September 07, 2015

With Gratitude to Henryk Sienkiewicz - Ramona Heikel

My mom and dad inspired me to write when I was young, but I really had to think about which author inspired me to write novels of the Christian faith.  Francine Rivers had a huge impact on me, because she wove elements of faith into her original secular historical novels.  But as I thought back as far as I could about all the novels I've read, I made a beautiful, and somewhat timely, discovery.

I became a follower of Christ when I was fifteen years old, while attending a high school Campus Life meeting.  A year later my Latin teacher, Mr. Albery, gave me a parting gift of the classic novel, Quo Vadis.  It was written in 1896 by Henryk Sienkiewicz, and on the front page my teacher signed his name with the message, "Ad multos annos (to many years)."

Quo Vadis is a novel set in the time of the Christian persecutions in Rome during the reign of Nero, and tells the story of Lygia, a young woman who is pursued romantically by an unbelieving and volatile Roman noble.  This new believer is already being challenged to make life and death decisions based on her Christian principals.  The title of the book is Latin for "Where are you going?"

After I read this extraordinary book, I wondered if it might also have been my teacher's way of preparing me for my own important decisions in life, where I, too, would have to take risks and make sacrifices in order to stand firm in my faith.  I've always felt that Mr. Albery knew I was a new believer, like Lygia, and the only Christian in my family.  Perhaps this was his way of telling me that we were in the same family of faith, and it was his way to encourage me in my walk with the Lord. I feel certain that it was God who wanted me to read it because some aspects of Lygia's life and personality paralleled my own.

Although my creative pursuits at that time were more focused on drawing than writing, I believe that this book planted the first seeds of inspiration to write my own novels of faith by showing me first-hand how fiction can guide a person's view of life, and evoke courage and conviction.

As I write this, I am on a plane to my high school reunion.  In a few hours I will be at my school, and I would be overjoyed to see Mr. Alberry there!

By Ramona Heikel


  1. As a teacher by profession, this meant a lot to me, Ramona. It also makes me want to read that book!

  2. Hi Ramona! I enjoyed your post and especially your insight into how characters in novels may indeed parallel our own lives. I also love how your parents and Mr. Alberry encouraged you. We surely need people to encourage us! I trust you still have people who encourage you as you continue to write! By the way, I hope Mr. Alberry was at the reunion! Take care!

  3. What a fascinating connection to make, and all because of a prompt. Now I want to know if Mr. Alberry was at the reunion! (A cliff-hanger in a blog post? It works!)

  4. I love it when teachers are inspirational. Have a great high school reunion. Thanks Ramona.

  5. I too appreciate hearing how your high school Latin teacher and the book he gave you encouraged you in your faith. Mr. Alberry sounds like a caring and perceptive teacher. I hope he is at the reunion so you can meet him again. I am also a teacher and I am always pleased to hear of teachers who inspire and encourage young people to travel the road less travelled.

  6. Thanks so much for all of your comments! Unfortunately, I missed out on the morning when the alumni were going through the school and speaking in classes of students, so I didn't have a chance to find out if Mr. Alberry still works there. (But there's always the internet!) It was an extraordinary and blessed experience!


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