First Contemporary Christian Poetry Book Launches in Bulgaria

By Abby Reese, MAI intern

DSC_5637- Svetlana Karoleva cropped

Editor Svetlana Karoleva believes poetry will reach intellectuals for Christ.

“In this materialistic age poetry seems to attract more and more readers,” said Svetlana Karoleva, editor of the new book, Dreaming of Heaven and Seeking You: Sketches from Contemporary Bulgarian Christian Poetry. This first contemporary Christian poetry book authored by Bulgarians launched in the biggest secular book store in Sofia last September.

Published by Mission Possible Bulgaria and funded by the Oswald Chambers Publication Association, the book consists of haikus, free verse and rhythmic poetry. Poems contain biblical undertones, reflecting Christian worldview. Svetlana believes the poetry will “win intellectuals, university students and poetry fans for Christ.”

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Bulgaria has a rich poetry tradition, which makes the title an ideal evangelistic tool, says Svetlana

The poetry grew out of Mission Possible’s writer club, which formed in 2002 and continues to meet monthly in Sofia. Of the book’s 28 authors, 12 were club members. The authors include university professors, pastors and a magazine editor.

Like the image of a dandelion scattering seeds on the book’s cover, the authors hope the seeds of the Gospel in each poem will blow into every corner of society.


Contributing poets Teodora Kirova (left) and Gabriela Madjarova, members of the writers club

The title is already spreading seeds. Ivelina Stoikova, a contributing poet, gave a copy of the book to a non-Christian contact who saw it posted on Facebook. She hopes “God would speak to his heart and draw him to Himself.”

A poem from Dreaming of Heaven and Seeking You by Teodora Kirova, writer club member (left in photo):

I am thrilled by the green.

He wrote a letter to me. A flower.

I am thrilled by the blue.

He refreshed me. With a sea.

I am thrilled by the golden.

He gave me a treasure. A home.

I am thrilled by the grey.

He sent me to them. The colorless.

I am thrilled by the heavenly.

He wants me for Him. His.

I am thrilled by You. Love.

I have wings. Together.

MAI has partnered with Mission Possible Bulgaria multiple times to help equip gifted writers in this nation.


Fear Not Syria

Syrian writer Saleem Farah traveled to Beirut in early December for MAI’s Arab Christian writer workshop. He performed this original piece with participants there. We share with you the lyrics, translated into English, and video of the song as a call to prayer for the people and nation of Syria.

Fear not Syria

Syria land and people
The Lord has dearly loved
Under His wings He kept her
With His Truth and His Spirit protected her
He is alive in her, heart and sky

When bad days should befall
And sorrows has burnt within
Her faith in Jesus Lord of all
Will make her hang in
And safety should remain

When wind and storms should strike
In a wide and fearsome life
Syria, you should fear no fear and strife
And peace within you reside
When you live for Christ

Syria is praying to you
Lord and she is calling
Your Spirit would revive faith in her
And bless her ever after
Protected in your hands

How We Cultivate Writers

By Stephen Bryant

Many of us associated with MAI are working to cultivate writers. Our goal at Discipleship Resources International of the United Methodists is to expand the faith community’s access to affordable, contextually appropriate Christian resources by building local capacity to write and publish them.

One of the most important things we can do is offer publishing channels—for those Women writing cropped for webalready motivated to write and for those who are willing to learn. The absence of channels to publish is discouraging to potential writers, which then also discourages reading in those same contexts. Reading increases when people find content that’s culturally familiar, that “sounds like us.”

Four years ago we began to work with regional church bodies to create and support publishing teams in many countries across sub-Saharan Africa, the Philippines, and Eastern Europe. These publishing teams engage local church people and pastors in writing, developing, and selling content to meet local needs at affordable rates.

We assist these same publishing teams to offer writing workshops three to four times a year in different regions and in a variety of formats. We nearly always start with devotional writing, which engages people in writing about what they know best—their own faith stories and scriptures through which God has spoken to them.

Three years ago we created another publishing channel for church leaders called the “Africa Ministry Series.” We launched that with a three-day writing seminar for faculty of theology at Africa University in Zimbabwe. We helped the faculty identify writing projects and then offered editorial support. We’ve published eight titles so far, all in English, but translated or being translated to French and Portuguese.

Advertising widely in your current publications that you are looking for contributors is an obvious way to cultivate more writers. Offer simple guidelines for what’s expected and where to submit.

Finally, we pray and keep our eyes open for those we suspect have a word to share through writing. Giving them a bite-sized goal gives them a way to get started and gives us a way to start a relationship, see their writing, and call forth the gifts.

stevebryantRev. Stephen Bryant serves as executive director of Discipleship Resources International of the United Methodists, working with church leaders around the globe to develop capacity for resource development in places that lack access to the “discipleship resources” they need to carry out the mission of the church in their local contexts.

Africa: Watch out for trained trainers

By Lekan Otufodunrin, Nigeria

Before attending the Train-the-Trainer workshop held in Nairobi, Kenya, from November 13-15, Marcelin Vounda Etoa of Editions CLE publishing house in Cameroon was planning africansto hold a workshop in partnership with the Protestant University to train pastors on writing scholarly theological papers.

Having participated in the three-day workshop organized by Media Associates International (MAI), he feels better equipped to organize the workshop.

“I found the MAI Africa workshop very inspiring. It provided me practical ideas for the planned workshop.”

DSCN5984Joan Campbell, an author from South Africa, notes that the training, led by Richard Crespo, was practical and empowering.

“It instilled the confidence in me to plan and execute a writer’s training workshop in my country.”

“The MAI Training was a real blessing. I met inspirational people from across Africa and came away not only with many new friends, but also with a deep longing to be involved in bringing about MAI’s vision,” Campbell stated.

 The training focused on How Adults Learn, Teaching Skills and Organizing Workshops. According to Crespo, the basic principles of adult learning should cover the whole person, perception, experience and community.

DSCN5964“Learning and change happen when people’s whole being is engaged in reflection and decision-making.” Crespo said.

During the very interactive sessions, Crespo shared practical ideas on how to become better custodians of their publishing skills through understanding of various learning styles, use of codes, and teaching strategies.

According to Tesfahun Hatia, Principal of Pentecostal Theological College, Ethiopia, participating in the training was like sitting in front of the mirror.

“Each of us was able to see a crystal clear image of our own experiences.”

DSCN5999For Viola Mukasa of Uganda Faith Writers group, the training was like “a bell tolling – calling us to step up our game. It was a critical first step in the right direction.”

From the training, Rose Birenge, Director of Publishing and Outreach at Biblica Africa, learned the need to appreciate the differences between how adults learn and how children learn.

“I also learnt the need to be flexible in training – make space for changes, for longer discussions…and plan on how the training will run so that my thoughts are [in] place.”

Other participants at the training were Pusonnam Yiri, Nigeria; MAI Africa Chair Wambura Kimunyu, Kenya; Nelson Clemens, Sierra Leone; Buma Kor, Cameroon; Christian Matthew, Nigeria; Lekan Otufodunrin, Nigeria; and MAI President John Maust, US.

Lekan Otufodunrin is online and special publications editor at The Nation Newspapers in Nigeria. d3_315 Lekan writingHe is a trustee of MAI-Africa and president of Journalists for Christ International Outreach.