Frances Fuller: Publishing in a War Zone

Frances Fuller tells her remarkable story of leading a Christian In Borrowed houses book coverpublishing house during the Lebanese Civil War in her new book, In Borrowed Houses.  The former publisher and MAI Board member shares personal insights from that experience, and her heart for the church and Christian publishing in the post-Arab Spring Middle East, in an interview with MAI intern Joanne Kim.

Q: How has your view of publishing changed through your experience working in a war zone?
The war made me focus on human needs and see that publishing was not about building my institution but about building faith and hope, providing helps for seekers and tools for servants.

The war actually improved our marketing system.  When war broke out our only warehouse was in a war zone.  We saw that we had to decentralize and began to work with people in other countries who could stock and sell our books.  The result was expansion and efficiency.

frances fuller HiRes_4824477720121Q:  What gave you the biggest satisfaction and joy amidst the difficulties and challenges your faced during the Lebanese Civil War?
The support of the Lebanese Christian community.

After we were paralyzed by violence for a year, our international board of directors sent me on a tour of Europe and the Middle East to search for a better place for our publishing house.  I went to seven cities in five countries.  What I learned made me understand the relationship between a publishing house and its community. I came back and told my board, “I would rather be in Lebanon with shells falling.”

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Staff of Baptist Press & Frances Fuller, seated front right

And the community stood behind me. People believed in the ministry and gave time to it. They helped me make decisions, accepted training and wrote materials. They dreamed and took risks with me. Because of them and their support, I never regretted my decision to keep the publishing house in Lebanon.

Q: How would you envision the potential long-term Kingdom benefits, if there are any, of the Arab Spring, in countries like Lebanon?
I wonder. The whole Middle East is in flux, evolving. Any good result may be decades in the future. Meanwhile the church has to go on being the church.  God’s people have to want just to be God’s people, whatever happens.

It is easy to feel hopeless, but Syrians who were once an occupation army controlling Lebanon are now needy refugees in Lebanon, and Lebanese Christians have swallowed their resentment to serve them. This is God’s people growing to be more like God. It is a small light in the darkness.

Q: What would be your word of encouragement to those in Christian publishing in the Middle East or other global hot spots today?
This is your day, not an accident, not a misfortune, but the day God gave you. Hang in.

Q: How can we be praying together with you for the Middle East?
That God will preserve His church.

In all this chaos Middle Eastern Christianity is threatened. This problem needs prayer and practical support.

Baptist Publications, which Frances directed, continues today under the name Dar Manhal al Hayat, in Beirut, Lebanon. The publishing house is an active partner with MAI and Ophir Publishers of Jordan in a program to equip Arab Christian writers from across the Middle East.