I first began writing Christian Theological based articles in late 2001, with a piece featuring an interfaith dialogue evening, in response to 9-11. From this initial article, I was asked to write further articles for The Diocesan Times, a monthly Anglican newspaper, in Atlantic Canada. I soon felt a deep passion (a calling if you will) for this type of writing. Yet I also quickly felt a passion to learn and study, as much as I possibly could about Christian Theology, for I never wanted to “just write what I think.” The subject matter is far too important for mere opinion. So I began taking every bible study, every Alpha program, and reading as much as I could. I applied to our local Theological school, and when I wasn’t accepted for reasons that I perceive as a prejudicial attitude towards my disability, I was extremely disappointed. Of course, as in most cases of discrimination, there was no “tangible proof.” So I continued learning and studying, without receiving any accreditation. I also continued writing about what I was learning.
The first rendition of Written in Faith went online in 2002. In 2005, I gave the site its first major make over, but almost as soon as I did, I was accepted into Grace College of Christian Ministry – first in its one-year Foundational / Christian History program, then in its three-year Biblical Studies certificate program. My education and entire experience as a GC student and now as an alumnus, continues to be a blessing that I will forever thank God for.
I remember the very moment that I learned and truly understood the meaning of the college’s namesake – “grace.” During the first half of the Foundational program there seemed to be a lot of emphases placed on “personality tests” which I have big problems with. I don’t consider myself an “always or never” person, or even an “often to seldom” person. I am very much the “it depends” type. So this single issue caused great stress between myself and one of the instructors. Few may have known this at the time, but during the Christmas break, I gave a great deal of thought to quitting the program. I was probably 95% there, but I had paid for the full year and I figured that if I had paid for it, I might as well be in for the pound.
The new year however, brought the program into a new area of learning which I enjoyed, but by this time I felt that it was pretty much too late for me. The “personality tests” stuff seemed to had completely dominated all other learning and I felt that I had fallen too far behind and too much friction had come into play for things to be resolved. Still I stayed, and hoped and prayed that things would work out. Then towards spring, the instructors wanted to get an idea of which students were interested in continuing on to other GC programs. I so desperately wanted to continue on to the Biblical Studies program, but I felt I almost not even dare ask if that was possible. Eventually the moment came where I felt I either had to ask this same instructor if the school would even consider taking me back, or quietly make my exit without saying anything. Again, I was 95% sure she would say “No way!!!! You’re out of here! Forget it! You’re just not a good fit with us!”
I was completely dumbfounded when, without a split second’s hesitation, she replied with a very enthusiastic “Yes!!!! Of course we want you back!” And in that very instance, I learned well the meaning of true “grace,” for this instructor had so effortlessly personified genuine grace. A lesson I pray I will never forget as my life intertwines with the lives of others.
Nearing the end of the Biblical Studies program, I was hired in the position of part-time Church Secretary at my church and I was thrilled to be “working in the field” – even at this entry level status, it was a start; and again something I felt called to do. Still, there weren’t many opportunities for original writing and although I loved serving our Lord and our congregation in this way, I have to admit I did begin to really miss “the writer within”.
So in 2010 and after completing the final year of Biblical Studies, I created my first blog. That particular blog was meant to be an informal, “what’s new – family & friends update” thing. However, as with many things I do, the blog sort of morphed into a somewhat different forum for communication – to express my thoughts, reactions, comments, on an array of topics in my day to day life.
In the fall of 2011, I gave my Written in Faith website its second complete face lift, and found a deep desire to start writing again. I remember being very aware of this rekindling passion for writing and found it really interesting. Somehow there seemed to be a feeling of change in the air and indeed one was coming.
Nearing the end of October of 2011, I was informed that our Church Secretary’s position was being eliminated at the end of the year, due to a restructuring process. Now, most who know me, especially those at my church, know of my deep faith in God and our Lord Jesus Christ. They also know well of my views on loyalty, commitment and especially grace. So, when our Minister invited me to be a contributing writer for his monthly church newsletter, I felt accepting his invitation was a “no brainer.” So, in January 2012, became a Contributing Writer for “The Calvin Connection”.
I love seeing God at work and I’m constantly amazed at how He orchestrates a series of events; and while many people would call these strings of occurrences “mere coincidences”, my response question is always “How many coincidences do you need before you realize that they’re not just mere coincidences?” And to that end…..
In May of 2013, I wrote a fairly lengthy piece called “Succeeding and Success” and as I often do, I e-mailed friends & family to let them know it was posted on my web site.
Now, getting back to the whole “loyalty thing” – there are many people in my life whom I’ve known for decades. We may not always, or even often, keep in touch, but they know, and I know, there’s a strong bond that will always be so. A simple reaching out is all it takes for the other to respond. So I shouldn’t have been surprised when a life-long friend e-mailed me back.
This friend, in response, shared a Christmas meditation that she had written, and although I’ve known her for over forty years, this was the first of my becoming aware that she too is a Christian. When my husband read her e-mail and meditation, he simply expressed: “You two really should talk a lot more. You have far more in common than you think.”
Along with the general “catching up” content, my friend told me about a conference that she was involved with. She held two roles. She was on the conference’s planning committee, and also a speaker on one of the designated panels. In her e-mail she of course included the link to that conference’s web site.
Upon reviewing the site, I noticed a sidebar link to another, larger, conference which happened to directly precede her conference, and was being held at the exact same location. Both conferences covered the topic of Theology and Disability and focussed on the concept of “full inclusion.” What are the odds of that happening? Hmmm!
For the next few weeks I tried my darnedest to ignore my deep desire to go to both, but try as I did, I just couldn’t shake this desire. Exactly what was stirring my desire to go, honestly I think was a complexity of things – a yearning to see this friend (and other friends) was aroused by her e-mail; during the past year I had been through some type of mystery illness, which at certain points from the prospective of both my husband and myself, honestly seemed life threatening, but since the spring of 2013 I started to feel that I was rebounding and feeling stronger – healthier, so I also had a desire to do something significant to celebrate. Yet foremost, or at least equally so, I had a sense that this was the next step that our Lord had in mind for me. It was on my mind so much that I went to talk to my minister, to get advice on how to let go of this intense notion. I knew well that I couldn’t afford the full cost of going, especially considering that by this time these conferences were mere weeks away. As we talked, our conversation didn’t really stay in the direction of “how to forget about going,” but instead, it turned more towards who I could possibly speak to about helping me go.
During the next few weeks much happened in this regards. People were contacted and there became a theme of “Well, this party can do this part. I can do that part. and We’ll do such and such.” I was offered a significant scholarship through The Summer Institute on Theology and Disability/Bethesda Institute. And once again, many members at my church were incredibly supportive of my going, especially in terms of enthusiasm and seeing the benefits of my going. Yet their support extended well beyond my merely going to the conferences. Looking beyond my return, I was asked to be a part of our church’s Missions and Outreach Team, to share what I learned at these conferences and to help shape a future ministry, both within and outside the church, concerning working with people with disabilities, and becoming a more fully inclusive church in this regard. I was also asked to become the Content Manager for the church’s website, and to date, this is the latest of my endeavours.
I wish you God’s abundant blessings, always.
Gerianne B. Van Vugt (Mrs.)
Author, Poet, and Webmaster