My Family

Ruth O'NeilIn the 25-plus years I’ve been writing, social media went from non-existent to a way of life for many. Yes, I have jumped on this bandwagon, too. At first it was all about promoting myself and selling my books, but then it became something else. Those fellow authors who are more than willing to Tweet and Retweet for me are also more than willing to pray for me, and I am more than willing to pray for them. We may never have met in person, only through the pages of books and online screens, but we are a family. We pray for each other when there is a new book launch. We pray for each other when there are difficult times in our personal lives.

I love that I have been able to connect on some level with writing friends from all over the world. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that people of all nationalities are lifting you up to the Savior. We may write different genres; we may not worship exactly the same; we may look a little different; we may sleep at different times, but there is something we all have in common that brings us together. We are all children of the King. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. We are family.

I love 2 Thessalonians 1:11. “With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith.”

First of all, we do need to pray for each other constantly. Writing is a calling for many of us. For those who have been writing for any length of time, I’m sure you have stories of one hurdle after another to jump over when trying to put out something that you knew would make a difference in many lives. Satan does not want those articles/stories to make it to publication.

Remember to pray for your writing friends today. We all go through difficult times. Even if you don’t know what’s going on in our lives specifically, God does, and He will hear your prayers.

Lord, Help me to constantly lift up before You my fellow writers who are trying to spread Your Gospel. They need You; I need You. Amen.

Ruth O’Neil has been a US freelance writer for 20-plus years. She sees everything as a writing opportunity in disguise, whether it is an interesting character, setting or situation. When she’s not writing or homeschooling her kids, Ruth spends her time quilting, reading, scrapbooking, camping and hiking with her family.

This article was an entry in our LittWorld 2015 Devotional Writing Contest.

Reaching Youth: Interview with bestselling author Ronald Molmisa

When Pastor Ronald Molmisa began ministering to university students a decadeRonald Molmisa ago, he was struck by the dearth of locally-written materials dealing with relationship issues of Filipino youth. A political scientist, he applied research and surveyed students to discern their needs. Today he is the author of the bestselling Lovestruck series (OMF Literature) on love, courtship and marriage. More than 100,000 youth have participated in his Lovestruck seminars.

What are key principles in effectively writing for and communicating with youth?
Adolescence is a period of transition—physically, intellectually, emotionally, spiritually and socially. Writing for this readership should be guided by clear understanding of these transitions.

To be relevant, you must first comprehend their identity, predilections, needs, language and culture—what they watch and listen to. You need to spend more time with them to witness first-hand what they experience. Casual talks with students are a rich source of information. Recent academic studies are also key for understanding teen realities.

Youth ask serious questions and they need wise counselors to guide them. With the breakdown of Filipino families due to the phenomenon of parents working abroad, young people are searching for answers and care. They are not satisfied with ambivalent answers that can engender more moral confusion. They need straightforward responses that are practical and attainable.

How have you incorporated biblical principles in your books without alienating a youth culture that’s inundated by extra-marital sex in the media?
LovestruckIn a marketplace of ideas, I present biblical principles in my books as “tried and tested” responses worthy of utmost consideration. The majority of Filipino youth still cling to traditional values and are receptive to Christian teachings. They can find solace in the idea that despite their weaknesses and misgivings, there is a God who can understand them and heal their emotional wounds.

As a matter of writing principle, I cannot dilute the Gospel message in my work. As Paul said, we should never be ashamed of the gospel of Christ because it is the power of God unto salvation to those who believe (Rom. 1:16). Young people deserve to know the best answer to their predicament, in addition to other social and economic interventions.

How do you keep in touch with youth culture and trends?
Cognizant of the need to be always in the loop vis-à-vis latest youth trends, I maintain a strong online presence by having a Facebook page, a Twitter account and a FB group where I interact with thousands of young “netizens.” On average, I receive at least 20 online counseling requests daily—from mundane to sombre concerns.

I also regularly interact with young people in my offline ministries—discipling local church leaders, organizing events and seminars, producing an online radio program, among others. With God’s grace, I aim to publish one to two books per year.

You need to be immersed in the culture of the younger generation. As I teach them, I also learn from them. Simply put, you cannot give what you do not have.

Register online now for our webinar with Ronald Molmisa, “Writing for the Younger Generation,” on Tuesday, March 17.

After

Last night, the book launch. The cheer and frenzy and lights and hype. The accolades.

This morning, the silence. The blank computer screen, the absence of checklists. I had time to notice the sunshine.

Three successful book projects had just been published, each, with their respective Christian authors, having gone through months of work. And I, their editor, had gone along and lived for months consumed by the vast branching array of details that make up a book—What is the source for footnote number seventy-seven? Has the third endorser written back to confirm his position? Do we need permission to use this song? Have I checked the running heads?

Did I check them properly? And how sure am I that that is the source for footnote number seventy-seven?

I had loved it all.

Time hadn’t just flown; it had sped by—I had been in bliss, immersed in words, immersed in work—fixing, thinking, planning, writing. And then the launch, the sales, the noise—and then. Today.

The books were finished. My hands felt empty.

You love your work, the Lord told me, on that still, silent morning. That is why I gave it to you. But that is not the most important reason.

There are so many “most important reasons.” In fact, I will never know how many. One is the man sitting beside a hospital bed, grieving the loss of his wife. Another is the young woman struggling with fear and loneliness, dreading the prospect of another day. Yet another is the elderly grandfather who has never known peace—but who will, once he has picked up a certain book whose words would lead him to the Living Word.

It’s all for the sake of the Gospel, the Lord reminded me. It’s all for Me.

That morning, my hands were empty. But my heart became full.

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. (Matthew 28:19–20a)

Lord, in my work, You are my meaning, my strength, and my joy. Help me to work by and for Your Name alone.

Karen Huang is a writer for various print media publications. She also does editorial work for OMF Literature Inc. When not writing and editing, Karen teaches essay-writing and creative writing to high school and college students. She is also the proud aunt of Sabina, Selena, and Caleb.

This article was an entry in our LittWorld 2015 Devotional Writing Contest.

Winners of the LittWorld 2015 Devotional Writing Contest

MAI is pleased to announce the winners of the LittWorld 2015 Devotional Writing Contest. Participants were invited to submit a short devotional article to inspire and encourage fellow Christian writers around the world. We were delighted to receive more than 90 submissions from 20 countries and 5 continents.

First place prize of $300 is awarded to Melanie N. Brasher of Canada/South Asia for her entry, “The Season of Oranges and Unfinished Writing Projects.” Judges commented, “Using gifts of nature as metaphor, oranges, the writer graphically dramatizes ripening in our calling and waiting on the Lord.”

Marcia Lee LaycockThe second place of $150 goes to Marcia Lee Laycock of Canada for “God’s Best Plan: Stop writing.” Judges remarked, “This devotional vividly addresses every writer’s struggle to find balance in life and work. When our writing becomes an obsession, more important than people and even God, it’s time to step back and seek God’s direction.”

The People’s Choice Award of $100 is awarded to Yessy Sutama of Indonesia for Yessy SutamaWritten in Tears.” Select contest entries appeared online at www.littworldonline.org, and this award is given to the one receiving the most Facebook “like” votes by the contest deadline of December 15. Yessy’s received 161 votes.

Judges commented, “This bitter-sweet story tugs at the heartstrings. It gives us a ringside view of pain, particularly the writer’s, and how pain can plunge us into darkness. By writing through her tears, she found a new way to overcome sadness and reignite her world.”

Our distinguished team of international judges for the writing contest included: Grace Chong, award-winning author of the Philippines; Pearl Griffith, author, editor, writer trainer and publisher in Trinidad; and David McCasland of the USA, writer for Our Daily Bread, and author of Oswald Chambers: Abandoned to God.

“I want to assure each of you who submitted a devotional that you have won a personal victory,” said David McCasland. “There are many people who want to write, but few who actually do. You have written and you have won!”

Many of the contest entries will be featured in a new devotional book for global Christian writers, which will be launched at our LittWorld 2015 conference in Singapore this November.

John 2015 headshot“We look forward to sharing these devotionals with the global Christian community, and pray it will inspire writers to persevere and excel in their ministry of the written word,” said MAI President John Maust.

No One Cried at My Friend’s Funeral

By John Gathuku, Kenya

Yesterday we lay to rest the man who literally took me to church. No one cried at the funeral; his wife and children didn’t shed a tear.

He was our neighbor and a faithful choir member at a church in our hometown. He brought me along when he went for choir practice. We had a unique father-like friendship. On Sundays he dropped me off at children’s Sunday School. That was 30 years ago! I am now a grown man with three children. We kept in touch once in a while over the years and were always joyful to meet.

My friend was a super achiever. He pursued a bachelor’s degree at age 45 and was about to finish a doctorate at 63. His determination and tenacity was admirable. He uplifted his extended family economically and financially assisted many other people.

However something was amiss… A line in the eulogy confirmed my fears: “Throughout his life he maintained a very busy schedule.” He went abroad for further studies, leaving his young family for more than 10 years. They got used to living without him. When he returned, he was a part-time lecturer at a whopping six universities spread throughout the country, meaning a very hectic travel schedule for a man over 60 years old! He died alone in a car accident at 1 a.m. returning from one of his many engagements.

My friend was a loner. It’s clear he didn’t spend quality time with those closest to him. It’s clear he spent his resources and himself serving the “church” selflessly. Hundreds attended the burial. Cars thronged the small village and had to be parked at a playfield! He had so many acquaintances but none was intimate.

I felt deeply rebuked. I did some retrospection on my own schedule and realized I am particularly prone to the same trap. I kept postponing visiting with his family until it was too late. My schedule was busy!

My heart broke at the thought that I could be neglecting my own friends and family at the excuse of ministry demands. I spent the weekend in Eldoret and on Monday morning my son started crying in class, saying he was missing Dad. Some friends have complained it’s hard to get me on phone. Yesterday, for the first time in more than five years, I spent the whole day with my mum alone as we drove to the funeral service. She was so happy. I didn’t realize how much she missed my fellowship. I also lost the ritual of taking my wife out for dinner each fortnight. God help me re-organize and prioritize my life around what is eternal and matters most.

While we abhor idleness, busyness is not an option. While we esteem sacrifice, hard work and putting bread on the table, staying away from family is not an option. My employer will replace me when am gone but my children will never have another dad. Since I don’t know how many days are left, I want to spend them first intimately loving my family then ministering to God’s people.

It would be a sad thing if no one cried at my funeral.
John Gathuki
John Gathuku is the director of Timazi Magazine for high schoolers in Kenya.  “Timazi” is the Swahili word for Plumbline.