Friday, November 13, 2009

Bind Us Together, Lord

The LittWorld 2009 conference in Kenya is now history. The nearly 150 Christian publishers, editors and writers from 36 countries have returned home. But they take with them fresh vision, sharpened skills and new friendships for the work ahead. The following are exceprts from Nigerian journalist Lekan Otufodunrin's impressions of LittWorld.

There are indeed many Christian media conferences organized regularly worldwide. But for me, especially as a print-media person, I am not sure how many compare with LittWorld by Media Associates International.

One cannot but be lost finding the right words to describe the conference, considering among other things, the large number of participants from all corners of the world, the knowledge shared and the lasting impact on the life and ministry of those present.

This probably explains why the end of the conference evoked all kinds of emotion. "I had looked forward to the conference," said Julie Ackerman Link in her workshop on the spirituality of editing. "I have really been blessed and can't imagine that it is all ending too soon."

As we sang the popular song, "Bind us together, Lord, bind us together with a chord that cannot be broken" on the last night, one could feel the spirit of love and unity permeating the meeting. Participants held on tightly to one another as they pledged in their hearts to work together to spread the gospel through the written word in their corners of the world when they returned home.

There was the symbolic lighting of the candles by participants, with all the lights switched off to signify our desire to keep shining the light of the gospel in the dark areas of the world. All participants kept their candles to serve as a reminder.
The success of the conference is a big plus for Africa. It is the first time the conference was held on this continent. There were reasons for apprehension considering the massive logistics required to host such a meeting with participants coming from around the world.
It was indeed a big relief that Africa, by God's grace, lived up to the expectations. As the chairman of the local organizing team, Barine Kirimi of Evangel Publishing, assured on opening night, "All will be well," it was indeed a huge success. It's not certain where the next LittWorld conference will be held. Wherever the MAI Board decides to hold the conference, it will be my pleasure to be there to listen to the various testimonies of what the Lord has done in the Christian publishing world.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Lipstick and Inspiring Christian Books

Dawn H. Jewell

Remember Avon? Think lipstick and perfume. When my husband was only 4 or 5 years old, he wanted to be an Avon lady. He fondly recalls visiting his grandma's house when the Avon lady rang the bell to sell the latest cosmetics. Grandma always served cake, coffee and other treats to the Avon lady, which my husband loved. She and the Avon lady chatted and laughed together as my husband savored his cake. What a great job she has, he thought!

Back to present day Avon in Brazil. Thanks to the creative marketing of Mundo Cristao publishers (MC), Brazilian women are ordering their cosmetics and quality Christian books and Bibles all via the Avon catalog. In only two years, women have purchased more than 1.2 million MC products via Avon.

"Go where the readers are," exhorted Claudinei Franzini, marketing director of MC, to this morning's audience. Every three months, Claudinei and his staff pray over which new books they present to Avon. Today more than 22 MC titles grace the Avon catalog.

"We need the courage to dream," Claudinei told the 150 men and women here. As they prepare to scatter across the globe to their home countries, pray they have the courage to dream and strength to act on what they've learned here.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

"Kuishi kwingi ni kuona mengi"

Marlene Legaspi-Munar, Philippines

On my way to LittWorld aboard Kenya Airways, I browsed through Msafiri, the airline’s in-flight publication and found this Swahili saying from an article: Kuishi kwingi ni kuona mengi. It means, “When you live a long life, you see and learn a lot.” The author of the article highlighted the idea that learning and using every experience is important if we are to enrich our lives.

I believe here at LittWorld that is what is happening--learning is taking place through the general sessions, panel discussions, one-on-one consultations, interaction among peers and workshops. There are many interesting workshops being offered here and the participants, including myself, have found ourselves in a dilemma of choosing which workshops to attend because they are being held simultaneously.

I found a happy compromise by first attending the ones which I think would be very helpful in my current writing situation. Secondly, I chose to attend those workshops which I am interested in and yet have little knowledge of (remember the idea of learning new things). And thirdly, I choose not to attend at all even though I really want to, and still learn something.

How do I do it? One eager Indonesian woman, Windi wanted to attend the workshop on "Combining Fact, Fiction, Fun and Fantasy in Children’s Books" which I was attending. I, on the other hand, wanted also to attend the session on "Writing Biographies" which she was planning to attending. Both workshops were being held simultaneously. Her solution? We swapped notes at the end of the workshops!In another instance, I missed a workshop on developing Bible curriculum, but the resource person, Esther Zimmerman, was only too happy to copy her Powerpoint presentation onto my flash drive.

I know in both situations the dynamics would have been different if I had sat and actively took part in the workshops. But I am also reminded that learning doesn’t just take place in a one hour and a half seminar or workshop. We learn what we can at the moment. Beyond LittWorld, we will still keep learning.

A team of global voices

Dawn H. Jewell

As a group from nearly 40 nations, our mealtimes here are a taste of the cultural diversity we'll enjoy in heaven, on top of the Kenyan cuisine and luscious tropical fruit.

Dining together at one table may be a South African novelist and scriptwriter, a Filipino journalist, an Indonesian missionary writer to the Philippines, a Tanzanian retired Anglican bishop who wants to write fiction, and many others.

This shared fellowship and exchange of ideas from around the globe, inspires and sharpens vision. This morning after hearing the session “Hope for Africa: What writers and publishers can do,” a Nigerian writer told me, “I want to be a voice of God in Africa.” He recently completed a manuscript of scripturally-based motivational writings.

Others here sorely need encouragement. One woman I talked with is the sole paid staff and manager, publishing books for a major language group. Stretched by limited time, resources and old equipment, she is exhausted and waiting for God to move.

Yet others are here to share years of wisdom with those less experienced. Publishing and marketing directors from Russia, Brazil, the Philippines and the UK offer tools and next steps. “We all play different parts on a team,” said Geraldine Shepherd, a human resource expert from the UK. She was teaching this afternoon on how to lead a productive team, a group that achieves a common purpose.

The ministry of the written word requires a global team of voices in each country and language group for the common purpose of feeding spiritually hungry readers. Please keep praying that LittWorld nourishes the men and women who will create the words that feed their people.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Eating Words

LittWorld participants are still talking about Sunday night's powerful keynote message by Ambassador Bethuel Kiplagat (photo). This committed Christian and Kenyan career diplomat has focused especially on efforts to bring peace and reconciliation in conflict zones like Sudan, Somalia andMozambique.

In his home area of Kenya, the phrase for meaningful conversation or discussion means literally "eating words." It's not just "talking." He encouraged us Christian publishers and writers to give readers words worth "eating"--words that nourish, build up, and benefit society.

Not only that, Amb. Kiplagat said what keeps him from becoming corrupted by power is his daily habit of "eating the Word," systematically reading through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. It's refreshing to see a career diplomat who is living his Christian faith with integrity, and who is waging peace in some of Africa's most conflicted areas.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Day One Has Come

Today is Day One of LittWorld 2009. The last of the 150 or so participants are gathering from around the world on the green slopes of Brackenhurst Conference Centre outside Nairobi, Kenya. A few people hit the inevitable travel "snags"--some of them more problematic than others. So, please pray everyone makes it as planned.

At this breakfast hour, rain is falling. An Indonesian editor named Wendy just told me it rained the entire week before her wedding in Jakarta, so she prayed for sun on the day of the ceremony. Sun emblazoned her wedding day and garden-party reception. So, I asked her to pray for similar "results" here in Kenya!

I wish you could hear some of the fascinating conversations going on between Christian wordsmiths and publishers from around the world.

Friday, October 23, 2009

An Open Door

By Lawrence Darmani

An African proverb says the future belongs to those who prepare for it. And I say LittWorld constitutes an open door for those who look for a door through which to enter. I attended one LittWorld looking for one such door.

When I met Mr. Tony Wales in a consultation session, he listened as I rambled about this novel I had written and how I believed it had something meaty in it and how I wondered if a publishing house in Oxford, England, would want to have a look at it? Did they publish works of fiction containing events from a remote African village that might have a wider appeal? How about if the novel, though Christian in storyline, could comfortably be read by nonChristians in the marketplace?

Till this day I’ve wondered why Tony Wales smiled when I concluded my rather feeble discussion on a novel that was set in an African village, but that smile pumped confidence and courage in me. Yet, all he said was, “Let me have a look at it.” He made no promises except that he would carry the manuscript to England, have it evaluated, and get back to me on the matter—which he did.

All that is history now. The manuscript landed on the table of Pat Alexander, co-founder of Lion Publishing (now Lion Hudson Plc) and a passionate editor. The correspondence in my files attests to a memorable LittWorld-style working relationship through writing and re-writing that finally produced the novel, Grief Child. Going on to win the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Africa and now selected as a Ghanaian textbook in English Literature along with Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, the novel has accounted for itself, I believe.

Hundreds of such open-door stories abound with LittWorld attendees over the years. Every LittWorld, I repeat, is an open door, and open doors are for those who look out for them.