20 February 2013

ARCBA Review: Soul Friend by JoAnne Berthelsen

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18 - 22 February 2013

Is Introducing
(Even Before Publishing October 2012)


Jo-Anne Berthelsen

About the Book:


Soul Friend is an honest and intimate portrayal of the author's own journey with her wise, spiritual mentor and the warm, life-giving relationship that developed between them during their fifteen years of meeting together. This story is written in the hope that it will inspire many not only to seek out such a spiritual friendship for themselves but also to provide such a friendship for another.
Beautifully written, this honest and insightful memoir is an inspiring celebration of the ancient art of spiritual companionship. Dr Rick Lewis
Soul friendship is a very under-emphasised resource of Christian discipleship, particularly for Christian leaders. Jo-Anne has written honestly, beautifully, sensitively and powerfully. Dr Keith Farmer

About the Author
3975230Jo-Anne Berthelsen lives in Sydney but grew up in Brisbane. She holds degrees in Arts and Theology and has worked as a high school teacher, editor and secretary, as well as in local church ministry. Jo-Anne loves communicating through both the written and spoken word. She is the author of five published novels – Heléna, All the Days of My Life, Laura, Jenna andHeléna’s Legacy, with a sixth, The Inheritance, due for release in 2013. Her first non-fiction work Soul Friend: The story of a shared spiritual journey was released in October 2012. Jo-Anne loves music, reading, mentoring younger women, and sharing with community groups about writing. She is married to a retired minister and has three grown-up children and three grandchildren.


My Review

In reading this review, there are two things you need to know about me as a reviewer. The first is that I am very stingy with five-star ratings. I don’t give them out easily. The second is that I don’t read memoir or biographies of ‘ordinary people’, because I usually find they are boring and filled with irrelevant details that don’t contribute to the bigger picture. So the fact that I have given Soul Friend, a memoir, a five-star rating means that I was impressed. Really impressed.

Soul Friend: The Story of a Shared Spiritual Journey is (as the title suggests) a memoir detailing the friendship between Jo-Anne and Joy that began when Jo-Anne was undertaking studies in ministry and needed a spiritual mentor for the year. However, the relationship has lasted many years beyond that, and in this memoir Jo-Anne details her own spiritual struggles and shares how Joy has been instrumental in encouraging and advising her.

The early chapters see Jo-Anne struggling with questions around the role of women in Christian ministry, an issue many women and churches) grapple with. Like many of us, she has also struggled with juggling too many roles at once and not wanting to burden others by stepping down. Her writing is clear and honest, and she isn't afraid to reveal things that don't always paint her in the most positive light (or perhaps she is afraid, but she doesn't let that stop her).

Overall, Soul Friend encourages us to both have a spiritual mentor and to be a spiritual mentor to others, as demonstrated in the Bible by Barnabas with Saul, then Paul with Timothy and others (I don’t believe in coincidence, but this was the subject of the sermon the day after I finished reading this. Same message from two totally unrelated sources – do you think God’s trying to say something here?).

It is a beautiful testament to Joy and the thousands of hours she and her husband spent ministering into the lives of many others, not just Jo-Anne. I particularly liked the way Jo-Anne talked about her writing journey, and the struggle she had for others to see writing as a ministry. Recommended.

Thanks to Even Before Publishing for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Jo-Anne Berthelsen at her website, or visit the Soul Friend website for more information about mentoring and spiritual direction (including a training manual).

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