One of my favorite hobbies, which I also consider a ministry, is helping people compile their life stories. I started by transcribing my maternal grandparents' autobiographies. After I had typed all the text, my sister-in-law Diane inserted many pictures, mostly from old slides. Then my brother Rick created the book cover according to our instructions. This was such a rewarding family project, and the finished book, Our Journey Through Life, turned out great!
You can check out Grandma's book here, and buy it or download a free PDF copy if you'd like. If you do read her story, I know she'd love to hear your comments. You can enter comments on my blog, and I'll pass them along to her, or you can post a review on the book's website.
Jack and Jeanne
Not too long after we'd finished Grandma's book, I was praying about what I could possibly do to minister to others. I was part of a nursing home visitation program through my church at the time, and I was so excited when the answer came: I could collect and transcribe the residents' stories! I interviewed several people, but most had only a few stories to share. Then I met Jack, and boy could he tell a story! I was spellbound as I transcribed his World War II stories.
Over the course of a year, I compiled Jack's autobiography in my spare time. This involved many visits to the nursing home, almost always with Allyson in tow. Jack's wife Jeanne fell in love with Allyson, and the feeling was mutual. Allyson always sits in her lap, and Jeanne usually gives her a cookie or some strawberry yogurt from their tiny refrigerator.
Nearly all the residents love Allyson. At first she was overwhelmed by all the hands and voices reaching out to her, but she's gradually gotten more comfortable there. Even the grumpiest men brighten when she waves at them, and even the ones who can no longer speak can clearly express their joy. (It reminds me of the last time I saw my grandfather. He couldn't talk, but he reached out for baby Allyson with both arms. I set her on his lap gingerly, still holding her lightly, but he wouldn't have dropped her; his grip was surprisingly strong. His entire face was lit up with joy, and tears streamed down my cheeks. I am so thankful for that memory.)
Jack's book took me so long that we both probably figured it would never be finished, but the day finally came a couple of weeks ago. Though he couldn't really see it, he was so proud when he held the book in his hands for the first time. I hope his family enjoys the book for generations.
Click here to view, order, or download Jack's book.
Now I need to finish my parents' autobiography and start another one at the nursing home. I'm praying for God to lead me to a person who is longing to share his or her story--maybe a woman this time.
Would YOU Like to Write a Book?
Publishing a book these days is surprisingly easy. I used a site called Lulu to self publish both books. The cost was quite reasonable, and the best part is that it required no up-front cost. Each book is printed and sold individually, with all costs paid by the buyer. You can choose whether to mark up the price or sell it at cost, and where to send any profits--even to a charity, if you like.
I strongly encourage you to publish your own family stories! I'd be happy to answer any questions you might have.