Nov 04

When Grace Showed Up – a book to kickstart your heart

Recently, the book ‘When Grace Showed Up’ by Tich & Joan Smith turned up in our home. It was lent to my wife by a friend of hers. I had heard about the book when I was at a Soul Survivor festival in the summer with our youth group and so was intrigued to find out what it was like.

When Grace Showed UpOn Sunday, feeling pretty exhausted from having to work through the half term week, I decided I’d dip into this book. By Sunday night I’d finished. It was a fantastically inspiring read. I don’t often write book reviews but I want to encourage everyone to read this book. It’s written in a very easy-to-read style, and is truly compelling.

‘When Grace Showed Up’ tells the story of Tich Smith, a former South African cricketer and rugby player, how he met his second wife Joan, and together, how God led them to start up LIV village, a village for homeless and orphaned children in South Africa.

It is written by the couple and they are very honest about their life experiences. Tich admits to being arrogant as a young man and how addiction to alcohol and to gambling led to the breakdown of his first marriage. Joan explains her heartache over her first husband dying young.

The beauty of the story is seeing how God brought two very broken people to him and to each other, and the incredible outpouring of grace on their lives, despite their faults.

If you need to have your faith inspired, your heart restarted, your level of hope topped up, then please do pick up this book. What is clear throughout is that God gave a clear vision to this couple, and they were obedient. It is wonderful to hear of God moving so powerfully and to hear testimony of what it looks like to be obedient to his call.

The book left me reinvigorated to serve God obediently and passionately. I don’t now want to start an orphan village, nor move to South Africa (though a visit is very tempting), but I do feel more inspired to listen to God for more of his vision for my life, in my prayer times to spend less time talking and more time listening, to keep asking what is it that he wants me to do, rather than just assuming I know best.

As I think about this book, I can pick many different themes to it. Here are just five:

1. God gets the glory for what he does

As I reflect on the book, I’m not left thinking what incredibly impressive people Tich & Joan are (although they are), but what a wonderful God we have. The story oozes with God’s goodness and grace, and Tich & Joan’s frailty in obedience. I love that. It means that I might have a chance to partner with God too.

2. God wants to work through broken people

To their own admission, Tich & Joan are not perfect Christians, yet God took their willingness, their openness and their hearts, to build something quite incredible through them. That cliche that ‘God doesn’t call the gifted, but gifts the called’ shines through this story.  That’s great news for me, as I don’t have to excel at everything, I just need to listen more and be obedient.

3. God has a clear vision for each and all of us

The way they tell this story inspires me to believe this should not be an unusual story but the kind of story that God wants to repeat all over the world. It feels like a taster of heaven, not a complete meal. It makes me realise that God has just as challenging a vision for me and for you. If we ever get to feeling that life is a bit disappointing or there must be more to this world, this story inspires me to look heavenwards and to look for what God is doing and where he is doing it. The challenge is am I prepared to follow?

4. God’s call is all-in, not part time

Tich & Joan set up LIV village and initially lived outside by the beach but they soon realised God was asking them to relocate and to live full time in the village, allowing their beach home to be used as a retreat house for many. The project did take up their whole lives, or rather, God consumed their lives so it wasn’t a chore but a blessing to be involved. I wonder if too many God visions are not fulfilled because we are not fully committed to it, we are part-time, only will to give our spare time (or our work time) to being obedient to whatever he is calling us to.

5. God doesn’t expect us to do this alone

I noticed how Tich & Joan brought fellow believers alongside them, how they worked with local pastors and churches, and didn’t try to keep it ‘their baby’. They knew the project was bigger than both of them, and they knew the success was more important than their reputation, so they surrounded themselves with amazing people. As a result, people flock from all over the world to help and support them. It reminds me of the quote on Harry S Truman’s desk when he was President of USA,’It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.’ I want to see great things achieved for God, with him getting the credit, rather than limiting success to my own ego.

If you can, get yourself a copy of this book (I’m not getting commission!) and set aside a Sunday and read it. I promise you that you will be inspired and excited for what God may want to partner with you to do.