Indonesia: A New Year’s Text

Yessy SutamaBy Yessy Sutama, Indonesia

The first morning of the New Year. I read a text message from my brother. A New Year’s reflection. So beautiful. I thought the greeting was quoted by my brother from another person’s text message to him. He often does this if he feels that the text was good and would be encouraging to me. However, when I read it this time the content felt so familiar. This made me think for a moment, and then I smiled. Obviously I was familiar with that writing because I myself was the author. It was one of the short reflections that I had contributed to a daily calendar.

I remembered similar occasions. Once when I experienced a crisis, a friend sent me back a writing which I had given her a few years earlier. All this time she had kept my writing because she felt strengthened by it. Now, she sent it back to me because she felt I needed to read my writing again to get encouraged. I did!

As the Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians, “It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you” (Philippians 3:1). I myself do not think that what I write really could cheer other people, let alone myself. In fact, sometimes when I write, I do it without much thought.

These two occasions helped me to relate better with what a senior pastor and author said to me ages ago. Compared to preaching, he much prefers to write. According to him, even though his sermon is well prepared, people often forget it as soon as they leave church. In contrast, people will remember writing longer and the effect will remain longer. Writing can have a much stronger effect than the usual verbal delivery. That’s why he is a prolific writer and encourages others to write.

Unfortunately, perhaps due to our society’s low socioeconomic status, the culture of reading and writing in Indonesia is not very developed. It is indeed a challenge, especially for Christian writers in Indonesia.

Lord, help us, and especially Indonesian Christian writers, to remain steadfast in our writing so that we can be a blessing to others.

Yessy Sutama is a theological book editor at BPK Gunung Mulia, one of the largeLight_Writers_Soul_MAI_2Dst Christian publishers in Indonesia, and also edits Saat Teduh, the Indonesian edition of The Upper Room. Reading, writing and listening to music are her hobbies.

This article was published as “Not Just Mere Words” in our unique book, Light for the Writer’s Soul: 100 Devotions by global Christian writers. Get your copy today.

Read Yessy’s article, Written in Tears, winner of MAI’s People’s Choice Award in our devotional writing contest.

“I Felt Locked In…”

By Mark Carpenter, Brazilmark_carpenter

As a young teenager growing up in a small town in Brazil, I had little access to the outside world. Only two TV channels were available, and the city newspaper carried only local news. I felt locked in.

Then the son of a Japanese immigrant opened a news kiosk downtown, featuring periodicals from all over the country. I was enthralled. It became my favorite haunt, and there I began to discover news about the dictatorship in our country, the war in Vietnam, the counterculture movement, and much more. I couldn’t afford to buy more than one or two newspapers a month, but Massao, the owner, would allow me to flip through the books and magazines. I was exposed to great journalism and news about economics, politics, art and culture. And my world was never the same. These writers, photographers, designers and editors opened up new channels of understanding. From a young age I had wished to serve Christ with my life, and now I began to imagine the world and dream about my own future.

Photo courtesy Chai25182518, Freedigitalphotos.com

Photo courtesy Chai25182518, Freedigitalphotos.com

I ended up dedicating my life to expressing truth through writing and publishing. Every week at our publishing house in São Paulo we receive letters from readers who live in remote areas, or who are locked up in prison, or who feel imprisoned in difficult churches, families or marriages. As we respond to them, I remember my teenage years, and I am reminded that our own writers, photographers, designers and editors can be the channels of truth and insight that will encourage, broaden perspectives, introduce biblical reality and point the way to new solutions.

Massao opened my mind to the world. As writers, we too hold the power to unlock imagination, inspire action and provide encouragement to those who feel excluded or unimportant, or who can’t see a way out of hopelessness, or who feel trapped by the circumstances of life.

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”1 Thessalonians 5:11

Lord, thank you for the education I’ve received and for the access you’ve given me to your Word, to good books and to your wisdom as expressed by those who are close to you. As a writer, I need your help in deciding what and how to write in order to become a source of instruction, encouragement and inspiration to my readers. Give me humility and perfect my gifts. Amen.

This article by Mark Carpenter is published as “The News Kiosk”  in our book, LighLight_Writers_Soul_MAI_2Dt for the Writer’s Soul: 100 devotions by global Christian writers. Order your copy of this inspiring and unique devotional book, available in print or ebook formats.

Mark Carpenter is chairman and CEO of Mundo Cristão, one of Brazil’s largest publishers of Christian books, and an MAI board member.

 

 

Love Letters

By Joy Angela Valdez

“Joy, girl, people don’t take time to write letters anymore. Snail mail is no longer in fashion!” My friend Marsha was lamenting once again the loss of yet another tradition. Although she is many years younger than me, like me, she has a heart for writing and mourns the death of proper grammatical structures. Her words led me to refocus on the written word and how it impacts our lives.

love lettersI remembered the first love letter I had ever received. It read in part, “The race to my heart is over and among the few contestants, you are the winner.” It was a well-penned letter and my teenage heart had felt an extra thrill when I read that sentence. The young man who had written it was also a teenager. Neither of us were Christians and at the time I sincerely believed all that he had written. I smiled as I reminisced and wondered how much thought he had put into the writing process. Time proved that the vital element of truth was missing. The letter no longer exists and its writer was not the man who became my husband.

I thought of another well-penned sentence from one who also wrote of His love for me. His words were written centuries before my conception, but the truth in them remain irrefutable. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

These are well-written words I also believed, and my life was transformed because of my belief. In this “traditional” piece of writing, I find a template for my own writing. Questions I ask myself are: Am I representing truth in my writing? Will my words withstand the test of time? Will my readers be positively impacted by what I write? How well am I representing the One who truly loves me? I am always amazed and sometimes amused by the way God communicates with us. I will be fascinated forever by His love for me.

Lord, continue to guide me as I represent you, not only in my writing, but in all that I do in Jesus’ name. Amen.

This article by Joy Angela Valdez is published in MAI’s Light_Writers_Soul_MAI_2Dnew devotional book, Light for the Writer’s Soul: 100 devotions by global Christian writers, on a special SALE for $11.99 USD through February 19. Read more inspiring articles in this unique devotional book.

Joy is a published poet who has accepted her first name as her life’s mission. She lives in Trinidad, the larger of the twin-island state of Trinidad and Tobago.

 

Friends

Ruth O'Neil headshotBy Ruth O’Neil

I have truly been blessed. There is a group of readers who are willing to read my books before they are published. These are my beta readers. These readers tell me when something isn’t working for them in my story. They pick out typos I may have missed. They even post reviews of my books once published and available for purchase online. But more than just readers and fellow writers, these people have become my friends.

By the age of nine I knew I wanted to be a writer. My mother, who was a great help and encouragement to me, gave me opportunities other want-to-be writers only dream of. Partly because of my mother, I learned at an early age to develop thick skin. She taught me that unless I could accept criticism, my writing would not grow and develop. Of course, I also had to learn which criticisms to accept and which to reject. That was a maturing process.

Proverbs 27:17 tell us, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” I need that. I need someone to give me honest and constructive criticism. Often people see problems that I didn’t because, quite frankly, I look at a manuscript so often that my eyes begin to cross and the story runs together. Fresh eyes help me see things I couldn’t see.

As Christian writers we need each other. We need the companionship of fellow writers. Let’s face it, when people know you write, sometimes the reaction you get is a little strange or disappointing. Writers understand writers, and even more so, Christian writers understand Christian writers. We can help shape one another’s writing (as the Scripture states) and we can bounce ideas off each other when we have no one else.

Dear Heavenly Father, Thank You so much for the writing friends You have blessed me with. I pray that I would be able to help strengthen and improve their writing with fellowship, discussion and prayer as they do mine. Amen.

Ruth O’Neil has been a US freelance writer for 20-plus years. She sees everything as a writing opportunity in disguise, whether it is an interesting character, setting or situation. When she’s not writing or homeschooling her kids, Ruth spends her time quilting, reading, scrapbooking, camping and hiking with her family.

This article was an entry in MAI’s LittWorld 2015 Devotional Writing Contest.

Unconfined

A million motes of dust danced in the tropical sunlight streaming through the Amy Carmichael older picturewindow. On the bed, prostrate in the heat, an old woman lay watching them spin in the air. Then she sighed, reached for the paper lying beside her, took her pencil in aching fingers, and began to write.

For the last 20 years of her life, Amy Carmichael scarcely moved from that bed. Behind her lay decades of trailblazing missionary work in southern India—work that had made her world famous. But a fall in 1931, along with other health problems, made her an invalid. From then until her death in 1951, she was largely confined to one room.

Yet Amy’s influence did not end with her mobility. For Amy was a writer, and God wanted to make her words run where her legs could not.

Amy carmichael book and photoAlready an accomplished author (she published 21 books between 1895 and 1929), she continued writing despite nearly constant pain. She wrote at a table when she could, or on a writing stand in bed, or resting the paper on a blotter as she lay on her back. In the end she resorted to dictation because holding a pencil was too hard. But still the books came.

She produced seven more during her illness, and a further seven were compiled from her unpublished writings after her death. Altogether her books sold hundreds of thousands of copies and were translated into multiple languages. And they galvanized untold numbers with a passion to reach the world for Jesus.

Amy Carmichael’s body was confined, but what God wanted to do through her wasAmy Carmichael not. He had purposes for her life—and her writing—beyond anything she could see. I realize the same thing about my own life whenever someone tells me how the Christian magazine I edited back in the 1980s was a lifeline for their faith. They still remember helpful things people wrote back then, 30 years later.

Proverbs 19:21 says, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” When we submit our writing to Him, we never know what wonderful things He may do with it.

To echo a prayer Amy wrote in one of her books:

And now at His feet, who can use the least, I lay my writing again; for “to the Mighty One,” as the Tamil proverb says, “even the blade of grass is a weapon.”

Owen Salter contributed this article for MAI’s forthcoming devotional book, “Light for the Writer’s Soul: 100 devotions for global Christian writers”. The book will be released at LittWorld 2015 in Singapore this November. Owen will lead a workshop there on copy editing and be involved in a workshop, “Writing with a Local Accent.” There’s still time to sign up for LittWorld, our world conference of Christian publishing.

Owen Salter low resOwen Salter has worked as editor and writer for over 35 years. He lives in Melbourne, Australia, with his wife Jane, and together they have three children and four grandchildren. Owen is an MAI trainer and a member of the MAI-Asia board.