Journey of Hope
Jean Gibson, National Representative for Care for the Family in
Northern Ireland, and her husband Brian, spent most of June 2011
travelling through Malawi and Kenya. Having worked in theological
education in Kenya for eight years in the eighties, they returned to
Africa to meet local people who had encountered particular challenges
in their lives.
Underpinning the tragedies and harshness, are
numerous examples of hope, courage, joy, personal sacrifice and
instances of living out the love and Gospel of Christ on the part of
‘ordinary’ people who could have been forgiven for simply rolling over,
having endured more than most of us in the West will ever have to
Remarkably, they have remained strong in their faith, in their trust in
God for the future and in their desire to work to bring God’s love to
family and community.
The author is a consummate storyteller who approaches and recounts each
person’s life story and experience - as she did in her previous two
books, Seasons of Womanhood and Joyful in Hope – with deep sensitivity,
compassion, empathy and faith.
For those like this reviewer, who will probably never visit the ‘Dark
continent’ in their lifetime, Jean Gibson brings Africa – its joys and
its harshness – right into our living rooms. Bishop Harold Miller
is not too far from the truth: ‘Jean has a remarkable gift for painting
pictures in words. You will feel as though you are there,
smelling the smells, meeting the people she has met, and sensing
something of the heart of God for their needs and situations.’
Assistant Editor, Church of Ireland Gazette, 31 August 2012
These are touching, humbling
and inspiring stories of real women who have been willing to ‘bare
their soul’ and share their vulnerability in the hope that their
experiences might encourage others and show that, even in the midst of
such challenges and trauma, joy and hope can still shine through.
Whilst obviously focused, for the most part, on the experiences of
women, this is a book which has an equal relevance to men and will, I
believe, be appreciated by both men and women.
It is most certainly no bad thing for us to be reminded, especially in
our self-centred complacency and Christmas commercial binge, that some
people face the most extraordinarily difficult and daunting of
challenges and tragedies in their lives.
However the foundation of Jean Gibson’s admirable book – like the
season itself – is ‘Emmanuel’, ‘God with us’. These stories illustrate
that, whilst we are not guaranteed immunity from life’s problems, we
are not alone in our experiences; no situation is beyond hope; and
God’s presence and grace give inner strength to cope.
Assistant Editor, Church of Ireland Gazette, December 2010
Joyful in Hope is a small and
immensely readable book. It has eight chapters and each is a
self-contained story of a different woman’s life. The stories told
encompass a wide range of experiences but the common thread is that
each woman has a deep faith that enables her to cope with difficult
The issues faced include dealing with infertility, cancer, living with
an autistic child, caring for a disabled husband and coping with
bereavement. Each story is very well written and engaging. I found the
book both easy to start and hard to put down.
It is a light, easy book to give as a present. This is an ideal book to
settle down with on a winter’s evening and experience encouragement
from the women who have shared their stories.
Debbie Hardman, Evangelicals Now
Whilst tragically sad in
places, the title Joyful in Hope reflects how these women have
persevered through adversity with their faith in God as their guide. We
hear about the mother who had to cope with the shock of her son’s
autism; one woman’s fight against breast cancer; a mother who had to
come to terms with her son’s homosexuality; and a childless couple’s
perseverance to adopt.
Many women who have struggled with similar issues will identify with
the grief and heartache spilled out through the book and will draw
comfort from how these women have coped. Their reactions have been
honestly portrayed by jean, often including anger, despair and
desperation, which helps to reflect the reality of each situation and
the sincerity with which their stories are told.
The outcome of each story varies – sometimes tragic and often things
aren’t altered much by the end. However, it is the reactions of those
involved that is key in each circumstance. God is faithful with His
grace and mercy, providing hope and joy in even the hardest of times.
It is this assurance of His love and care and the testimony of it from
these women that will inspire others as they read this book and
contemplate it further.
Presbyterian Herald, May 2011
Seasons of Womanhood
This is the story of nine very
different situations - a teenager involved with para-militaries, the
very real problems of singleness, divorce, childlessness etc. But they
all show how God was with them in their very different situations
bringing hope and providing God's power when one is up against the
odds. God's answers are not often easy or quick. An encouraging read as
you see how despair with a human face turns to hope in seemingly
Wider World magazine, 2008
Jean Gibson shares the stories of 10 women - all
at different life stages - who are facing life with courage and faith.
Here are stories of the trauma of a broken marriage, infertility,
miscarriage, post-natal depression, anorexia, caring for a chronically
ill relative, living with alzheimers, making the most of retirement and
finding fullfillment as a single woman. These are ordinary women whose
faith in an extraordinary God grows amid the toughest of circumstances.
Womanalive magazine, 2008
Jean Gibson is better known as
the Northern Ireland Manager of Care for the Family and Reality event
co-ordinator. In Seasons of Womanhood she has taken nine women's
personal stories and retold them to inspire and show God's sufficiency
in the many different situations in life. The stories cover various
stages of a woman's life, from teenage days to final years allowing us
to see through the eyes of these woman, mostly from Northern Ireland,
that no situation is beyond hope. This book is an easy and inspiring
read and would make a great Christmas present, or perhaps a lifeline to
someone going through a situation similar to those described in these
Methodist Newsletter magazine, December 2007
If I was browsing a theological
bookshop, the title Seasons of Womanhood, would not attract me, but the
subtitle, stories of despair and hope, did catch my eye. Thus, it was
with some ambivalence that I lifted the slim volume, and was
immediately drawn into the first chapter through the title, "Wild
Child". This is a book which you read avidly, because it is a series of
true-life experiences which leaves you in awe of God and his grace. In
fact, the whole book is not so much the life stories of ten very
different women in difficulty, but it is a witness to a loving,
all-knowing, forgiving God, whose grace and power know no bounds.
Often, we are gripped by fiction writing, but this is a most absorbing
book, even more exciting than any thriller, because it is true life.
More than that, it counters anyone who would try to tell you that God
is irrelevant. Here we read real evidence of God's power to change and
transform lives today. Yes, it is a story about women who have grappled
with addiction, singleness, infertility, post-natal depression,
difficult and broken marriage, illness and change, but it is just as
relevant for men. It gives insight into humanity in difficulty, and is
for everyone, because it is about trusting and holding on to God. For
anyone who is going through difficult times, this book testifies that
God will not abandon you; nor will he give you a trial which you cannot
surmount without his help. This is an inspiring book about living the
victorious life God wants us to, despte our frailties or difficulties.
Pat Molen, Church of Ireland Gazette, January 27, 2008