Tag Archives: Russia

Author and Missionary Evelyn Puerto Goes BEYOND THE RAPIDS

Today, Evelyn Puerto is hanging out with the Scribes. She comes to us with exciting experiences and a story to be shared! Welcome, Evelyn!

Thank you, Scribes, and thank you, Katy. For 12 years I served as a missionary and traveled to many dangerous places in the world. I think the most risky trip was flying to Kathmandu a week after a coup had shut down the airport for a few days. I wasn’t really sure the airport would stay open so I could leave, and rumors were flying about civil war flaring up.  

After I returned from being a missionary in Russia, I got married, inheriting three stepdaughters, two stepgrandsons and a cat. Loving the people who came into my life with my husband has been a joy, even when my writing time is interrupted to help a stepdaughter with a car insurance problem. All fodder for another book some day!

And speaking of books and my writing…

Beyond the Rapids is the true story of Ukrainian pastor Alexei Brynza, who served as a Baptist pastor during the final decades of the Soviet Union. He and his wife endured fierce persecution as they struggled to raise their four children as believers in a culture hostile to Christianity, living under a regime determined to stamp out their faith. The Brynzas’ children, forced to choose between God and the communist system, wrestled with temptations of ambition, popularity, love and wealth. Beyond the Rapids is a story of the grace and mercy God extends to His faithful people, and how He helps them triumph over seemingly undefeatable foes.

I met the Brynzas when I traveled to Ukraine while I was serving as a missionary based in Russia. Their warmth and joy as they shared their stories captivated me. Beyond the Rapids compiles their inspiring stories, and reminds us afresh that God is bigger than any trial we face.

In writing Beyond the Rapids I bounced between believing in the story and thinking that what I was writing was mind-numbingly dull. The best way to get past that is to get lots of feedback. But that can be harder than it seems. After I had my first draft finished, I asked four or five people to read it. The only comments I got back were general statements along the lines of “I liked it.” My big mistake was not finding other people to read my book. Instead, I kept rewriting based on what I thought needed to be improved.  I only started feeling confident in Beyond the Rapids after I had gotten several reviews from people I didn’t know. For me, finding honest critics who can offer specific suggestions for improvement while being encouraging is the key. If I know what the problem is, I can rewrite it. It’s the nagging feeling that something— but I don’t know what —is wrong that creates the most doubt.

My biggest misstep in my writing career was a mistake I made from the beginning. Looking back, I can’t imagine why I was so blind. What I did was start writing, thinking I had a clue what I was doing. I had no idea that writing groups and critique groups and conferences even existed. For someone who loves research as much as I do, I can’t believe that during the eight or so years I was writing Beyond the Rapids I didn’t stumble on one of these groups. I would have learned so much and found people who would have offered constructive criticism. That would have saved me a lot of time and many, many rewrites.

As for what’s to come after Beyond the Rapids, lately I’ve been thinking of trying science fiction, which is completely different from the biography/true story genre of my first book. I was enthralled with The Hunger Games, and am inspired to try a bit of world building to see what I could come up with. I’ve got part of the story figured out in my head already, and plan to start seriously working on it in January.

And if I couldn’t be a writer anymore, I’d want to go on the speaker circuit. This is almost shocking for me to admit, since I’ve spent most of my life terrified of public speaking. I started working on my ability to speak in front of groups in order to market my books. Once I got past my fear, I was surprised by how much I enjoy it and that I seem to have a gift for it. Instead of writing my stories, I could share them orally.

I love to hear from readers, and can be reached at evelyn@beyondtherapids.com. Follow me on twitter @evelyn_puerto, or check out www.facebook.com/Beyond.the.Rapids

And readers can find Beyond the Rapids here!

Thank you, again, Evelyn for sharing a bit about your experiences and your story with us.

Readers, please ask Evelyn some questions, and I’ll start us off…

What led you to becoming a missionary? And for the record, I would come to listen to you speak!


The Russian Coat

The Russian coat is packed a plastic bag, still on the floor of my office because I have no idea what to do with it.  For one thing, it has a history.  Back in my older son’s senior year of high school, the class, in conjunction with a course in Russian literature, travelled to Russia during spring break.  My son left wearing a blue ski jacket when he boarded the plane.  When he arrived back at the airport a week later, he had this thick woolen brass buttoned military coat: the Russian coat.

That coat went with him to university in Chicago, it and he enduring four years of minus zero degree winter weather (and how glad I was he had it) and then it came back home and into the hands of my younger son who wore it for the last two years of high school and beyond.  At that point, my older son was working overseas, we were on the cusp of moving to CT, and as we were cleaning things out, I thought maybe it was time to donate the Russian coat.

My eldest was adamant that we shouldn’t. The Russian coat had a story, it was his story, his history;  it  was part of his growing up. We had strict orders not to donate the Russian coat.  By that time, it was in pretty bad shape:  it needed a really good going over, repair, and a major cleaning.  Was it worth all that if it was just going to be packed away and nobody was planning to wear it ever again?

As I’ve written previously, my mother was born in Russia; my grandparents emigrated here in the 1930’s so I’m not without some sentiment on this matter.  I feel that pull to keep some connection to a history that’s in my blood if not in my consciousness.

But maybe there’s a different story about the Russian coat that I, the granddaughter and daughter of those immigrants and romance author, have yet to excavate from its tattered remains. I mean, this could be my Doctor Zhivago moment if I’m ever bold enough to grab it.

Until I’m certain of it, though, I’m feeling, fatalistically, that the Russian coat just might be with us forever.  So it sits, a victim of inertia, bundled up, on the floor of my office and I nudge it every once and while, and wonder what to do with it. I try to imagine that moment my son actually came into possession of it, and wonder whether actually having the object is necessary if you’ll always have the memory.  I wonder if this is how we all get stuck with the objects of our memories that we just can’t bear to relinquish.  And if the reason we hold onto objects is to hold on to our history in order to assure that our children and grandchildren know and remember that we were here.

How many things have tethered you because of memories?  Are they inspiration or clutter? Are you someone who can easily let go of objects?  Or do you hold onto things forever?  Is your house as cluttered as mine? What would you have done with the Russian coat?

Thea Devine is nearly finished with Beyond The Night, the sequel to The Darkest Heart, to be released April 2013.  She’s pleased to announce the reissue of His Little Black Book in October.