks@gmail.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/christinacustodiospeaks/
and https://www.facebook.com/coollikeisaiah/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/christina_custodio/

The American missionary in Australia and his struggle with bipolar disorder

FAITH NEWS SERVICE – Steve Swartz is an American who left the comforts and familiarity of small-town Ohio to answer the call of God into missionary work. Ending up halfway around the world, Steve and his wife, Bev, landed in Alice Springs, which is about as remote as you can get in Australia’s rugged outback.

His new book, Broken Pot, is a brilliant recount of their remarkable lives.

The call to work as a Bible translator took Steve to the middle of Australia, where he worked translating the Bible for the Warlpiri Aboriginal people of Central Australia as a missionary with Wycliffe Bible Translators.

However, that is just half the story. This missionary has achieved all he has whilst battling daily with bipolar disorder. “I was misdiagnosed from 1980 to about 2017 as suffering from ‘mere’ depression,” Steve told me.  “For many of those years and even after my actual suicide attempt in 1986, I was not placed on a regimen of anti-depressants, but rather, I had to rely on various psychological ‘talking and cognitive’ therapies and the exercise of the spiritual disciplines of Bible reading, meditation, prayer and interpersonal interactions with other to try to maintain some level of sanity, often without much success.

“From 2000 until 2017 and for various periods, I was taking anti-depressants on an on-again-off-again basis.  As time went on, and as I began experiencing periods of extreme manic, though often highly-productive, energy followed by more-extended periods of deep depression, it finally became clinically apparent to my doctors that my mental condition was more-correctly diagnosed as Bipolar Type 2 disorder, which is now treated pharmaceuticaly in a fashion quite different to depression.”

Being asked to sum up his bipolar disorder, Steve used one word: unpredictability. “It was bad enough with me being depressed for months or even years at a time,” Steve told me. “We could make adjustments and accommodations to survive these times, but neither Bev nor I could predict when, in a blink of an eye and without warning, rhyme or reason, my mind would switch from Black Dog to hyper-speed.

“I could be crazily productive during these times or at other times just a gibbering maniac, bubbling over like Mt Etna, erupting with all sorts of wild and wonderful projects. I would feel unbelievably wonderful and marvelous, but more often than not, from Bev’s perspective, I would simply be angry, rude and insufferable.

“Two of these high periods, one in 2007 and another in 2019, resulted in two 30-day periods where, each time, I penned some 60,000 words, which now have turned into this 129,000-word memoir. I didn’t start out 13 years ago to write this memoir – it wrote itself. Was it the bipolar mania, the Holy Spirit or both? I cannot tell the difference.”

With mental health challenges yet to manifest themselves, Steve moved to the other side of the world in obediently following God’s calling. For many of us, we take reading the Bible for granted. In fact, if you read the stats, Bible reading amongst Christians is way down. Yet Steve and his wife gave up their comfortable, American lifestyle to make this possible for a small Australian indigenous tribe – just so they would have access to God’s Word.

“In retrospect, it is fair to say that I did not handle the transition (to Australia’s outback) very well at all,” Steve said. “If I had, then I would not have had much of a memoir to write about.  There was, of course, the initial transition from the USA to Australia, two very different countries and cultures, despite common English origins and a ‘shared’ language.  Cultural-linguistic-historical presuppositions are so different, often in ways initially not apparent.

“For example, Americans (at least conservative ones such as myself) are much more patriotic than Aussies.  Aussies, in general, are much more patriotic nowadays than they were forty years ago.  At that stage, if the Australian National Anthem was played at a sporting event, many Aussies would not stand and fewer would sing along.  Bev and I thought this very strange and not a little rude.  Aussies had, and to a lesser extent still have, more of a cultural cringe, tug-the-forelock, embarrassed attitude towards the Brits than do Americans.  We found something of an underlying hostility at times to us for simply being American – how could everyone in the world not love the Yanks?  We understand this better now.”

For Steve and Bev, there were the climatic differences they also had to deal with. Ohio and Michigan have four distinct seasons, including ice and snow) in Midwest America. They moved into a two-season, hot, monsoonal climate of stifling proportions.

Then there was the transition into yet another culture. After their first six months in Darwin, the couple moved to Lajamanu in April 1978 to live among the Warlpiri people at Lajamanu in the Northern Territory, a very remote and isolated Aboriginal community. When they arrived in Lajamanu, there were no phones, only a public radiotelephone at the council office. There was only one, poorly-stocked store where everything was expensive. Mail came in by plane twice a week, and there was no TV or up-to-date newspapers or magazines.

“Bev and I came as linguist-translators, as opposed to other job categories within Wycliffe such as literacy workers, school teachers, builders, administrators, pilots, radio techs, computer texts, academic scholars, and so on,” Steve continued. “Our assignment was to work with the Warlpiri people, a group we knew nothing about before our arrival in Darwin in late 1977.

“In the early 90s, I became an international translation consultant, which gave me the opportunity with work with many other translators here in Australia, the Solomon Islands and even Hawaii to ensure quality control of their translation into many different languages.”

Steve’s mental health frailties have been a part of his entire time living in Australia. Suicidal depression was a regular challenge and even now, while those deep emotional (and dangerous) troughs are more of a rarity, it’s one day at a time to maintain an even keel. Many Christians, despite their love for their Creator, also face similar challenges.

A major part of the motivation in writing Broken Pot is to share his experiences with bipolar disorder and to encourage fellow Christians and non-Christians alike. Steve wants it known that God can still use someone amid depression and/or bipolar, even when complete healing is not forthcoming.  “Continuing to be depressed or bipolar does not necessarily indicate that God has rejected you or that you have a lack of faith for full healing,” Steve continued. “He can still use ‘damaged goods’ to achieve His purposes.  It can be argued that He chooses people of certain personality types to engage in certain ministries. For example, I do not have a naturally pastoral or gentle personality, which would lend itself more to a pastor’s heart for his flock, but I do possess a natural determination and hard-headedness, which means that having set my mind and heart on a goal, I persist through hell and high water to achieve that goal.”

“Sometimes the process is not easy, such as is the case with my dear wife Bev, who has suffered much being married to me, witnessing my struggles, worrying, praying for me, and trying to ‘hold me together’. I owe her a debt that I will never pay off in full.

“I am not the same as I was when we first came to Australia, and that is a very good thing.  I was 25 and Bev was 23.  I was, without overstating the case too much, a self-assured, arrogant young man, used to academic achievement, sure that I would make quick work of learning Warlpiri and completing a translation. Nothing proved as easy as I had naively expected once we arrived in Lajamanu.  These early difficulties led quickly to feelings of failure and ineptitude, which then spiraled quickly into depression and eventual suicide attempts.

“My recovery from the 1986 suicide attempt took over two years in the United States—it was a protracted and difficult time. Bev and I returned to active service in 1989, based here in Alice Springs. During the 90s, I struggled amid ongoing mental health struggles to bring the Warlpiri translation (full New Testament and 12% of the Old) to completion and publication in 2001 followed by our retirement from Wycliffe in 2003.” In Broken Pot, this powerful memoir informs, educates, entertains and challenges readers to not give up on what God has started. Moreover, it is sincerely hoped that fellow-sufferers of the Black Dog and other forms of mental illness will come to realize that God has not abandoned them, that He can still use cracked pots to accomplish His purposes and that there is help for them even in the darkness.”

Broken Pot, published by Ark House, is now available globally.

New book explores a boy’s search for identity for his father lost at war

FAITH NEWS SERVICE – For boys, the identity they gain just from being in the presence of their father is essential in shaping and molding their lives. However, in the case of Ian Heard, he never got that chance.

Ian’s war hero father was sent off to war in World War II to fight for Australia. In the process, his life was lost, leaving his young son to move from boy, to teen, to young man, without his father there to model his identity and support and encourage him.

The loss was something that weighed upon Ian heavily, and as such, he has released a biography to share his story of growing up and searching for his identity in his father-less world.

In Looking for NX1477, Ian shares the pain and struggles of not ever knowing his dad. In his words, “a ripping yarn becomes a gripping yarn.” Translated from his Aussie colloquialism, that simply means that this book will captivate you.

“What spurred the effort in putting the story together was a simple desire that we all have, and that is to understand who we are… to connect with our forbears and understand better their DNA and how it reflects on who we are,” Ian said.

“In my case, my father was mostly a heroic mystery and a time came when I wanted to ‘know’ him and so my research began. It is about discovery; about ‘finding’ the father I never knew.”

Ian has shared his story in front of thousands of people in churches, clubs and elsewhere.

“I wrote the book for a number of reasons,” he added. “It has broad appeal to a fairly wide age-group because many my age have lost family in the two great World Wars, or Vietnam, or elsewhere—and younger generations are also showing renewed interest in history, as evidenced by their ‘pilgrimages’ to Kokoda, Gallipoli and even Vietnam’s killing fields.

“There is also renewed interest by people in tracing their roots and family history, while it is also a story that draws people in to its series of coincidences. In addition to this, the book has an excellent Gospel application.”

In part of his series of coincidences, he is lucky to have been born at all. In August, 1942, Ian’s father was given a few days’ leave from the war, in which time Ian was conceived. His father went back to war soon after and was then killed in the frontline. In his words, “I am not here by chance!

“For some reason, sitting in my office on a day that’s now chiselled on memory stones, I looked up the website of the Australian War Memorial. It demonstrates, really, that the issue of identity and connection is never really far beneath the surface for any of us. It is my firm conviction that the essence of each person’s ultimate identity resides not in earthly ancestry—as rewarding a search as that can be—but in our true Source, as we shall see.

“Our temporal and earthly DNA is from earthly parents, but there is also within us what I like to think of as our spiritual ‘DNA’, sourced from the One who, we are told, had us in mind—before time began.”

Ian is also a pastor, bible teacher, author, businessman and a keen sailor. He is a member of the ACM Network (Associated Christian Ministries) in Australia and attends Sydney’s Northern Beaches Christian Centre, where he regularly ministers, as well as in other churches.

Ian writes on Biblical subjects and comments from time to time on current and personal events in an attempt to contribute clarity and Biblical certainty.

Looking for NX1477 is now available both within Australia and globally.

What do I have to learn from my time of crisis? Solitude? Boredom? Brokenness? Inspiring author releases new book.

FAITH NEWSWIRE – Christine Mallouhi is a remarkable woman. Well known to many for her work in bridging the gap between Muslim and Christian communities, she lived in the Middle East and Africa for over thirty years. In her third and latest book, Whispers of Presence, she gathers the wisdom of Celtic, Ignatian and Benedictine Christian saints as well as Sufi mystics, folded into a collection of daily reflections, prayers, poetry and wisdom sayings.

She combines insights from her challenging experiences of life in the Middle East and the West and the quiet strength of her mentors in a work that fosters deep awareness of the presence of God in ordinary daily events.

An introduction leads briefly through her spiritual journey over decades in ministry in Muslim communities when she lunched with President Arafat and was invited to meet the Patriarch of the Eastern Orthodox Church, Sheikh Fadalallah; the spiritual leader of Hezoballah and Brother Andrew. She was also featured on Aljazeera’s series Friends of the Arabs.

She hosted celebrities in her home, including Suha Arafat, film actors Bernard Giraudeau and Lauren Hutton. She told me, “For a girl from a simple working class family who followed a call of God expecting to get lost in the Arab world, it was a journey that was wonderful, wearying and wild.”

When she lost both her siblings in tragic death and suicide, she experienced “loss of health, a fair amount of my sanity and my faith flame was an insipid blue.” Hers is a story of discovering the healing practice of silent and contemplative prayer.

“The practice of stopping in stillness that I am writing about was one I wish I had cultivated more deeply earlier in life,” Christine stated. “Thirty years in the Middle East had been dramatic and chaotic. These countries became known for the Arab Spring, when their peoples rose up against oppression. In these places, where locals were deep friends, our residence visas were suddenly rescinded and too often we beat hasty retreats to a new country to begin again.

“One or all of us experienced imprisonment, death sentences, betrayal, dislocation, demonic attack, deportation, war, evacuation and lost dreams. I suffered a few bouts of clinical depression. God often gave us miracles so badly needed, but I was worn out spiritually, emotionally and mentally with the intensity of living on the edge.”

She tells me that “God’s question to Adam and Eve, ‘Where are you?’ has a new urgency today. This book is the fruit of her journey over the past decade of returning to faith still with passion after burnout, and the search to answer the question, ‘How can I find God in this situation with all its darkness and live in peace, even if it never changes?’”

As one reviewer writes, “[This book] will take you to deep places in the journey of awareness and personal transformation.”

This is Christine’s second book released at a time of crisis. Her previous book Waging Peace on Islam was published after the devastating 9/11 attack in New York, but was written a year earlier. So, when she urged readers of the need to understand what drove the first attack, one reviewer observed that her words were prophetic.

In 2020, our world has suddenly been brought to a standstill, while millions are buffeted with waves of turmoil, shock and fear in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. “People are stopping to reflect on life and their inner selves and looking to God for comfort,” Christine said. “I hope sharing the fruits of my search for peace and stability in a time of turmoil is a prophetic word of comfort.”

Whispers of Presence is a reliable guide on the journey into God’s love, penned by a wise hand who has navigated life in remarkable circumstances. It is now available globally.