We’ve all heard the quip, when starting out on the writing journey, ‘don’t quit your day job.’ It is usually offered by a caring friend (or editor) who knows that making a living in the writing world can be daunting. But I’ve found that keeping my day job has not only put food on the table but has also blessed my writing. For the past twenty years, my day job as a missionary in Europe has inspired my other job of writing ‘entertainment with a soul.’ Paying attention to daily experiences, whatever that may include, can certainly provide us writers with great content for our stories. Here’s how my day job inspired my latest novel.
In the summer of 1984, I, along with dozens of other missionaries working throughout Europe, gathered for a conference in an Austrian castle-turned-retreat-center. It was a time to refresh our souls and be encouraged by fellowship with like-minded young people who were serving the Lord overseas.
On this night, the different missionary teams were giving reports about the ways that God was at work in their various ministries. I listened to fascinating stories of God’s mighty work among the missionaries who were smuggling Bibles from outside Vienna into the countries that sat behind the Iron Curtain.
It all sounded so very exciting and rewarding.
Fast forward a few years to another conference. This time the former Bible smugglers were telling about their fledgling ministry to refugees. The Iron Curtain had come down and suddenly any and every one could take whatever they pleased into Eastern Europe. Many of our colleagues moved into Eastern European countries to begin ministries there.
But some stayed right in the village outside of Vienna where a young man named Randy* had begun a ministry to refugees. In the 80s, he had trained to be a Bible smuggler. But when he got to this village with his teammates, he found that he wasn’t cut out to be a Bible smuggler. And so, stuck in this village for his two-year term, he started visiting the Government Refugee Housing Center that was down the street. At that time, the imposing brick building housed mostly refugees who had fled from the East.
Randy began offering English lessons to the kids and then to the adults and eventually he began leading Bible studies. Gradually, a ministry to refugees was born. It flourished and grew after the Iron Curtain came down.
I loved hearing the stories of refugees coming to Christ.
Fast forward again about twenty years when the Holy Spirit nudged my husband and me into a new job—that of being Pastors to Missionaries throughout Europe. Our home base remained in Lyon, France, but we traveled to thirteen different countries, interacting with workers on many different teams.
Suddenly, I was seeing up close and personal those ministries I had been hearing about at missions’ conferences for so many years. Now, in our pastoral role, we had the privilege of interacting with not only the International Teams workers but also the refugees. We heard stories of refugees fleeing persecution along what is called The Refugee Highway and finding hope at The Oasis, a ministry center where believers served up coffee and Christ.
These displaced people, mostly young Muslim men, played chess and Uno with the missionaries and volunteers. Some watched the Jesus film in their own language. Others attended clandestine Bible studies. And a few left with Jesus in their hearts.
I’d been writing recent historical, inspirational fiction ever since I met with an editor at a writers’ conference in 1994. Often my inspiration came from little known events in history that I’d learned about while living in France or from recent history in my beloved hometown of Atlanta.
But now, hearing these current stories of refugees, learning of changed lives, and meeting some of these precious people, I felt a new inspiration. And so I began to pen a story that flowed out of the change in ministry the Spirit had nudged us into, a story called The Long Highway Home, fiction that is nevertheless based on so many true stories of refugees and missionaries and the Spirit of God at work.
I’m so thankful for the way the Lord nudges us into new challenges. How do you respond to His nudges? What nudges or new jobs have inspired your fiction?
The Long Highway Home
When the doctor pronounces ‘incurable cancer’ and gives Bobbie Blake one year to live, she agrees to accompany her niece, Tracie, on a trip back to Austria, back to The Oasis, a ministry center for refugees that Bobbie helped start twenty years earlier. Back to where there are so many memories of love and loss…
Bobbie and Tracie are moved by the plight of the refugees and in particular, the story of the Iranian Hamid, whose young daughter was caught with a New Testament in her possession in Iran, causing Hamid to flee along The Refugee Highway and putting the whole family in danger. Can a network of helpers bring the family to safety in time? And at what cost?
Filled with action, danger, heartache and romance, The Long Highway Home is a hymn to freedom in life’s darkest moments.
ELIZABETH MUSSER writes ‘entertainment with a soul’ from her writing chalet—tool shed—outside Lyon, France. Elizabeth’s highly acclaimed, best-selling novel, The Swan House, was named one of Amazon’s Top Christian Books of the Year and one of Georgia’s Top Ten Novels of the Past 100 Years. All of Elizabeth’s novels have been translated into multiple languages. The Long Highway Home has been a bestseller in Europe.
For over twenty-five years, Elizabeth and her husband, Paul, have been involved in missions’ work in Europe with International Teams. The Mussers have two sons, a daughter-in-law and three grandchildren who all live way too far away in America. Find more about Elizabeth’s novels at www.elizabethmusser.com and on Facebook, Twitter, and her new blog. See photos from scenes in The Long Highway Home on Pinterest.