Book Review: Norma: Beyond Their Tears

"[This] is one of those books we all like to read."

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Norma: Beyond Their Tears
William Johnsson

Norma Nashed is one of those people they write books about. Born into a poor Palestinian-Arab family and growing up in Amman, Jordan, her father was largely absent, an alcoholic and addicted gambler, who died while Norma was still young, leaving her to help raise and support her six younger brothers and sisters. Resisting marriage as a 13-year-old, Norma balanced completing her education—at the small Adventist school in Amman, then the Adventist university in Lebanon—with the need to help earn money for her family. But overcoming these many challenges and a later mismatched marriage, she became a secretary to high-flying executives, and developed friendships with royalty and government leaders.

While serving as a departmental secretary at the General Conference office, she was diagnosed with cancer, which caused her to refocus her energy and attention on caring for the least of these, with a passion for the most vulnerable orphans. Some 20 years later, she continues to lead this orphan-focused charity, with “Restore A Child” serving thousands of children in 18 nations.

Norma: Beyond Their Tears is a change of pace—and genre—for Bill Johnsson, retired editor of Adventist Review and now author of 36 books. But this storytelling has the hallmarks of his gentle style and an eye for the formative details of Norma’s story that grew her passion and capacity for her eventual life’s work across the many personal challenges she has overcome. Dr Johnsson got to know Norma during their common time at the General Conference and worked with her to tell her story as a way of supporting her ministry, with all royalties devoted to her work.

Norma: Beyond Their Tears is one of those books we all like to read. They inspire us with the central character’s resilience, courage and compassion, and prompt us to think about how we can serve with our experiences and resources, as well as supporting those who already do this. And, in the bigger picture, both Norma and Bill would urge that “it’s all about God”—and that this is what it looks like to follow and serve God amid the needs of so many in our world.

Norma: Beyond Their Tears is available from Adventist bookshops in Australia and New Zealand, or online at https://adventistbookcentre.com.au/norma-beyond-their-tears.html.