The Parable of the Tissues

The leaders of the churches in America were meeting and fell into a serious disagreement that disintegrated into chaos.

One man, however, was praying for a solution and sensed the Spirit saying, “Look at the two tissue boxes on the open window sill, and learn from them.” THE PARABLE OF THE TISSUES

Suddenly, a strong gust of wind caught one of the boxes and scattered the tissues all over the room, startling everyone.

When the floating tissues settled, a note appeared in the center of the table:

Dear children,
You are like these tissues that were independently folded and stacked one upon the other. They were scattered in chaos when caught by the wind, having nothing to hold them together. Your self-interest and pride are causing similar disunity and factions in my church. You aren’t working together in harmony. This causes me sorrow.

I desire that you be like the tissues in the other box.
With love,

Spellbound in awe, they slowly passed the other box containing interfolded tissues from person to person, each one pulling out a tissue, only to find another in its place.  To their surprise, attached to the last tissue was another note:

Be like the tissues in this box, grasping each other’s hands, pulling each other up, helping each other along.  My command to you is to love one another and work in unity, for the world will know you by your love.  I will come for you soon; let me find you faithful.

Little did the participants at the meeting know that the notes in those boxes had been prepared by the Sunday School teacher to use as an object lesson on Sunday.  However, Jesus used the teacher’s preparation to deliver His letter to the “church in America.”

Thanks to Carolyn Stonehocker of the U.S. for responding to the LittWorld writing contest prompt: If Jesus were to write a letter to the church in your country, what would He say?

Keep your writing fresh

If you are going to write, even occasionally, it is important to stay up to date. Cicero said, “Times change and we must change with them.”  In the best sense, this is a sound rule to keep our writing fresh. Writers, as well as editors, should keep themselves aware of current trends.

The question then becomes, “How do I keep abreast of the times so that I can write up- id-10046773 to-date material?” Unfortunately, much of what is published may not give us that freshness that the reader so desperately wants.

Stay in touch with trends  Basic to freshness is to be a jump ahead of today’s headlines—one step ahead of today’s trends.

How to discern trends:

 1. By reading – Don’t just read a specific category for your writing, but do general reading. Read a variety of subjects beyond your usual range. Try to visit the library once a week and spend two hours reading several publications. Take advantage of easily-accessed Internet articles. Read and subscribe to blogs. Follow news sources and publishers on Twitter.

 2. Want Ads – Read personal ads occasionally. Read catalogs if they are available.

3. Read best-sellers when possible.

 4. Go to a variety of places, such as art museums, special exhibits, and crowded places to hear others talk.

 5. Be careful about being “dated.” Avoid popular fad phrases—those that fade quickly. For radio, television and teen magazine articles, such vocabulary is more passable. However, these can soon become clichés and lose freshness.

 6. Study current reading habits/choices. Today people are reading less for enjoyment. Much of what they read is news or how-to material, do-it-yourself articles. People are reading shorter articles and more illustrated material. Today’s pace of life has contributed to this reduction in reading.

If people today are busier than ever, how can we command a reading? Should we make everything a digest, short and scrappy? Should we collect more pictures and write clever captions? No. Rather, write with such clarity that even the busy, rushed person will read.

Clarity and freshness:

– Develop a writing exercise plan for yourself
– Try to learn one new word each day. Adding to your range of words will bring freshness—sometimes it even opens doors for ideas.
– Develop skill in outlining. Improving outlining skills helps improve your form and clarity.
– Write character sketches, scenes, feelings and reactions.
– When you have an idea, write it down. A great idea is the beginning of a great article, book or poem.

Photo courtesy

A Friend in a Thousand

By John Maust, MAI President

What beautiful writing.  That was my thought reading Pratibha Manaen’sa-friend-in-a-thousand-book-cover-cropped poignant first novel. A Friend in a Thousand (ISPCK India, 2011) describes an Asian girl’s struggles in a patriarchal culture to go to school and live out her dreams.

Raised in Nepal as the daughter of Indian missionaries, Pratibha has been writing since age 8.  I first met her in the Philippines at our LittWorld 2004 conference.

“I have found my vision to write for women in a country where vision is curtailed by the hardships of her life,” she wrote afterwards.

At a subsequent MAI workshop in Nepal and LittWorld 2009 in Kenya, Pratibha made additional contacts with gifted editors and writers, some of whom offered valuable input on her manuscript. 

pratibha-mPratibha works full-time for INF Nepal, a non-profit that serves leprosy patients and marginalized groups, so her novel writing must be done on the side. MAI awarded Pratibha a modest grant to work on a second novel from our David Alexander International Author Fund.

Meanwhile, Pratibha is already “giving back.”  From her book royalties and donations, she set up Manushi Funds to help rural Nepali girls attend school.  (“Manushi” in Sanskrit means woman.)

Thank you for helping Pratibha in her journey to becoming a published author through your support of MAI.

>>Help MAI encourage and equip more writers like Pratibha. Give online. It’s easy.


From Mama Mzigo to Mama Kanisa

Tell how someone you know in your country was spiritually transformed by the written word. Vestine Umubyeyi of Kenya responded with this submission to the LittWorld 2012 writing contest:

Mama Mzigo’s former job was to carry people’s loads to earn a living. Hence her name Mama Mzigo, which means “Mother Loads” (or the mother who carries loads for people). She tells how her nickname, along with her spiritual status, was changed to be “Mother Church,” thanks to a church that was built near her home.

In her childhood Mama Mzigo was abused by her four stepmothers. She had an early african-mother-by-africa-free-digital-photos marriage when she was only twelve and found herself with three of her husband’s concubines. Although she became a widow with six children to raise by herself, the heaviest burden she carried was her nickname Mama Mzigo. She felt compelled to respond to it because she needed money to raise her children. She had no other choice.

One day her children, who had been attending a church newly built near their home, came singing an English song that stirred her: “I’m no longer the same, I’m no longer the same; He has changed my name and given me a new name, I’m no longer the same.”

Mama Mzigo could understand the meaning of the song but she wondered in her heart, “Who is that who can change someone’s name and behavior?” She was curious to know this person and this led her to go to the church.

That day the preacher preached in the Gospel of Luke 10:20 where Jesus was urging his disciples to rejoice because their names were written in heaven. The preacher went on to show how the Lord had changed Simon Peter and Paul’s names and lives. She longed also to see the Lord change her and her name. Her prayer was answered. Due to her zeal to work for the Lord, she was appointed deacon in the church and people started calling her Mama Kanisa, which means “Mother Church.”

Learn how you can submit articles and win cash in the LittWorld 2012 writing contest, “Blogging for Global Impact.”

This article was originally submitted in French. The English translation is by Benjamin Kisoni.

Photo above courtesy africa

My dream for a fraternity of Christian publishers

You’ll be inspired by this dream for Christian publishing in Uganda by Rekisa, submitted to the LittWorld writing competition:

Over the years, as my heart and hand have been released to write, I have come to love the craft and to appreciate those who inspired and encouraged me to dare express and share from my heart. Sadly, appreciation and support for creative writing in Uganda has diminished, even the tradition of teaching and discussing the word of God at home and in school.  While baring the secrets and dreams of your soul can positively impact lives, sharing personal knowledge of the extreme love of God towards us all, and how He watches over each one, has the power to liberate and transform.

If we are to draw people into the Kingdom of God, Christian publishing must become more relevant, and purposefully seek to influence a critical mass of children and teens (Proverbs 22:6) around the country. Christian publishing must also become more innovative, popular and accessible, complimenting other mediums of education, evangelism, discipleship and mentoring.

In becoming more strategic, Christian publishing should diversify and publish books, comics, magazines, and games that target the age bracket 2 – 17; these should be accessible over the Internet, and also compliment study and play kits including puzzles, toys, stickers and computer games. Publications should teach the love, grace, principals, promises and power of God, to help children and teens anchor their lives on biblical values and truths.

In my dream, Christian publishers belong to a formal fraternity committed to help identify and stimulate writing talent and creativity through writer clubs and seminars; they encourage regular submission of the work of local writers to national and international writer competitions, submit publications to the national  education curriculum, subsidise work by young writers, and support writing in the local language.

Learn how you can submit articles and win cash in the LittWorld 2012 writing contest, “Blogging for Global Impact.”