Interview with Geoff Walvin, author of Finding Faith in Unexpected Places
As a young man on the hippy trail, Geoff Walvin found more than he expected as he encountered God on his journey to find spiritual truth.
His life became filled with purpose as his new-found love for God led him into difficult and dangerous places. In his new book, Finding Faith in Unexpected Places, Geoff shares his travels and the wonderful miracles and God’s amazing provision he witnessed as people living in Nepal and India were touched by the gospel and turned to Christ.
Finding Faith in Unexpected Places is a story of what can happen when one person gives their life fully to Jesus Christ in total obedience and surrender.
Geoff, why did you decide to write Finding Faith in Unexpected Places?
Over the years I have told the stories included in the book and people have often encouraged me to write a book. I realised that my story would bless and encourage people.
Who have you written this book for?
Everyone! I tried to write it in such a way that it would appeal to those who have faith and those who have no faith. I attempted to keep it wide in that respect. I wanted it to inspire faith in Christians, encourage and inspire those wanting to go into missions, and be appealing to those who are not Christians as a way to introduce Jesus as someone who is alive, at work and changing lives today.
You have had quite a unique journey to faith. Without giving too much of the book away, can you tell us a little about this?
I think my journey has been quite unusual. From being a young child, as far back as I can remember, I always had some kind of feeling that there was a God, even though neither of my parents really believed. This merged into a ‘spiritual search’ as I moved into my teens, but having no connections with Christians, it took me in different directions. It was mostly a personal journey which I travelled alone, but always praying that God would lead me to find him. Which he did!
You have looked back over your life and ministry to write this book. How would you describe what God has done and how does that make you feel?
I think that God has shown himself alive. I probably was the most unlikely candidate for God to use in the eyes of many people. However, God took me as a surrendered vessel and used me in ways I never could have imagined. To see the growth of churches which has come out of small acts of kindness and commitment to share the gospel with others amazes me.
How does it make me feel? Privileged. Privileged to have lived a life where I feel that I have made a significant difference in the lives of some of the world’s neediest people and helped bring the kingdom of God into an unreached nation like Nepal. Also, humble that God chose me and astounded at the move of God I have watched and followed over the years in the areas in which I lived and worked.
You have included many stories of people who have been touched in some way by God across the world. Is there a particular story that really stands out for you?
I think they all stand out as amazing and I still feel emotional thinking of them. If I had to pick one it would be the young guy (whose name I withheld) who came to us as an abandoned, hopeless, slowly dying beggar. Yet when he found faith, Jesus began working in his life and transformed him into a healed, whole man who loved Jesus and found peace, hope and a joy for living, who married, had children, and started his own small business. His story typifies all the others. From brokenness to wholeness, rejected to accepted, and abandoned to finding a family where they were loved and cared for.
You say that you want people to know that God is still at work in the world today. You recount many miracles and provisions of God in the book – can you give us just one story to give us a flavour?
Hard to say really as there are so many, but the one which we always end up talking about when I get together with the guy I worked with in the early days is the story of the ‘miracle pot’ where, it seemed to us, that God multiplied the food. That was one miraculous provision among them all which left us astounded and amazed. And the pot is still sitting in the Himalayas as a reminder of God’s miraculous provision!
What were some of the challenges of working in a very different faith and cultural climate to your own, and how did you deal with them?
Areas of challenge were probably the spiritual opposition we sometimes faced which could only be dealt with through prayer and resistance. The poverty and beggars were probably the most difficult to deal with emotionally when I was first there, but after a while you realise that this is all part of life for so many in some of these countries and you just try to help wherever you can. Mostly though, for me, I didn’t feel that there were major challenges with different faiths and culture. I had always wanted to live a more adventurous life from being a child so my time in India and Nepal was an exciting adventure with God.
How did I deal with different faiths and cultures? I’ve always been the type of person who just ‘dives in’. I sought to live as much as possible with local people (who became my best friends lasting until today) and follow the Indian/Nepali ways. I appreciated the richness of colour and vibrancy of the local cultures and cuisine. On other faiths, I always looked for the good things in other religions rather than dwelling on all the negative aspects. I found things within the Hindu culture which I could use to share the good news of Jesus. I basically decided to forget my Western culture and adapt to theirs and as a result my own life was made richer for doing that. There is so much in Asian culture which we can learn from.
Do you have any advice for someone who is considering whether God is calling them to mission work overseas?
My first bit of advice would be to know with absolute assurance that this is what God is calling you to. There is a grace which comes with the call. Then, know which area of missions God is calling you to – social, medical, business development, evangelism, teaching – there are so many areas. My passion was for evangelism and church planting, then later ministry training. Know your heart and know your call. Know which part of the world God is calling you to.
When you know that, connect with people from that part of the world who are living in your home nation. Meet with them, befriend them, eat their food, learn their culture. Then, establish a plan on how you will get to the country you are called to. Contact missionary organisations, talk to your pastor, look for ways to raise support. There is so much information and advice online today to help in this area.
For most of us that are not called to physically go overseas, how can we support the work of the gospel around the world in a meaningful way?
Three ways: prayer, financial support, and connection. Whether this is in supporting a missionary who is ‘sent’ or supporting nationals who are there. Again, it begins with prayer and asking God where he wants you to focus. I find that God places people and projects on a person’s heart and directs them into a particular area. Gather information and stay connected through emails and receiving newsletters, etc. Know what God is calling you to support – social projects, children’s homes, or education, medical, evangelism, church planting – follow your heart as God leads through desires and direction. Maybe even make short-term trips. The world has become a smaller place with everywhere accessible.
What do you hope readers will most get out of reading this book?
Strengthened faith and encouragement in knowing that God is at work in the world today. Also, I hope that readers can see that God takes ordinary, everyday people and can use them to make a difference. Even if it is not going to the mission field or having some ‘big’ ministry, God can use each of us if we yield to him and make ourselves available wherever we are.
In one sentence, how would you describe Finding Faith in Unexpected Places?
A captivating book which inspires faith, ignites hope, and takes the reader on a daring adventure with God into some of the most colourful nations of the world.
Is there anything we can pray for you or some of the countries you have ministered in?
Thank you! I feel that next year will be the beginnings of a new season where I will do more travelling to speak in various places. I need wisdom and direction on where to go. Obviously, mission is a priority and unreached nations are still close to my heart. No clear, specific direction yet but it will come! Pray that the move of God we witnessed in Nepal and India will continue. After 30+ years it is still increasing and extending the kingdom of God.