New York Times best-selling author, Francine Rivers is currently visiting South Africa and has made herself available to the public through press conferences, book signing events and speaking opportunities. I had the pleasure of meeting her at a press conference in Johannesburg yesterday. She shared some of her life story and spoke about her latest book, “Bridge to Haven.”
More than a million of her books have been sold in South Africa. She has written 20 Christian novels and her books have been translated into 30 languages. She has won three retail awards for her inspirational works. She has been married to Rick for 45 years, has three children and five grandchildren. She has often been number 1 on best sellers lists but God is number 1 in her life and she has been His faithful servant to influence millions of lives across our country and the world.
If there is a book title that sums up Francine Rivers life story, it would be her very first Christian novel called ‘Redeeming Love.”
Rivers grew up in a Christian home and attended youth and church, but never really made any connection with God. She wanted to write, but was not sure what about, and funnily enough, as a young person, did not like to read. She experienced quite a bit of trauma in her life, especially in the 1960s with pregnancy outside of marriage, abortion, feeling suicidal and having her brother captured during the Vietnam war, even though he later escaped. Her husband was also involved in the war, and so between the two of them they brought quite a few issues into their marriage that needed to be worked through. She and Rick have just celebrated 45 years of marriage, yet another sign of redemption in her life.
She started writing what she calls ‘steamy, historical romance’ and if she could have escaped to the hills with just her typewriter, she would have. She started feeling very unhappy with her life and who she was. She and Rick’s lives were extremely busy at one point and they decided to move to make a change. Their new next door neighbor was an 8-year-old boy who introduced himself by saying – “have I got a church for you!” Rivers started attending church on her own and later people reached out to her husband in his home and they both made commitments to follow Christ and were baptized in 1986. After that she was unable to write for three years; it was almost as if God took her ability away to give her a chance to get to know Him and read and study Scripture. When she got to the book of Hosea, it just broke her heart. It was a real “love” story and from that “Redeeming Love” was born.
Most of her stories have come out of her own life experiences and her desire is to speak to the hard and real issues that tear people’s lives apart. She found she always has lots of questions and, in a sense, each book is a quest to find the answers. In “Atonement Child” she had many people write to her with their own stories of abortion, and she was able to say she knows what they are going through as she was “Hannah” in the story. She really did not want to write this particular book because of her past pain, but God got her there and by the end of the book she could feel the healing that had taken place in her own life. They were her hardest years as a writer, but she had a great support system around her at the time helping her through.
She says there is hope no matter what and that there is redemption for all. God can use anything and she feels that very strongly about her own life. When you hear all her stories and then you look at her in person, you can literally see the transformation that has taken place, how God has taken a life with many mess-ups and redeemed it for His glory alone, and in the process touched millions of lives around the globe. Her one comment was, “It’s all about God, not me!” She is a peaceful, warm, loving, friendly and engaging person with a very soft heart, which was evident by her tears when sharing some of her stories.
She speaks of a time when she and her friend were “kidnapped” by some university boys and dumped outside the city. They started walking back into town and came across a farm where someone offered to take them back into town. Once they were safely dropped off, her friend asked her if she knew who had just given them a lift, but she had not. It was a man who owned many of the brothels around town, she realized she could have disappeared there and then into the world of human trafficking, but God had other plans. As a result she is a part of an organization fighting human trafficking and the book “Redeeming Love” has aspects of this in the story in that most of the story centers around brothels and prostitution.
When asked about the current persecution of the church, her comments were that we must remember the church is not a building, but people and that we must be salt and light in this world and live authentic lives that draw people to Jesus. She feels we are losing the impact of the Gospel by making it soft and being seeker sensitive. “And the shofar blew” is a book that she recommends with regards to persecution.
One transformation moment I smiled at was when she said that when she first got married, she asked them to remove the word “obey” from the vows, but when they had a remarriage on the beach 10 years into their marriage, she put the word back in. She had come to understand what mutual submission was all about.
Her latest book ‘Bridge to Haven’ is all about God’s love for each of us. It’s set in the Golden years of Hollywood era as they recreate people so well and change their names. No matter our circumstances, if we cry out to God, He will respond, but we have to take that step of faith, over the bridge first. The bridge in the story comes out of her teenage years as she used to drive over it every day, and she wanted the baby in the story to be born under that bridge. That’s enough intrigue to cause us all to want to go and read the book.
Francine Rivers’ itinerary in South Africa is:
October 17, CUM Books, Menlyn Retail Park, Pretoria
October 18, Leef Women’s event, Moreleta Park Church, Pretoria
October 19, NG Helderberg Church. Somerset West
October 20, Bargain Books, Canal Walk Cape Town
October 21, CUM Books, Somerset Mall, Somerset West.
Media contact Gerda-Mari Zietsman 016 4407019