The Only Friend I Have in Mosul

frances-fuller-lowres_4824477720147-300x224By Frances Fuller

A long time ago we knew a young Iraqi whom I remembered today while reading the news. His name was Asal. Actually, I can’t figure out how to write this in English; that first letter does not exist in our language and to an American sounds like a vowel, a bit harsh, made down in the throat. The name means honey, and it feels inappropriate just to solve my problem by calling him Honey.

We were studying Arabic at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.  Asal, tall and lanky, with a normally serious expression, was studying English.  He comes to mind now, only because he was from Mosul.

We made a point of being friendly with Asal. After all, he was just a nineteen-year-old, far from home. He spent the night at our house on Christmas Eve, was with us when we read the Christmas story with our children and put them to bed with prayers. He was with us in the morning, as we had coffee and fruit cake and opened gifts, some with his name on them. I remember his telling me, sitting in our living room, looking around at our family, “Mr. Wayne is a very lucky man.”

The truth is that he admired Wayne a lot. Once he was in the car with us, in heavy traffic, when the car in front of us stalled, blocking our side of the street. The driver of the stalled vehicle was a woman who was obviously doing what she could. Wayne jumped out of our car, spoke with her for a moment, then threw up the hood of her car and did some little trick. The car started immediately, and Wayne waved the woman on her way.  Asal considered this a remarkable event. He talked about it for the next 10 minutes. “Mr. Wayne is so courteous. He is very kind. Mr. Wayne is so clever. He knows what to do.” I think he used all his vocabulary describing what had happened.

Asal was a Muslim, of course. We talked now and then about his faith and ours.  At least once he went to church with us, to a Baptist church in Arlington. I went to a Sunday School class for women, the children to their age appropriate classes and Asal and Wayne to a men’s class.  Afterwards, I was already sitting in a pew in the sanctuary, when Asal came ahead of Wayne and sat beside me. I asked him about his class, and with great enthusiasm he said, “The lesson was about God’s love, and it was wonderful!” This was the first time I had ever taken a Muslim to church, so I was glad, even maybe a little relieved, that he had been blessed.

I remember Asal telling me about praying at midnight as 1963 rolled over and he entered 1964. He talked of somehow setting up a formal situation, preparing himself, reading the Quran, and seeking God’s favor as he entered the new year. I was impressed that his prayer was so personal.

Asal really helped me once.  Someone who knew that we had Arab friends there at Georgetown sent me some evangelistic tracts in the Arabic language so we could give them away. The problem was that we were studying the colloquial language under a Lebanese teacher, and I could not yet read a word of Arabic. I was not willing to give those tracts to anyone without knowing what they said, so I showed one of them to Asal and asked him to tell me what it was. He read one paragraph and then told me, “This is something against Islam.” That was an important revelation.

Six years later I became the director of a small Christian publishing house in Beirut.  And, remembering Asal’s words, I determined that I would not publish anything that attacked or denounced or disrespected another person’s faith. I would attempt to share everything true and beautiful about mine and continue to seek God and encourage others to seek God.  After all, our scriptures tell us that if you seek God with all your heart, you will find God.

My last memory about Asal relates to the death of President John Kennedy. He was truly grieved, and when I told him that we had taken our children to Arlington Cemetery and were standing beside the road to witness the funeral procession up close, he felt so sad that he had missed the opportunity. He clearly pictured it like an Arab funeral and said if he had known it was happening, he would have joined the procession. “I could have walked behind his casket!”  He felt this to be an honor that had slipped past him.

The school year ended; we went our way and, though we didn’t mean to, we lost touch with Asal. I assume he went back to Mosul. That was his intention. Now that Mosul has become a symbol of the war against ISIS, I wonder if he survived all that has happened. If he was lucky, with a wife and children around him, like “Mr. Wayne,” he should be a grandpa now. I picture him still erect and lanky with that thoughtful expression on his face.  I hope he kept seeking God. I hope he is safe in body and soul.

His significance to me at the moment is that he is my human image of Mosul, a good man in a city besieged inside and out.

It is possible, of course, that Asal is no longer in Mosul, for some good or bad reason, but some grandpa is there, some erect, studious man who is proud of his family and responds to God’s love. I can imagine a bit of what it is like to be old and see your city being destroyed around you, your country in fragments and still a battleground.  While the young may manage to dream of another day and find hope somewhere, the old may just die of their broken hearts.

That’s what I think, seeing Mosul in the news, all of its pictures dominated by rising smoke.

<<Read our interview, Frances Fuller: Publishing in A War Zonein-borrowed-houses-cover-4001

This article was used with permission of Frances Fuller, a former MAI board member. It originally appeared on her blog, In Borrowed Houses, also the title of her autobiographical book. The book describes her journey leading a Christian publishing house during Lebanon’s civil war. 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.

The Curse of Editing

By Yemima Adi

Being an editor can be a blessing and also “a curse” for me. I am really grateful for eyes which can find mistakes in a text. Then my fingers can dance over the keyboard to make it much better to read. But this unique talent can be a curse too since my eyes automatically find mistakes first rather than details to praise.

I encounter this fact every time I deal with our graphics team. Whenever they create a Asian woman reading freedigitalimages by a454draft, I always look for mistakes first. No words of praise burst from my lips.

One day the graphics team made a design for a particular project. As usual, my eyes wandered, looking for mistakes in the draft. Later that same day, I took the draft to our project coordinator, whose first words were: “It’s really beautiful. The design, the color…I never thought that the text could be put so nicely.” After that, she started to examine the design. Though she found several mistakes in the sentences and gave suggestions for revisions, her attitude stunned me.

It reminded me of Proverbs 15:23, “A person finds joy in giving an apt reply—and how good is a timely word!” When I read all of chapter 15, it guided me to control my words, whether in giving an answer (verses 1, 28) or a response (verses 2, 4, 18).

What a beautiful lesson I learned from our project coordinator that day. I told her that I want to have an attitude like hers whenever I deal with any kind of draft. I have also learned that giving a word of praise is not a one-day lesson, after which I can be “a master.” It is a process, a hard one for me with my editor eyes. But I want to learn it day by day. Not just giving perfunctory praise, but sincere compliments.

Lord, please help me to lighten a heart today with a sincere word of praise.

This article by Yemima Adi is published as “A Word of Praise” in MAI’s Light_Writers_Soul_MAI_2D devotional book, Light for the Writer’s Soul: 100 devotions by global Christian writers. Read more inspiring articles in this unique devotional book.

Yemima Adi of Jakarta, Indonesia, is a freelancer who loves to play with words, especially in the Indonesian language.

Image above courtesy of a454 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Stewarding Novel Ideas

Jon Hirst GMI new book

GMI President Jon Hirst

MAI President John Maust was featured in the new book, The Calling of the Knowledge Steward, authored by Jon Hirst, GMI President and a former MAI Board member. We’re delighted to share this excerpt with you. 

If I were looking for an exciting one-on-one study opportunity in Wheaton today, I would love to learn from John Maust, the president of MAI (Media Associates International), an organization that trains Christian authors and publishers around the globe.

“We get to steward knowledge that helps others steward their knowledge, insights, and experiences,” says John. “Specifically, we equip and encourage Christian publishers and writers located in hard places of the world to create excellent content that enriches the church and influences society.”

John and book award

MAI President John Maust (left) congratulates Nicholas Villanueva of Ediciones Certeza Argentina on its award-winning book “Mujeres Jefas de Familia” by author Samuel Tapia.

I’ve known John for years, and he’s become a good friend. John has a servant’s heart. When we talk, he is always concerned first and foremost with the needs of the people he is serving—never his own issues or challenges.

John is a knowledge steward who has changed the world. Here’s how he does it. Working with MAI authors, John helped create a devotional book for global Christian writers, Light for the Writer’s Soul (co-published by Armour Publishing, Singapore), featuring articles by 80 contributors from 27 nations. The book offers a wealth of spiritual wisdom and encouragement for writers.

John has created a culture of service at MAI that is impacting the world for Christ. When I asked him about his role models, he cited Timothy, the associate of the Apostle Paul. “A Timothy-like focus on others is vital,” he says. “I often think of Paul’s description of Timothy, ‘I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare'” (Philippians 2:20).

But there’s a challenge. Knowledge stewards love to help people, particularly when they have a passionate servant’s heart. But no one can serve everyone. That’s where discernment comes in. As we saw in the previous chapter, discernment helps stewards determine not only what to share, but also who to share it with, and how.

“One needs a kind of discernment to identify which people in whom to invest knowledge,” John says. “You can’t invest equal time and attention in everybody. Discernment helps determine which students possess the potential and commitment to apply the knowledge they have received. Sometimes these are the quiet people in the background, and one must listen and observe carefully to identify them.”

>>Check out the book and read a sample chapter online. 

The Inconvenient Truth

By Josil Gonzales, Philippines

Like many Christians today, first century Corinthians believed that adversity was inconsistent with the Spirit-filled life. Paul needed to remind them that affliction, hardship, persecution and being struck down are part of the normal Christian life (2 Cor. 4:8-9).

Paul’s opponents claimed that God’s power is manifest best through signs, wonders and miracles. Paul maintained that God’s power is shown most effectively through hardship and distress. All our risks, dangers we confront, humiliations we face, and trials we endure are but opportunities for Christ to demonstrate His power in and through us.

This is a hard message for 21st century believers. But we Christian publishers, editors, writers and designers should share this inconvenient truth. We like to be in control and operate from a position of strength, not weakness. But Paul reminds us that “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).

In parts of the world, Bibles are still being confiscated, churches are still being closed, believers are still being arrested and imprisoned.

Does God always bring deliverance in times of persecution? I wish I could say “yes.” Our brothers and sisters in the Persecuted Church tell us, “Yes, we go through suffering, but God is always with us and that enables us to press on.”

That is the way of the cross. Jesus walked the hard and narrow road. Paul walked the hard and narrow road. We too need to walk that hard and narrow road, and share the inconvenient truth.

Josil Gonzales IsraelPilgrimageJan14d 001Excerpted and adapted from a devotional message by Josil Gonzales at LittWorld 2015. Josil has been serving the Persecuted Church for the last 20 years. He works in two creative access countries in South Asia as country manager. A graduate of AB Journalism from the University of the Philippines, he also served as publications manager for OMF Literature Inc, and managing editor of Alliance Publishers Inc’s monthly pre-evangelistic magazine, Sidestreets. He is the founding chairman of Christian Writers’ Fellowship. An avid runner, Josil has joined numerous races including two 42k runs.

<<Take Action and pray for the Persecuted Church. Download a monthly prayer guide to pray for persecuted Christians around the world.

 

Leadership By Example

ramon rochaBy Ramon Rocha

Can you say, “Do what I do, not just do what I say”? An excellent leader is one who sets a good example. He or she is a person of integrity.

As a leader, you set the tone and atmosphere at the workplace. Whether you like it or not, you are creating clones around you. Those whom you supervise want to please the boss.

Are you a model employee? Do you uphold and follow company policies? Or are you above the law, so to speak? Do people see the genuineness of your heart and character? No one is perfect. But we should be good role models before our staff, our family and the general public.

Temptation is always present in our mind and thought life. A helpful lesson I’ve learned, aside from Jesus’s example in Luke 4, is to run from temptation like Joseph did in Genesis 39.

In recent news coverage, several prominent leaders have doctored reports to look good to the public. Brian Williams, veteran anchor of NBC Nightly News, a major TV newscast in the US, was suspended after admitting fabrication of his coverage in Iraq. He had claimed enemy fire had hit his helicopter in a 2003 trip to Iraq.

Last year Pastor Mark Driscoll’s church, Mars Hill, in Seattle got caught manipulating the sales of his book Real Marriage. The church had paid a marketing firm $25,000 to manipulate book sales and attain a spot on the New York Times bestseller’s list.

Sometimes success is addicting. Author-researcher Jim Collins, in his book How the Mighty Fall, explored the phenomenon of why some big companies fail. A key reason for their failures was falling into “the undisciplined pursuit of more.”

It is true for companies and it is true for our careers. We may be tempted to compromise integrity to project a picture of continuing success. Let us be truthful in all our reports, stating facts as they are, not hiding our inefficiencies and failures.

How do you lead in a crisis situation? Let me share this scary story:

After lunch in 2006, I was doing my usual “MBWA”—management by walking around the OMF Lit office. I had a friendly chat with our warehouse staff. Returning to my office, as I passed our bookshop, I saw a man pointing a gun at our bookstore cashier. In my panic, I decided to head toward the side door to seek a policeman on the street, even a traffic cop. With my chest pounding, I looked around and could not find one.

I felt guilty that I may have made a cowardly escape and left my staff to fend off the gunman.  When I reentered the side door, the gunman had already vanished into the busy street on his motorcycle. Later I learned from our frightened cashier that she had kept her cool. We had only lost a few hundred pesos because she had already turned in the morning cash sales.

The talk around the office that afternoon was “Our CEO abandoned ship and left us at the height of danger!” I will not forget that incident, and kept thinking, did I do right slipping out of the side door to seek help? Or I should have confronted the robber and offered myself as a sacrifice?

What would you have done?

As the leader of your team, you also serve as their pastor. Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example” (1 Peter 5: 2-3, NLT).

I believe this statement is true: “People don’t care how much you know. They’d like to know how much you care.”

Ramon Rocha is the director of publisher development at MAI. This post is an excerpt from his talk, “Seven Marks of an Excellent Leader in Christian Publishing,” given at MAI’s European Forum, England, April 8, 2015.

Join us for LittWorld 2015, the only international Christian publishing conference of141124LittWorldPos its kind. Register by July 30 and save $100! Come to Singapore this November 1 to 6, alongside more than 200 professionals from Asia, Africa, Europe, North and Latin America and the Middle East. All Christian writers, editors, graphic designers, publishers and booksellers are welcome. Gain intensive training on strategic publishing-related topics. Learn more now.