On the first Saturday of each month, women meet at Bethel Christian Reformed Church in Waterdown, Ontario, to share the stories of their own life experiences, gathering to give testimony of what God has done in their lives. After a woman has told her story, she writes her name on the stone and places it with the other stones on the pile.
This ministry, the Stories of the Stones, began after several members of Bethel’s congregation toured Israel in 2012. Standing stones, or masseboth, are mentioned frequently throughout the Bible. The Israelites set up stones to commemorate significant events, to serve as reminders of God’s power. While in Israel, tour leader Ray Vanderlaan asked the group if they were telling their stories, challenging them to testify to the amazing ways God is at work in the world. He said to make sure to tell the whole story, not just triumphant moments but the messy parts as well.
The growing pile of stones represents testimonies of God’s love and provision for women who have told stories of loss, illness, anxiety, and fragile relationships. In telling the whole story, especially sharing times of fear, embarrassment, or shame, it allows others to open up and help cope with their own struggles. As Bethel CRC member Tess Tigchelaar points out, including the messy parts “allows others to identify and speak of their experiences.”
“Every one of us has a story,” said Trish Lobert. “There is a lot of laughter. Sometimes there are tears, but we learn from each other.”