What is your favourite Christian novel? I’ve never been a huge reader of Christian fiction although that has changed in the last year as I try to understand the industry I’m entering.
I read ‘Safely Home’ years ago and have read it several times since. Today I re-read it. Would I still love it? I was worried that having being immersed in editing for several years and thus much more attuned to what is ‘good’ writing it might no longer impress me. I need not have worried.
In April, I will be running a giveaway for a Kindle copy of Randy’s book.
It not only inspired me as a story but I hoped that if I was ever to write a novel that it could achieve the same things I believe this book does. To inspire and challenge Christians to follow Jesus more passionately. May my novel (due out in November, 2017) do this.
This interview with the author, Randy Alcorn is reproduced, with permission, from his website
Where did you get the idea for this story?
I was raised in a non-Christian home and came to Christ as a teenager. I was deeply touched by stories of people who put their lives on the line for their Lord.
When I was in Bible college, I led a weekly prayer group for China. At that time accurate information was hard to come by: Mao was in power, pastors were imprisoned and sometimes killed, and the country was closed to missionary activity. When the fog cleared and China started to open up, some expected to see that the church
had been exterminated. In fact, it had multiplied hundreds of times! What happened in those years was astonishing. There have been more martyrs for Christ in China than in any country in history. And yes, though overall conditions have improved, there are still some believers dying today.
The story is based on the painting by Ron DiCianni. What made you choose this setting and topic after studying his painting?
I had met Ron DiCianni and later Tyndale House asked me to write a novel based on Ron’s powerful painting called Safely Home. Tyndale sent me a signed copy of the painting which I immediately hung on my office wall, where it remains to this day. It’s the one that’s in each copy of this novel.
It portrays a man on his knees. His clothing is worn and tattered. He appears both exhausted and overcome with emotion. His head rests on the chest of one kneeling down to him, holding him tight in a loving embrace. The one hugging him has stepped off the throne. It’s the King, the Creator of the universe, who is also, incredibly, a man. King Jesus.
A few feet to the right, open shackles lie on the palace floor. The man had been imprisoned and suffered terribly at the hands of those who despised him because they despised his King. In his right hand is a beautiful gold crown. This man has lived out Revelation 2:10—he’s been faithful unto death, and his Lord has given him the crown of life.
To many, the single most important thing is the preservation of their life on earth. To this man, obeying his Lord was more important than prolonging his earthly life.
In the background of Safely Home stands an angel, reverently watching, holding out a white robe. In the stonework on both sides of the carpet walkway you can see the continents of earth below.
Several things strike me in this painting. One is heaven’s view of earth below. Another is the look on the man’s face, at long last freed from pain and persecution. But what really strikes me is the look on the face of King Jesus. His face radiates compassion and approval. His nail-scarred hands, drawing the martyr to Himself, are silent testimony to the extent of His love. The artist could have named the painting ‘Well Done’ or ‘Overcomer’ or something else. But he named it Safely Home.
This man who has endured great suffering is safely home at last. The evil that pursued him in the Shadowlands can no longer touch him. He’s forever beyond its reach, for between evil and the man stands the Lord of the cosmos, the one who embraces him and says, “Never again will I let you suffer.”
How did you research this story?
In the fall of 1999, I spent a week in China, met Christians, read lots of books, and interviewed people, but I still didn’t feel qualified to write this book. Along with the ongoing help of a prayer team who plays a vital role in my writing, I often got on my knees a few times an hour, praying He would give me the words. Writing this book made a deep impact on me. Who am I to convey the joy and trials of Chinese Christians?
On my computer is the verse, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” I’m always keenly aware of this truth but never more than when I write a book.
Safely Home was a particularly huge challenge. My goal was to tell a compelling story, one which fueled the reader’s imagination, and also served the purpose of Proverbs 31:8-9, speaking up for those who cannot speak for themselves.
Are the characters based on real people?
Nearly all my characters are fictitious. Some are composites of several real people. Whenever I was thinking of someone in particular, I changed his name and life details so it would be impossible to identify him.
Though Safely Home is fiction, some aspects of the life of the persecuted church in China are true.
Your novels have scenes that take place in the heavenly realm. What made you write from this perspective?
I want the reader to have the sense that things are not always as they appear. There are things going on behind the scenes and beneath the surface of life. There is an eternal realm. It’s not simply about all that we can see and touch and taste and feel and smell. Even Christians can be tempted to think, ‘Well, what I see is what there is.’ So, I include the scenes in heaven to convey to the reader that there is a whole lot going on in the universe that we’re not aware of. By drawing that into the story line, readers become more alert to this reality.
I’ve been asked before what my distinctive mission as a writer is. I think it’s to probe beneath the surface into the deep longings of people, then to open a door into the invisible spiritual realm so people can see ultimate realities (including God, angels, demons, heaven, and hell) with the eyes of faith and imagination.
Once you glimpse the other world you are weaned from the illusion that reality is limited to our five senses. You can’t help but live differently once you learn to see differently…I seek to help readers see the unseen through my writing, both fiction and nonfiction. My prayer is that God would use me as his instrument to represent accurately the truths of His Word and the greatness of his Being, in purity and passion.
What would you hope the reader would take away from this story?
In terms of global impact, China and the United States are the two most significant countries in the world. As historical events have shown, the countries have had a profoundly uneasy relationship.
Safely Home is a tale of two countries, embodied in two men, the American Ben Fielding and the Chinese Li Quan. These characters and their families came alive for me, and I am grateful to say that by God’s grace they have come alive to countless people who have written to me over the years.
One hundred percent of royalties from Safely Home go to help persecuted Christians and to spread the gospel in their countries. This book is my gift to the Lord and to my persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ.
I hope readers will enjoy this story. It isn’t a downer; it’s an inspiration and encouragement. It has its light moments, and it conveys a fresh view of heaven. I pray it helps readers to find their joy in Christ
and serve Him with greater joy and abandonment.
My prayer is the same as it was ten years ago—I want readers to come away with a greater love for their brothers and sisters overseas, a greater love for Christ, and with a deeper sense of anticipation for heaven.
Randy has written other novels including ‘Courageous’ and ‘Deception’ and also non-fiction. I have read both his long volume on ‘Heaven’ and his excellent ‘The Treasure Principle.’