As I begin this Foreword, I am reminded of the call from Susan when she completed her manuscript “The Stone of Ebenezer.” Months before, she had contacted me to pray about writing the Foreword; a request that aroused a feeling of deep responsibility. I am a pastor, author, and faith writer columnist but this was more than a writing assignment, more than a column for the newspaper, it was a call from Susan’s heart to mine; one I accepted with feelings of immense humility.
Susan and I met when as a children’s pastor; I taught her three children in a Dallas area church. Our mutual love for prayer, music, and writing, bound our hearts and minds together as kindred spirits. One summer I learned of Susan’s love for biblical, historical accuracy when she created booths for a children’s vacation Bible school. The children were intrigued to step back in time and experience life in the little village of Nazareth where Jesus grew in “wisdom, and stature and in favor with God and men.”
I agonized with Susan and her family upon learning how deeply they were all wounded two years prior to our meeting in the powerful tragedy of September 11, 2001. They were forced to travel a journey, not of their choice, but theirs just the same. One of the passengers aboard American Airlines Flight 77 that hit the Pentagon was her father, Stanley R. Hall. I prayed diligently for her as she struggled to publish her first book, SILENT RESOLVE AND THE GOD WHO LET ME DOWN. I share her grief each time I pick up the book and re-read any portion.
During our times together, Susan would share about another “book” gathering momentum in her heart and head. As an author I could certainly relate and was not surprised when she completed her second work, THE STONE OF EBENEZER. Susan sent this message: “I am sending the manuscript certified mail. It is always a frightening thing to put your manuscript in the mail. It is like sending your child away unsupervised.” Her choice of words struck a memory in my thoughts as they wandered to an Old Testament mother who placed her child in a basket made of bulrushes and “sent him away” unsupervised. As the mother gave the basket a small push, she trusted God to provide a person that would receive the child and care for him.
I could picture Susan as the manuscript left her hands in Texas headed for mine in Pennsylvania. It arrived! Overwhelmed by excitement, I signed for the treasured box. I held it in my hands, called immediately to announce its safe arrival and curled up in a sunny spot to begin an incredible journey that began long ago in Ancient Israel. A journey traveled by Old Testament characters, re-born in Susan’s heart, now ready for anxious readers such as myself.
As I began to read, I envisioned the daunting task Susan faced as the overwhelming “I must write” feeling flooded her mind repeatedly in the early dawn. I marveled at the countless hours of research she logged in on this work. Her dedication allowed her to portray the events found in I Samuel chapters 4-7. Its amazing, vivid account of biblical events is historically accurate. The Bible states “So the Philistines fought, and the Israelites were defeated and every man fled to his tent. The slaughter was very great; Israel lost thirty thousand foot soldiers. The ark of God was captured and Eli’s two sons Hophni and Phinehas died.”
God’s judgments, treacherous journeys, blood battles and even romance come alive to the reader in this skillfully written epic story.
Portrayed in her book are characters brought forward from Old Testament antiquity and presented face to face for the reader to experience. This novel draws the reader to “be at home” in the Old Testament setting. Woven throughout its pages, the reader will readily see the hand of God as it moved in times past to protect the ark of God and the chosen children, Israel. It will allow the reader to grasp the fact that God’s faithfulness to His Word in both blessing and judgment has not changed and can be claimed by us today.
I am honored to introduce this work by Susan Van Volkenburgh and to encourage her to pursue the completion of the series, TRILOGY OF KINGS.
~ FOREWORD BY: Rev. Judith Wiegman
Ordained Minister, Church of the Nazarene, 2003
Women’s Conference and Retreat Speaker
Faith Writer Columnist, Jotting Judi, The Dalhart Texan Newspaper 2008-2013
Author: Featured in Teatime Stories for Mothers, River Oak Publishing; Tulsa, Oklahoma
Featured in God’s Vitamin C for the Hurting Spirit, Starburst Publishers, Lancaster, PA
Recent Children’s Books: The Trail of the Wooden Horse, A Stranger at the Gate, The Night of the Storm, Where Did Papa Go?, Beacon Hill Press, KC, MO