Shondra: In His Place is a gripping tale that could take place in any present day church setting. Can you share with our readers how this story came to be? Did it develop out of experiences from your own past?
Harry: In an Adult Sunday School Class we studied Ronald Rolheiser’s book The Holy Longing. In it the author makes the point that the Incarnation didn’t end when Christ ascended to heaven, but continues in Christ’s Church and his people. We are to be Christ to the world around us. I knew this was true and felt led to demonstrate this truth in a work of fiction. Teachings can often be more effective when people have an opportunity to see them lived out. But the book also reflects experiences from my own past; I’ve belonged to churches like the one in the book and have known people like the characters in the book.
Shondra: The subject of suicide is rarely discussed, let alone the center of a Sunday morning sermon in most churches today. Why do you think this is such a taboo subject among Christians?
Harry: Many Christians believe that suicide is murder and therefore contrary to the Sixth Commandment. Others believe it is the result of a confused or impaired mind and not sinful in itself. My answer would be that only God knows what is in the heart and mind of the person who commits suicide. Although the person concerned was quite different from Otis Huntington in the book, a friend of mine who was a sincere Christian committed suicide and I had an opportunity to preach a sermon about him very similar to the one in the book.
Shondra: I myself attend a church similar to Incarnation, but placed in the middle of some cornfields, in a small Northern Indiana town. Rather than feel guilty or discouraged from reading your novel, it created a desire or push within me to want to be the hands and feet of Jesus. In His Place has caused me to reevaluate how I view others within the church, and seek out those that may be hurting within the church family. Was this the intent of your book…to bring awareness and cause an uprising within God’s people to reach out to those that may be less desirable or less fortunate?
Harry: That was certainly one desire of the book. My main point is that, unlike In His Steps and the “What Would Jesus Do?” (WWJD) movement, Christ expects much more of us than, when faced with a major decision, to ask ourselves what Jesus would do. Knowing our own failures and our inability to live up to the perfection of Jesus, we are nonetheless to represent him in all aspects of our life. That would certainly include reaching out to others regardless of their station in life. Others who have read the book have had the same experience as yours…being more conscious of the people around them.
Shondra: Pastor Steve has a great relationship with his wife and daughter, yet struggles with his teenage son. Do you have any advice for parents that may be going through a rough patch with a teenager of their own?
Harry: I’m not an expert on this subject. By the grace of God, my wife and I did not have a rebellious teenager like Brandon. My advice would be to keep on loving the child regardless of the disciplinary problems and the seeming loss of affection on their part. A friend of mine had a rebellious teenage daughter who gave her parents a multitude of problems. They somehow managed to love her through it and she became a model Christian. My friend can now use his experience to witness to others who are having difficulties with their teenagers.
Shondra: And finally, what can our readers expect to see from you in the future? Are you working on another novel?
Harry: I have had more than 20 books published in the past, all non-fiction on various Christian topics (Bible study, prayer, evangelism, lay ministry, marriage, etc.). Writing a novel was a whole new experience for me and I could not have done it without a lot of help from others. I would enjoy writing another novel, but only if I feel led by the Lord to do so. In the meantime, as a follow-up to In His Place, I have prepared a manuscript that deals with how to live the kind of life that book calls us to live.