Monday, July 1, 2013

Life, Faith and Writing

reflections by John Dorr

How Roberta's life, especially her faith, influenced her writing...
It is often difficult to parse out one's life into neatly defined segments and examine them apart from the whole.  Roberta's faith was living and active and integral to who she was and what came out of her.  Whatever direction she went in research, reading, relationships, service to others, all were a part of her extended journey and discovery of life with God.  She expressed her faith through various endeavors of service, but especially through her art.  In this context, we are touching on her writing, but in reality her creative expression flowed from many streams – short stories, illustrated poetry, sketching, oil painting, writing and performing various stage dramas, children's dramas, and of course her novels.  There are however, a number of signposts and markers in her life that specifically influenced her decision to write.  As with others whom have journeyed with God, her novels came into being through struggling before the altar of God.

RKD during her time at The University of Maryland

Roberta had a love for God and a desire to serve God from an early age.  At the University of Maryland she pursued a course of study that came naturally to her – creative writing and drama.  Yet in an effort to better prepare herself for Christian service (as they called it in those days) she enrolled in the Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, KY.  In those days, the only course of study available to women was a Masters in Religious Education (MRE), which she undertook and completed. When she and her husband, David, were appointed to the Baptist Hospital on the Gaza Strip in 1959 she was ready to get involved in the work of the hospital with what gifts she had.  Even though she was raising 5 children, home schooling the older ones and managing a home in a foreign land, culture and learning Arabic, she wanted to contribute to the mission effort through counseling patients and their families.  Her desire and vision did not come to pass in the complexities of cross cultural work, mission vision and available time.  More and more of her time was consumed by children, schooling and the relationships she could build with local women.  With her creative outlets pressed into other service and restricted in how she wanted to be engaged, a deep frustration set in and consequently, a ever focused conversation with God – 
"Why am I even here?  What can I do that is of any use?"
It was in this context that Roberta heard that still small voice of the Lord returning a question to her, "What do you have in your hand?"  As she sat there broken before the Lord, she looked and saw her journal and a pen in her hand.  A light went off in her heart and she understood that she could use this gift without restriction of set times, location, or even anyone's permission. Thus, it was that she began to write the story of Bathsheba – it was her service to God through the gifts impressed into her life.  It was the place where she could be unchained, unbound and run freely in all the goodness of God's particular expression of Himself in Roberta – words, story and writing.

It would be another 10-12 years before her efforts came to the attention of a publishing house for consideration.  Her writing was not for money, fame, or glory, rather it was for the sheer pleasure of frolicking in the storehouse of God's gift to her. 


  1. Hello, out of all the books your mother wrote, I have only read one entitled "Alice". I realize that most of her books were fiction, but I hope you will tell me that Alice was a true story? Thank you, scott carrell, Knoxville Tennessee

  2. I like this picture. I think that there is something really special about those old pictures. Don't you think so?