Janette Oke pioneered inspirational fiction and is the leading author in the category today. She received the 1992 President's Award from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association for her significant contribution to Christian fiction, the 1999 CBA Life Impact Award, and the Gold Medallion Award for fiction. In this interview Janette talks about her neighborhood women's Bible study group, her encounter with a reader at a coffee shop, and a man who resolved to change his tough attitude after reading the books in her LOVE COMES SOFTLY series.
Janette Oke Answers The Faithful Fifteen
FR: What kind of testimony to your faith are you demonstrating in this book? If you are writing fiction, do you write fiction that is based upon your faith or that has a message for the reader? Is your goal to demonstrate your faith in your writing?
JO: I was pleasantly surprised at the open door for fiction writing. My aim was to share my faith with readers, but I had no idea of the possibilities. I have discovered that, through the work of the Holy Spirit, the reader can be taken beyond the words on the printed page to discover a personal faith of his/her own or to deal with the issues of spiritual concerns in life. God is amazing; he truly works in wondrous ways.
FR: When did you come to a saving knowledge of Jesus? Where are you today in your walk? Is your faith an important part of what you do?
JO: I was raised by a Christian mother and attended church and Sunday school and fully accepted the Bible and its stories as the Word of God. But it was not until I attended a summer Bible camp at the age of 10 that I realized I was a sinner and needed to personalize my faith by accepting what Christ had done for me on the Cross.
FR: Tell us about your church experiences, how you grew up (or maybe didn't grow up) in the church, where you attend now, your involvement in your local assembly, etc.
JO: I graduated from a small Bible college in Alberta, Canada, married a fellow student upon graduation, and after his further training, became a minister's wife. We spent some years in the pastorate until our denomination appointed him as our district college president. Since that time he was in Christian education in various roles until his retirement three years ago. I have served in a number of positions, primarily in Sunday school, women's mission organizations and girls' clubs. At present I am on the committee of three that directs and presents dramas within the church.
FR: Who are your spiritual mentors? Your professional mentors?
JO: My spiritual mentors are my neighborhood women's Bible study group. I started the group when we moved to this new area and it has been a tremendous blessing to me. We come from a number of denominations, are at various stages in Christian growth, and feel comfortable sharing openly with one another. I thank God for this special opportunity of being part of this group.
FR: What are your Scripture reading habits?
JO: My husband and I have a daily devotional time together and we each have our separate daily devotions. I read through the Bible over a period of time, then start over again. Right now I am again in Daniel.
FR: Do you read secular fiction at all? If so, who are your favorite authors and why?
JO: I do read secular fiction but am selective in my choices. I guess I would say that the older classics are often what I enjoy rather than contemporary fiction writers. I find the classics less "open" in describing fallen mankind.
FR: Tell us about one or more of your favorite encounters with readers.
JO: I was busy with my daily schedule when I got a call from a reader I had never met who was traveling through the area and wondered if she could meet with me. My initial reaction was that I was busy, but I agreed to meet her at a local coffee shop that I thought would be easy for her to find. When we located each other and introduced ourselves, one of her first statements was, "I guess you could say I'm seeking." We talked. She did not make her decision that day but promised to talk with a pastor from her area. She got back in touch to let me know that she did find the Lord and was raising her little boys in the church. I have often asked myself what would have happened had my "busy day" kept me from that coffee appointment.
FR: Would you share a story about someone you've brought to Christ or share how your writing has helped someone?
JO: A number of years back I received a letter from an Ohio State Patrol member. He had a family of several little ones, but he said that he had always been a tough guy at work and brought that attitude home with him. Clark Davis, from the LOVE COMES SOFTLY series, had become his hero after reading the books. His comment was, "I just hope it's not too late." I think of him often. I pray that each of his family members --- seven when I last heard from him --- has benefited from that decision.
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