Our Father is a teacher; but first He is a storyteller. A very patient artist indeed, willing to spend millennia, perhaps eons as we count them, unfolding His plots and themes, developing His cast of characters, adorning His tapestry with motif and symbol. His story is alive, eternally present. The drama is real and all creation is caught up in the march towards its glorious end.
Jesus was also a storyteller. When He encountered hearts hardened to instruction, He often spoke in parables. Doubters threw their hands up in frustration; but those in tune with the Story passed down through the prophets felt their hearts thrill. Foreshadowing was moving quickly toward climax. The Good Shepherd was among them, gathering His sheep. The Vineyard Owner had come to gather His harvest. The merciful Father was searching for his prodigal children. The King’s Son was issuing invitations to His own wedding feast, and they were invited! This Messenger was the Story’s center.
Teaching calls us to action; story demands contemplation. Stories are multi-faceted and complex. They surrender their secrets slowly over time. This is why great stories are given to those who, with the help of the Holy Spirit, will ponder them. Mary lived in continual wonder and meditation upon the Story in which she played such a vital role. Hanna follows in her path.
Like our Savior, Hanna was born a Jew. And like Jesus, her life is both a participation in the suffering of her people and a prophetic witness to their hope. Hanna was born in 1932, the only child of a well-to-do merchant in the small town of Gemünd, Germany. When Hitler came to power, her family was stripped of their possessions and forced to move from their home in Gemünd to a Jewish section in the city of Köln. Reading the signs of the time, Hanna’s father made the heart-breaking decision to send his daughter away to England on the Kindertransport which rescued 10,000 Jewish children from central Europe. It was a decision which saved her life. Hanna’s parents were killed some months later in Chelmno, Poland.
Hanna grew up angry, full of hatred towards Germans. She was never incorporated to a Jewish community in England, and as she did not form a close bond with her foster parents or their Christadelphian fellowship. As a young adult Hanna lacked a strong spiritual identity until Billy Graham preached a crusade in England. Everyone was abuzz with excitement, so Hanna decided to attend a local radio relay. It was a fateful day. She heard Jesus calling her into His Story, and she ran to Him.
Hanna ran with Jesus to Italy as a missionary with Operation Mobilization. Then she ran with Him to India where she met and married George. All the while she preached the Good News, proclaiming Christ’s story. And He, in turn, was perfecting her story – forming her, healing her, preparing her for the day He would ask her to write.
In the year 2000 Hanna returned to her home town of Gemünd. The Holy Spirit was calling her remember her parents and search out their stories. Speaking with historians and record keepers beckoned Hanna to explain her interest. Germans who heard Hanna’s story were deeply moved and asked for more. They wanted to know why she would return to a place which had caused her so much pain. This question allowed her speak of Jesus, the Jew who came to forgive us all.
Hanna’s exploratory trip to Germany turned into part time residence. For ten years the Mileys traveled back and forth between Gemünd and Phoenix. Hanna’s story served as the touchstone for a widening network of relationships in the Eifel region. As people listened, many discovered the grace to examine their own stories more deeply. Some found pain and shame which needed healing. Others recognized a grace and joy in Hanna which they desired. Her story was a door to the heart, a spiritual opening which often paved the way for George’s teaching gift.
In time, friends encouraged Hanna to write a book. With the Spirit’s prompting Hanna consented, but writing was not an easy process, or a quick one. It required work and vulnerability, revision and persistence. Most importantly, it required sitting with the Father and allowing Him to revisit painful memories. No one can tell her story accurately unless she hears it first from the Author of Life. He is the only one sees our being from conception to fulfillment. He is the only one who knows how we fit into the drama of the Son and His Bride. God is moved, truly blessed, when we ponder His action, His wisdom, His presence, and His desires for our lives. He loves our listening, our questions, our attention to divine detail, and our trust.
I believe that pondering her own story has taught Hanna to discern the beauty of other stories. Whenever I speak with Hanna, I am aware how of intently she listens. Her penetrating eyes fix on me as I talk. In moments of silence, they close in concentration. She asks insightful questions and waits before speaking. But when she is ready to respond, her reflections are full of surprising insights and connections. In her presence I feel seen and known. I feel strengthened to embrace my own call. I feel her cheering me on.
Our Father blessed Hanna with a profound story, both painful and beautiful. She received the gift, like Mary, and pondered it her heart. Then she gave it back to her Lord and to all of us. Storytelling, like teaching, is a gift of love.
You can find A Garland for Ashes, Hanna’s book in English, on Amazon.