A Writer in Wonderland

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By Ivanova Nono Fotso, Cameroon

I know a young woman who has many grown-up responsibilities: university studies, work, chores, volunteering and church. Yet unbeknownst to the rest of the world, this young woman has a secret room in her heart. In that room, she revisits the world of a five year-old girl, filled with wonder at seeing a butterfly, running after a cat, dancing in front of the mirror and enjoying cartoons. That little girl also enjoys spending time with her invisible Father, telling Him about her day, and allowing Him to soothe her heart with His unconditional love.

This is my reality as a children’s author. It’s like sharing time between my young readers and the child in me. While translating Sunday school curriculum, the truth of a lesson, “God hears our prayers,” boosts my faith. As I write my children’s book, “Don’t Be Afraid,” I myself find peace. Even in the simple act of writing memory verses for Christmas, my heart dances in the tinsel light of truth affirmed.

Some people say to me, “You write for children? It’s a good start. Keep working, you will soon be able to write for adults.” They don’t hear the little girl in me chuckling. She knows she will always be ready to dance, skip and wonder.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14). Writing for children can help mold in us a loving and humble heart, an eagerness to learn, and trusting dependence on our Heavenly Father—all characteristics of little ones. Writing for children also gives us a glimpse of the greatest Wonderland, the kingdom of God.

Thank you, Heavenly Father, for giving me the privilege to write for children. Help me to seek you and to keep a trusting and humble heart.

This article was published in our unique book, Light for the Writer’s Soul: 100 Devotions by global Christian writers.

Order your copy on SALE until 12/21 for only $9.99USD with FREE shipping within the USA.  Place your order now. Email: [email protected] or call 630.260.9063.  Light_Writers_Soul_MAI_2D

Ivanova Nono Fotso has written the children’s book, Même Pas Peur, short stories and articles for Jouv’Afrique and AMINA magazines, and parts of the comic collection Eclats d’Afrique. She resides in Cameroon.

Read more about Ivanova’s work in A Comic Strip That Borders Heaven.

 

A Comic Strip That Borders Heaven

Timazi Magazine of Kenya recently featured part one of “Big Day,” a comic stripcomic birthed by friendships made at MAI’s LittWorld 2012 conference. There John and Maggie Gathuku, who lead the Christian youth magazine, met Mexican illustrator José Carlos Gutiérrez (right in photo below) and author Ivanova Nono Fotso of Cameroon (left in photo).

José Carlos crafted illustrations for the comic script written by Ivanova, and submitted the comic to Timazi. When José Carlos’ computer crashed, Timazi’s designer in Kenya, James Njoroge, completed coloring the illustrations.

The seven-page comic, based on the Parable of the Ten Virgins, will be published in three issues of the magazine.

ivanova-jose-carlos-by-ian-darke-cropped-resized“This comic has a great emotional value since I started the drawings and sketches in a hospital room, a few months after returning from Littworld,” José Carlos said. His 21-year-old brother had been diagnosed with leukemia and began chemo treatments.

“He got saved in that same hospital as I prayed with him at the very beginning of his treatment,” José Carlos recalled. On the same day that his brother passed away, José Carlos completed inking the comic at the hospital.

Today comic books are the world’s most widely-read type of popular literature, capturing the interest of both children and adults. Christian publishers around the world are harnessing the genre to spread the Gospel.

Maggie hopes that “by reading this comic strip, students will understand and appreciate the message of our Lord Jesus Christ by preparing well for His coming.”

Egypt: The Power of the World to Heal

The gruesome video showing beheadings of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in ubs-egypt-tract-two-lines-english1Libya last February spurred writers at the Bible Society of Egypt into immediate action. Within three days, a powerful tract began reaching the hands of mourning Egyptians, and ultimately 1.65 million readers. It became the most widely distributed Christian leaflet in the nation’s history.

The tract contained Scripture about suffering and Christian love in the face of evil, and a poignant poem written in colloquial arabic: “Who fears the other? The row in orange, watching paradise open? Or the row in black, with minds evil and broken?”

We are reminded that the written word can comfort, heal and point hurting people to Christ at a time of questioning and crisis. While terrorists may have hoped to foment religious strife, Bible Society Director Ramez Atallah said that the killings have united Christians and Muslims in the troubled country.

Praise God for the bold and creative witness of Christian publishers and writers in the world’s hard places. MAI continues strategic partnerships with publishers in the Middle East.

“We cannot impact our Egyptian culture if 95 percent of Christian books are translations,” said one speaker at our June workshop in Cairo. About a dozen motivated Egyptian writers and four local editors discussed book ideas: a children’s book with creative exercises for Scripture memory, the story of a woman’s journey through depression, profiles of unsung heroes in the church in Egypt, a novel for young adults, an anthology of inspirational readings (a kind of Egyptian Christian “chicken soup for the soul”), and more.
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Please pray for these infant writing projects and that the writers will stay disciplined. Plans for another training in 2016 are already underway with our local hosts. The need is urgent for quality Christian books and articles for the Egyptian people.

“I’ve never received this kind of encouragement,” a writer in her mid-twenties wrote us after the workshop. “It does feel like a new beginning and a boost to write. This passion in our hearts is truly a gift from God.  By discipline and grace, words will flow and stories will be told.”

Graphics courtesy of Bible Society of Egypt

Voices from South Africa

By Joan Campbell, MAI trainer joan-campbell

On the first evening of MAI’s South African “My Story for His Glory” Writing Workshop, May 16 & 17, the 13 participants read some of their writing. It was a celebration of words, creativity and individuality. I’d like to share two of these expressive South African voices.

Norma shared an emotive poem she wrote on the eve of Mandela’s funeral, and told us how it had come about.

my-story-for-his-glory-group“That week between his death and his funeral is one I’ll always remember. It was filled with tears and laughter, celebration and mourning, reminiscing and dreaming. As I went to bed on the eve of his memorial service, I was exhausted and yet unable to fall into a proper deep sleep… this poem came to mind. I jotted it down while underneath the covers, mind still fuzzy but heart speaking very lucidly.”

Waking Up at 3am to Make Sure I Get Into FNB Stadium

I am wading deep into the waters of mourning
Asking them to wash over me
To smooth the rough stones of my judgements and prejudices
Remove the grime in my heart so the injuries of injustice can heal
Nourish the seeds of hope for the South Africa of mine + Madiba’s dreams.
Fully immersed, moving away from the shallow end,
letting my hair get wet,
May no part of me be left uncleansed.

Another writer, Jenny, read us her poignant children’s book, The Saddest Little Sugar Bowl in the World. The sugar bowl looks around and wonders why she doesn’t have handles like the cups or why she isn’t as important as the teapot. It teaches children—particularly those that are ‘different’—the value of their individuality. Jenny struggled to find a publisher for this and her two other books. She finally self-published this delightful story, currently available as a free download.

I wish I had the space to share all the participants’ writing, but I hope that this small sample brings across the depth of talent and passion of Christian writers in South Africa. Thank you to MAI for nurturing and equipping writers in Africa.

Joan Campbell, a trainer for MAI, is a devotional writer for Scripture Union and The Upper Room, and the author of  Encounters: Life Changing Moments with Jesus, a collection of short stories, reflections and prayers.

Norma Y
norma-youngoung is a print and broadcast journalist. She’s worked for magazines and newspapers including Oprah magazine, City Press and Mail & Guardian.

 

 

jenny-youngJenny Young is a wife, mother and proud grandmother. She works in a secondary school laboratory, doing science and biology experiments, and runs a Girl Guide company (Girl Scout group).

Kenyans create meditations for the world

By Meaghan Zang, MAI intern

“Mary was sick and her condition seemed hopeless,” wrote Joseph Alum of Kenya in a recent devotional published in The Upper Room.  The woman was wracked by tuberculosis, seemingly beyond recovery, but God answered prayer for her healing.

Joseph’s moving story — reaching readers in 100 countries and 45 language editions — would have remained untold without the training he received at a Nairobi writer workshop organized by Philip Polo of Africa Upper Room Ministries.

When Philip first began working for The Upper Room as a distributor, he noticed the lack of international writers in the devotional. A few years later, as editor of the devotional’s Kiswahili edition, he thought, “It could d3_327-african-man-at-window-writingmake a difference to encourage readers of our meditations to share their faith stories by writing about what God did in their everyday lives.”

So, Philip began conducting monthly devotional writing workshops in Kenya. At the workshops, he discovers and trains new writers like Joseph Alum.

The transition from reader to published writer, however, is not always easy.  Polo’s writing workshops instill new writers with the necessary skills and confidence. “Some first-time writers feel that they are not as good as the writers of the meditations they have read,” he said. “Also, not many people are willing to write meditations about their experiences; they would rather just verbalize them.” Training for devotional writing is essential to encourage faith-sharing and drive fear from novice writers, he says.

During a typical session, participants begin by sharing their faith stories aloud.  Then, they write a short meditation and exchange them for review and improvement. While the workshops currently focus on meditations, Polo plans to produce a quarterly Christian journal with these writers.

Polo says the training sessions are valuable for readers, writers and potential writers. They “widen the scope of international writers who can become a blessing to the global audience of readers of The Upper Room devotional guides.”

The Upper Room, a ministry of the United Methodist Church, has published daily devotional guides since 1935. Writers worldwide are invited to submit meditations. Guidelines are available online. 

By Meaghan Zang, MAI intern

Photos by Eric Gitonga