BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP)–“I believe in miracles. Always have; always will,” writes Barbara Joiner in the introduction to her book, “Beyond Belief! Volume 2.”
As the Woman’s Missionary Union emphasis book for 2001-2002, Joiner’s book recounts moving tales of how God has worked through missionaries who, under the most difficult circumstances, sought to fulfill Jesus’ final commandment: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations….” (Matthew 28:19).
Interposed with biblical stories, the modern-day miracles remind that God still works wonders. Bible characters are not the only people who have escaped down the Nile River or been untouched by a blazing fire meant to devour them. Beyond Belief! features missionaries who have faced such trying circumstances, only to become stronger in their faith and more aware of God’s hand on them. (Vol. 1 by former WMU exec Dellanna O’Brien was released last year.)
Joiner denies being a great Bible scholar, but she asserts that God is a great teacher. “The Bible stories were obvious. As I wrote missionary stories, Bible stories came to mind,” she said.
Touching, miraculous narratives abound within the book, but one of the most wondrous stories is the evolution of the publication itself.
After Joiner was asked to write Beyond Belief! Vol. 2, her editor and close friend Joe Smith passed away from heart problems at the age of 39. “He was like a son to me,” Joiner said. “[Joe’s] dad says [his son] grew up in the Joiner household, and he did. Our whole family loved Joe.”
Joiner was there the night before he passed away, and she sadly remarks that Smith left behind a wife and two children. Joiner said she did not know if she could continue to write the book after his death.
But God had other plans in store, and beyond belief, Joiner persevered with a new editor. As she pressed on, more tragedy struck. Migrant Camp, a ministry in south Alabama that Joiner has worked in for 33 years, should have been an uplifting experience for her, having just completed a chapter of the book. Unfortunately, one of the campers drowned while she was at the camp, adding to her devastation and inability to concentrate. Hemorrhaging retinas and skin cancer between her eyes also plagued her as she struggled to persist.
But she continued to write. “I finished, thank the good Lord, I finished! It’s a miracle beyond belief!” she declares in her introduction to the book.
Beyond Belief!, Joiner’s eighth book, is selling well, and she attributes that to God’s provision. She strongly attests to his wanting the book finished, saying the hindrances placed before were because the devil did not want the stories to be read.
“I am not the least bit surprised the book is selling like it is because … the Lord wanted it done, and he will use it in a powerful way,” Joiner said.
When asked what stories were most meaningful to her, Joiner began reciting, then said, “Well, I could just start at the first chapter….”
This is not surprising to those who have read her book. The work reveals God’s mighty hand among his people, and the feats are certainly nothing short of miraculous. Dispersed throughout the book also are anecdotal stories of common people who felt called to minister to those around them. Who can declare that one is more meaningful than another, when all of the stories point to works of the Lord? Joiner asked.
The missions-related stories are especially significant to Joiner, who has had a lifelong love for missions. When Tom Thurman, a former missionary to Bangladesh, asked why her “heart beat missions,” Joiner replied, “When I was a little girl, I learned to sing ‘Jesus Loves the Little Children’ before I learned to sing ‘Jesus Loves Me.’ It shouldn’t be about me, me, me.”
Emphatically missions-oriented, Joiner stands as an ideal speaker and writer for WMU. Holding missions work to be so essential, she says that when she opens her mouth, missions come out.
Joiner’s involvement in WMU began when she was just a child. “I learned to love missions in Sunbeams,” she raved. Working as an Acteens adviser for 31 years, Joiner has seen the flourishing results of WMU programs, noting that her writing career began with speaking engagements for WMU.
Teaching WMU mission studies, Joiner’s wit and communicative abilities quickly drew the attention of others. She was soon asked to speak at the Ridgecrest and Glorieta conference centers. In the early 1970s, she wrote for Royal Service about migrants. “It just started growing,” Joiner said.
After being invited to a WMU writer’s conference, Joiner was asked to write her first book as a contribution to the “The Woman I Am” series, a WMU series now out of print. “God has taught me so much, and I am so grateful that God has actually used me” through writing and speaking, she said.
Barbara’s best-selling books include “Count It All Joy” and “Yours for the Giving.” Beyond Belief! Volume 2 might be added to the list, as its message seems to implicitly speak to Christians in the United States during such a traumatic time in the nation.
Resolved to always find the fruit in the seemingly rotten, Joiner shared her hope for WMU’s thematic emphasis and her book’s role in its celebration. “As horrible as the attack on America was, I believe this attack has put us back on our knees … and I think God will bring good out of it,” she said. “We have to cling to the fact that God does things that are beyond belief.”
McMath is a freelance writer in Birmingham, Ala. Beyond Belief! Volume 2 can be purchased through WMU by calling 1-800-968-7301 or visiting their online bookstore at www.wmustore.com. It is also available through LifeWay Christian Stores.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: BARBARA JOINER.