There are people in my life who have offered me hope in times of deep dark valleys of uncertainty and pain during my missionary career. Kay Bruner is one of them. She began writing me in 2005 in response to some questions I put out on an email group for misisonary wives and has provided a safe friendship ever since that first email. On top of that, Kay gave me assertiveness training and encouraged me to be truthful about the realities I faced.
Today, I’m honored to be able to interview her here about the book she has written about her life as a missionary in the Solomon Islands. Although her circumstances are different to mine, there are threads in her story that I can totally relate to in my own service overseas. The things she talks about are quietly spoken about amongst missionaries (if there is a safe place to talk…some do not have this luxury!!) but it is rare to see them in public. In fact, I’ve never seen a book like this before. If I could recommend a book to anyone heading overseas, living overseas or for someone who loves and cares for missionaries, this would be it!
Please feel free to follow the link at the end of this post to enter a giveaway for ‘As Soon As I Fell.’
MendiB: How long did it take you to write this book, and why?
Kay Bruner: Parts of the book were written back when dinosaurs roamed the earth. Our son Michael just turned 20, and his birth story is in there, pretty much as I wrote it to family and friends back in the day. There’s a section of journal entries that’s 12 years old. Probably 8 years ago, I tried to put it together and I just couldn’t make the structure work. Finally, last fall, I figured out how to put it all together and I spent about 4 or 5 months being very disciplined in writing the first two drafts.
After the second draft, I thought it was done, but one of my beta readers said, “You have to open a vein here, Kay.” And Katrina, my editor, kept asking question after question, so I wrote a third draft. Then we worked on clean-up for a while. The actual hard-work-writing process ended up taking most of a year, and I worked on it 3 days a week during that time.
MendiB: Why did you write it?
Kay Bruner: I wrote this book because I needed this book and couldn’t find it. I was such a believer in knowing the rules and following them so my life would come out great, and that didn’t work AT ALL. I did everything as right as I knew how to do it and I got a mess. There wasn’t much written in the category of “Fail massively, and find God faithful.” I knew we weren’t the only ones who had ever failed. Statistics tell us that the average mission agency will lose 50% of its membership over a 10-year period, but all the books are missionary success stories.
It just seemed to me it was time to tell this other story, that God loves us right where we are, in all of our mess, and he’s not stymied when we fail. I think the whole Bible is full of stories like that. Many of the great heroes of the faith were also adulterers, liars, murderers, you name it. That didn’t slow God down one bit back then, and God still works that way today.
MendiB: If you could choose an specific audience, who would it be, and why?
Kay Bruner: This is really a love letter to women–and men–who are trying so hard to be so good, who are so exhausted by people-pleasing and expectations and rules and and and and and. I want to say to you what Jesus said to me: “It is finished. I have done it. It’s not up to you.” Sure, it’s for missionaries. But I think us good girls and good boys are pretty much the same, regardless of our geographical location.
MendiB: How did writing the book change you?
Kay Bruner: Well, I learned some really interesting things about my own story, mostly because Katrina, my editor, as I said, is one persistent woman. She just would not accept easy answers. I would write something and she’d say, “But I still don’t understand…” Some of the things that had happened were so painful that I hadn’t been able to think them through at the time. I had just said to myself, “Well, God knows, and I have to forgive. I don’t understand this, but He does.”
But in the process of Katrina pushing me so hard, I was able to see how some of the very worst things were like surgical tools in the hand of God. He had used those specific things for healing and wholeness. Also, hitting the “publish” button was a real act of bravery for me, because I felt like I’d written some hard things that push against the status quo that I was raised with. It was another opportunity for me to believe that God loves me, even when I go ahead and tell the entire world the truth about some really difficult things in my life.
MendiB: What main message do want people to take away from reading the book?
Kay Bruner: I want people to know that God loves them with an everlasting Love, and that nothing, nothing, nothing, NOTHING ever separates us from that Love. There is healing. There is hope. There is life beyond anything we could ever dare to ask, think, or dream.
MendiB: What kind of response have you had from your readers?
Kay Bruner: Well, I’ve had two main responses. One response is silence, because I think this is a book that challenges a lot of the ways we think the Christian life works. It’s the story of me starting out very sure of myself and my system and my calling and capacity to change the world, only to find myself broken into a million pieces. I understand that not everybody shares my experience, much less my response to my experiences, and so they don’t say anything, and that’s fine.
The second response is that readers are grateful that someone is giving voice to a different kind of missionary experience, a different kind of faith walk, one that’s not about how to make your life perfect but instead, that no matter what, we can fall into Love, and find Love faithful.
I’d love to give away a copy of my book, As Soon As I Fell, to a reader. In order to be entered, click over to my blog, www.kaybruner.com, and subscribe before October 30. We’ll randomly choose a winner and notify the winner by email.
MendiB: THANK YOU Kay, for sharing your story with us!