How Beautiful Format Saved My Life

The following true story comes from a reliable source and concerns a beautiful Arabic edition of the Gospel of Luke. We are sharing this with permission from the author:

Some years ago I got a phone call that nearly killed me.

My wife and I were living in a flat-roofed house in a city in Central Asia with our four small Central_Asia mapchildren. A local friend of mine called to ask me to meet with the leadership of a militant group who were quickly overrunning the neighboring country. He wanted me to take an unmarked taxi to the “wrong” side of town to house 12B at midnight. There the leader would be waiting for me.

Why would I even consider going on such a foolish errand you may ask? Long ago I had,  at least theoretically, decided to put myself under local believers. My friend was a local believer from a Muslim background.

A year earlier he had been rounded up as a dissident, and been locked in one of Central Asia’s most infamous jails in the capital city. With him were a small cadre of men who opposed the current regime. These men clung together in the most horrific of conditions. With little food, poor sanitation, freezing cold and frequent beatings one or two men died every night. The survivors formed strong bonds of friendship that would last a lifetime.

Later the others who survived would go on to lead the militant movement, and my friend went the other way – finding Jesus and visiting me weekly to study and pray. I was deeply touched by his transparent prayer life and his open confession of weakness, precious evidence of how the Lamb had touched his life.

So he called me to share the story with these men who now were leading one of the most fearsome militant groups on the planet. Torture, kidnapping, beheadings, IEDs and suicide bombings were child’s play for them. They were rabidly opposed to Christ and especially to Westerners – like myself.

Gospel of Luke study arabic

Arabic Gospel of Luke (not the one referred to in the article)

I prayed with my wife and thought about what Scripture portion to take as a gift. I had just been given six copies of Luke’s Gospel beautifully printed in Arabic. While not the local language, I knew it was the most respected language, the language of heaven. I slipped one copy under my jacket and caught a taxi to meet my fate. I was not sure I would return, but felt joy in obediently following my friend’s request.

I was thrilled when the taxi driver could not find the house. “I’m off the hook,” I thought to myself. “I have been obedient, but the Lord has other plans.”

“Let’s go back,” I told the driver.

“Hang on, one more street to check,” he said.

And there was 12B, the house ringed by men holding Kalashnikovs. I wished the driver would just keep going, but he stopped. I stepped out and a large bearded man said, “Are you Ahmed (my local name)?”


“The boss has been waiting for you.”

He searched me, and somehow did not feel the Bible pressed against my trembling chest. He ushered me into a large hall lined with armed men. At one end a neatly dressed man with hard blue eyes was squatting on a raised stage. I was ushered toward him. We exchanged greetings and he beckoned me to sit with him on the stage. I removed my shoes and timidly began to sit. I sensed that all the eyes in the room were intently watching me – like spiders watching a fly landing on the web. I was the fly, now trapped.

I was surprised when the leader nodded to his deputy to dismiss all the men. Only the two of us were left, face to face on the mat. “So, my friend told me you have something to share with me?”

Such was my fear that even at this point, though I had the Bible and was ready to share, I did not want to. I had no idea how open I should be, or what line I might cross that would cause me to be the next victim. But suddenly I felt calm and relaxed. Is this what the verse about the Holy Spirit giving us words to say means?

“Well, I came to bring you Good News.” I used a special word used for the kind of good news carried to relatives when a son is born in a family. I was carrying the Good News to the man of very high rank, who from his hard eyes I could tell, had ordered men to be killed.

I felt a great relief that I had a Bible of high quality and beautiful appearance stuffed under my jacket. At this point to have handed him a small tract or poorly printed Bible would have been an insult.

I notice he hesitated, thinking perhaps I was reaching for a gun when I reached under my jacket. “This is a translation of the Holy Injil,” I quickly interjected.

Then I passed him the Gospel wrapped in a special cloth.

To my surprise he smiled for the first time.

“I have been waiting a long time to read this,” he said as he reverently held the book up to his lips and kissed it.  “Tell me what it says,” he asked.

As he held the beautiful book I felt freedom to gently tell the story. I felt great calm and caught a tiny insight into how much the Lord loved him.

About half an hour later I wrapped up the story, he kissed the book again and said the most remarkable words: “This is a holy book and I will insist that all my field commanders read it.”

I was sure that the appearance of the book – its Islamic style calligraphy, cover and introduction all added to its credibility, and had saved my life.

Unique challenges of creating kids’ books

A lot of people think creating kids’ books is easy. After all, they’re short, right? Not according to Stephanie Rische, senior editor and team manager for children’s books and nonfiction at Tyndale House Publishers. Kids’ books come with unique challenges. Watch this 3-minute video to learn more.

Consider the audience. For adult books, the same person buying the book is reading it. For kids’ books, a two-year-old isn’t going to walk into a store and buy the book. You must keep in mind three audiences:

The buyer. The person who will buy the book for the child. Is the title and cover appealing? Does the message appeal?

The reader. The person reading the book with the child. Books for kids have a “re-read” value. Unlike adult books, they can be read again and again with a child. Does the book appeal to the reader for re-reading?

The child. Not only do you want to communicate a message of faith, but one that’s engaging, fun and enjoyableStephanie Rische photo to read.

Register online now for Stephanie Rische’s upcoming MAI webinar, “Even Dr. Seuss Needed an Editor: The art of editing books for children,” on Tuesday, August 16, 8-9 a.m. CST.

This video was taken by TeamDavid at MAI’s international publishing conference, LittWorld 2015, in Singapore.

Three messages for nurturing local writers

Kara Lassen Oliver shares three key messages for nurturing local writers in the 2-minute video below. As a published author and a former missionary in Malawi, she is passionate about equipping and empowering writers in Africa to write and publish the materials they need to strengthen the Church.

Developing local writers is about encouraging them and helping them embrace the gift God has given them. Three key messages for writers:

1. Writing is a calling. Look for where God is at work in your life and ministry. God has called you to write that story; it’s important to the world. Embrace your calling.

2. Writing is a ministry. People in the church need to hear your story. Keep in mind your readership. Don’t write too high of an academic level, but write to reach a person in the church. Watch your language; don’t be preachy. Consider your writing as an offering to the Church that can be used and shared again and again.

3. Writing is hard work. MAI Trainer Lawrence Darmani said, “When we go to heaven God will ask us if we left behind the books that God put inside us on earth–because they’re not needed in heaven.” Give yourself permission to dedicate time to the writing God has given you. It’s tempting to get distracted, but the work of writing is to finish the project before you.

You are gifted and called to write.

Kara Lassen Oliver serves as Director of Discipleship Resources International (DRI) Publishing Initiatives for The United Methodist Church. As a published author and a former missionary in Malawi, she is passionate about equipping and empowering writers in Africa to write and publish the materials they need to strengthen the church. She is also the acquisitions editor for the Africa Ministry Series, written by African pastors and lecturers, offering quality ministry resources for strengthening the church in the 21st century.

This video was taken by TeamDavid at MAI’s international publishing conference, LittWorld 2015, in Singapore.

Stewarding Novel Ideas

Jon Hirst GMI new book

GMI President Jon Hirst

MAI President John Maust was featured in the new book, The Calling of the Knowledge Steward, authored by Jon Hirst, GMI President and a former MAI Board member. We’re delighted to share this excerpt with you. 

If I were looking for an exciting one-on-one study opportunity in Wheaton today, I would love to learn from John Maust, the president of MAI (Media Associates International), an organization that trains Christian authors and publishers around the globe.

“We get to steward knowledge that helps others steward their knowledge, insights, and experiences,” says John. “Specifically, we equip and encourage Christian publishers and writers located in hard places of the world to create excellent content that enriches the church and influences society.”

John and book award

MAI President John Maust (left) congratulates Nicholas Villanueva of Ediciones Certeza Argentina on its award-winning book “Mujeres Jefas de Familia” by author Samuel Tapia.

I’ve known John for years, and he’s become a good friend. John has a servant’s heart. When we talk, he is always concerned first and foremost with the needs of the people he is serving—never his own issues or challenges.

John is a knowledge steward who has changed the world. Here’s how he does it. Working with MAI authors, John helped create a devotional book for global Christian writers, Light for the Writer’s Soul (co-published by Armour Publishing, Singapore), featuring articles by 80 contributors from 27 nations. The book offers a wealth of spiritual wisdom and encouragement for writers.

John has created a culture of service at MAI that is impacting the world for Christ. When I asked him about his role models, he cited Timothy, the associate of the Apostle Paul. “A Timothy-like focus on others is vital,” he says. “I often think of Paul’s description of Timothy, ‘I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare'” (Philippians 2:20).

But there’s a challenge. Knowledge stewards love to help people, particularly when they have a passionate servant’s heart. But no one can serve everyone. That’s where discernment comes in. As we saw in the previous chapter, discernment helps stewards determine not only what to share, but also who to share it with, and how.

“One needs a kind of discernment to identify which people in whom to invest knowledge,” John says. “You can’t invest equal time and attention in everybody. Discernment helps determine which students possess the potential and commitment to apply the knowledge they have received. Sometimes these are the quiet people in the background, and one must listen and observe carefully to identify them.”

>>Check out the book and read a sample chapter online. 

Living the dream to educate underprivileged Indonesian children

A young author is on the fast track to fulfilling her dream of educating underprivileged children in Indonesia.

A few months after our LittWorld 2015 conference, Tiur Faith Saj Purba, 25, launched hertiur book cover cropped autobiographical book 0.1 Hectares School, published by Christian publisher Metanoia. She and co-author Ariska Amir tell describe Tiur’s childhood, attending a neighborhood school with crumbling walls and her vision and work to educate village children.

Tiur attributes LittWorld 2015 with equipping her in publishing, plus enabling her to lead her non-profit.

A workshop on leadership was particularly helpful “because I learned to lead by love and the Word of God,” she said. “I can use the teaching in writing and publishing to bless a lot of people.

Only one year earlier in March 2015, Tiur launched Rumah Belajar Bekasi (House for Learning). The nonprofit tutoring center serves LW 2015 - Hermela and Tiurlow-income children in Bekasi, a poor suburb of Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital. She recruited 10 other volunteers to give up their Sundays to teach some 30 children in a room only 7 by 4 meters. Donors contributed books, pencils and notebooks.

Since that first center, Tiur has opened two additional centers for children, gathering volunteers and supplies through her blog and website.

“My vision now is to build a free school for poor children,” Tiur told us. “I hope they can feel His love through my ministry.”

Her book’s publicity has propelled Tiur’s vision further as she travels in Indonesia and Malaysia to speak on TV talk shows and give newspaper interviews. All of the book’s proceeds will be poured into creating an official school. Tiur is already working on the government paperwork.

Check out Tiur’s latest ministry updates on Facebook.

Photo above: Tiur (left) with new friend, Ethiopian author Hermela Solomon, at LittWorld 2015.

Indonesia is home to some 1,000 publishers, of which about 40 are Christian. The world’s most populous Muslim nation of 240 million people is nearly 10 percent Christian.