When the Last Stone Falls begins in Holland in 1939, the world is on the brink of war. The characters in my story must fight for survival and freedom and to find light in the darkness during one of the worst times in history.
Gerrit Degroot sees humanity at its worst under the Nazi Regime. As a Dutch soldier, he fights for his country, only to face defeat. Hitler’s Third Reich closes around him, forcing Gerrit underground with members of the resistance, thwarting both his education and plans to wed. Separated from the woman he loves, he bargains with God for her protection. Haunted by horrors of the new world order, he wonders if he will ever return home—in this life, or the next.
My inspiration to write When the Last Stone Falls came from my parents’ experiences in Holland before and during WWII. Twenty-five years ago, when my father was in his seventies, he finally shared what had transpired during that time. His personal story gave me insight into Hitler’s oppressive regime and the men and women who resisted.
Although fascinating to learn, I was also saddened by so much tragedy. As his witness unfolded, my perspective on freedom completely changed. Freedom came at a great cost.
Egbert Ankersmit at 18
I taped interviews so I wouldn’t lose his testimony if only to let my children know what my parents, and so many others, had gone through. Later, I completed the tedious work of transcribing them.
And then research began. I investigated timelines, historic details, and anything else that related to my parents’ footprints from 1939 to 1945. Since my children were still young and my parents were aging, research was best seen as a hobby that would take me a while to complete.
When a back injury moved me into early retirement, my efforts shifted to this project. I decided to write it as fiction loosely based on what I had gleaned from my father, and to develop my writing skills. I’m finished writing the story with the final edits and I hope revisions to be completed within two months.
How Christianity Shaped My Story
I was raised in a Christian home, and as long as I can remember, had a Biblical worldview. For the longest time, I believed that if you obeyed the rules, did the right things, you were God’s child. The change came when I agreed with God about sin, believed, and applied the words from John 14:6. Jesus said, “I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the father except through me.”
When the Last Stone Falls portrays good versus evil, a need to get out from under darkness and to fight for freedom. As in real life, the characters wrestle with truth—that God longs for a relationship with them and that He promises to be with them through the darkest of times.
In writing this book, my thoughts frequently landed on this one great need—to know Christ and that He is enough. Eighteen-year-old Gerrit takes a similar journey to discover God’s love. At twelve, his childhood friend dies, and he feels abandoned by God. He decides to take control and fight his own battles. Although Gerrit follows the church’s rules, his disconnect with the Almighty is as wide as the Ijssel River behind his home. He battles for God and country only to lose to the Third Reich.
Gerrit is captured and as a POW his hatred for the enemy grows. Throughout the book, God uses believers to show Gerrit He wants him to trust Christ and have a personal relationship with him. But Gerrit’s works based faith—and the oppressive regime—keeps him enslaved. He’s unwilling to give control to this so-called loving God.
Yet the goodness of God chases after Gerrit and doesn’t stop, even in his darkest moments.
In the end, Gerrit longs to be freed from the clutches of the enemy to return home. But is he willing to trust the God he’s running from, marry Anneke and be equally yoked, or will he remain self-reliant and keep fighting his own battles?
I’m thankful to have been able to express God’s grace and redemption through Gerrit’s journey and to show that placing his trust in himself and his good works doesn’t bring him peace. When his innate desire for freedom stirs his chained soul, he longs for redemption.
As writers, we fill our minds with God’s word, pray for guidance, and nurture a personal relationship with Jesus Christ so that through our writing, people will come to know Him.
After a thirty-year career in nursing, Johanna Janssen has embarked on a new path of writing Christian fiction. Eager to hone her writing skills, Johanna can frequently be found at writers’ conferences and is a member of a local writers’ group, American Christian Fiction Writers, and the Canadian Word Guild. Johanna has volunteered as a Stephen Minister. When not writing, she attends a local Toastmasters Club, enjoys reclaiming old furniture and spending time with friends and family. Johanna and her husband live in Ontario, Canada, and have two grown children.
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One thought on “How I Learned To Express God’s Grace by Writing Fiction by Guest Blogger Johanna Janssen”
Very interesting, and a great testament to the power of research. Research makes a story come alive!