PELLA — Pacing the floor during a sultry South Dakota summer night on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in 2007, Bruce Leiter, a pastor in Pella from 1980 to 1984, felt that God called him to write a book in everyday language about his fictional friendship with agnostic Joe Smith.
The book's idea grew as he discovered that many Christians fail to understand basic Christian beliefs and ignore reading the Bible. The resulting book, "Doubtbusters! God Is My Shrink!" merges a fictional friendship with the amiable Joe and skeptic Holly with nonfictional information as Leiter shares his actual life journey and reasons for faith in God and for the Bible as God’s book.
“I consider the book nonfiction, though, because I as myself share God’s amazing victories in my real life and my unusual reasons for believing in God and taking his book seriously. It is also nonfiction because of the true tragic triumph toward the end that actually happened to my real, 81-year-old, unbelieving friend,” the 70-year-old Leiter explained. “However, it has a fictional setting in eastern Iowa with fictional characters, except for me.”
Knitted into the story with Joe and Holly are Leiter’s struggle in losing his son Keith to leukemia in 1972 and God’s victory over seven years of depression, doubt, migraines and selfish desires.
“I had run away from God’s call into teaching and sales,” he said, “but God used Keith’s traumatic death in 1972 to change my heart to seek his will for my vocation instead of mine.” After his home was on the housing market one day, Leiter sold it and moved with his wife and three children to Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he attended Calvin Seminary.
“I had no job, but God provided for us so I could attend school,” he said. “However, from 1979 through 1986, grief from Keith’s death and other losses in my life caught up with me. I suffered debilitating depression. In 1986, God dramatically delivered me from that disease.”
After 27 years of service as a pastor, Leiter moved to Hudsonville, Mich., where he retired in 2008 to fulfill God’s new call to write Christian books as his retirement ministry. He wrote his book to help those who struggle with grief, depression, or doubt and who want their faith to grow.
Aware that his book could help the people grieving the tragic deaths of six adults and 20 children in Newtown, Conn., Leiter sent two copies of his book to their public library.
“I hope that by reading my book, people’s doubts about God will decrease, that their faith in him will increase, and that they will be able to grieve their losses to find God's peace,” he said. “I also hope that they will be convinced that the Bible’s description of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and the rest of its history actually happened and that God is still at work today.”