Monday, February 18, 2019

A Broken Heart Can Lead You to Rise by Marianne Evans

Marianne Evans
Once upon a time, the seeds of a series planted themselves in my heart. I saw a farm. A family. Midwest strong and vibrant. Within this harvest I saw three brothers. A picturesque piece of rolling land in Indiana. There were low-lying, rippling fields of soybeans. There was turmoil, faith, and overwhelming love.

For the bulk of their lives, my brother and sister-in-law, John and Mary Hilger, oversaw the operations of a 400-plus acre farm much like the one I imagined. They bore and raised six daughters, and life was good. Much like the family I imagined. You couldn’t leave their home without a heap of fresh fruits and vegetables. John’s laughter, his Christ-centered heart, resonated through all who knew him. Mary’s spiritual artwork ( ) was acclaimed and on-the-grow. Much like the faith I imagined.

John and Mary not only helped me research and develop my series, The Fishermen of Antioch, their example was something to which I longed to pay homage. Within their large, boisterous, loving unit, they demonstrated Christ’s love at its best. Plus, they were mentors to me and key to my spiritual discovery and growth.

So, I began to write a trio of books that honored farm families, stories that celebrated deep roots. I wanted to shine the light of respect upon those who work the earth and harvest without thinking of anything else but community provision. How much like our Father God? In John and Mary’s world, if strawberries rested on the vine after the main harvest, those without means were bussed to their farm to pick the fields clean. For free. Waste of God’s gifts was never an option.

John and Mary saw their family to fruition. As life’s golden-age came upon them, sons-in-law joined the picture. A multitude of grandchildren blessed their lives and there was retirement on the near horizon. They had plans. An art and Scripture-based ministry they’d carry out from church to church was already taking off. John’s engaging recitation of Scripture coupled with Mary’s ordained artwork brought souls to the Kingdom. They couldn’t wait to embrace an exciting new season of life. A few Christmases ago, their family gifted them with a river cruise through Europe that would take them to Germany—a long-held bucket list destination.

Before departing, John and Mary stopped by our house on their way to Detroit Metro Airport. We shared dinner, and, in typical fashion, Deacon John prayed over me as they prepared to depart for Europe. Selfless love. I prayed with and for him as well, but nothing was as special as a blessing from John…

Less than a day after they left, we received a panicked text notification from Mary that read, simply: “PRAY.” We did, of course…but that’s where the story takes a twist. Soon we discovered what prompted her outcry. Following dinner on the first night of their cruise, John suffered a massive heart attack. Thanks to Jesus alone he was in Amsterdam and was immediately transported to a world-class hospital where he was placed in a medically induced coma.

We prayed, we believed, we stormed the gates of heaven. Meanwhile, all six daughters made their way to Amsterdam, battling horrific weather patterns, botched deliveries of passports, and a nightmare of bureaucracy…but by the grace of God alone, they all made it there.

Just hours before John passed away.

My sister-in-law has written a book about her journey through grief. It’s called ‘Finding Beauty in Ashes.’ The story is amazing. Meanwhile, the final book of the Fishermen of Antioch series releases in March. The result, I hope, will honor my original God-given goal, and the rich legacy of a family’s love.




Benjamin Fisher melds with quiet perfection into the tapestry of the Fisher family. The youngest of the three Fisher men, Ben is gifted with skills that keep machines running, crops efficiently harvested, farm structures sound and secure.

But there’s one person in the small village of Antioch, Indiana who has noticed and adored the man since her youth. Hailey Beth Thomas. Hailey Beth’s sister is marrying Ben’s brother in a spring wedding that promises to be the event of the season. Thrown together as the heady romance of an upcoming marriage takes place, love and revelation come to life.

Unknown to anyone else, Ben wants to answer a call to the mission fields of North America that will lead him far from the life he has always known. Ben longs to serve, but he wants a life with Hailey Beth as well. Hailey Beth can’t leave Antioch, but can’t bear the idea of losing Ben.

Are they meant to be together, or will God’s call pull them apart just as they’ve found a way to one another?


Marianne Evans is an award-winning author of faith-affirming fiction who has won acclaim from critics and readers. RT Book Reviews named her book Forgiveness a 4.5-Star Top Pick and readers laude her books as ‘riveting’ and ‘true to heart.’ She’s a life-long resident of Michigan who calls suburban Detroit home.