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.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Hearing the Call

By Lawrence Darmani, Ghana

It was at the 2004 LittWorld in Manila, the Philippines, and the workshop I attended was almost over. The resource person was about to wrap up the lively discussion, but I felt that something was amiss—like the uncertain moments before a downpour. That feeling emanated from this habit of mine that lures me to watch people at meetings from the corners of my eyes to see if their faces communicated anything. And I did see one forlorn face.

She had been mostly quiet during the session, but then she brightened up a little toward the end. Just before we broke, her hand shot up. We all sat back to listen.

“This is my first time here [at LittWorld] and I didn’t want to come in the first place because I had been in transition and didn’t know in what direction my life should go—but now I know!” She wiped her drenched eyes. I was amazed as I watched her pour out her heart to all of us strangers.

Coming from France, and having recently felt compelled to resign from a lucrative job, she sought to find out what God would have her do thenceforth. She clung to God’s promise that He had a plan for her life, to give her a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11). “All through this workshop I listened for God’s answer to the yearning in my heart,” she said, “and heard him loud and clear!” Then she delivered emphatically, “God is calling me into the literature ministry—I’m now convinced about it.”

I could tell from the brightness of her countenance that she had come to this realization like someone who had battled with the calling and finally responded positively.

In an environment like LittWorld the voice of the Lord gets clearer, calling men and women, confirming in their hearts and placing in their hands the tool for effective ministry—the printed word. In the coming few days at Littworld at the Brackenhurst Conference Centre, I believe the Lord will repeat His call to prepared hearts.

Photo: Lawrence Darmani (right) with Pearl Griffith (at his left) and other Caribbean participants at LittWorld 2006 in Brazil

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Family ties

"Please extend warmest Christian greetings from the Caribbean, and especially from me and from all the writers in this region," wrote author Pearl D. Griffith of Trinidad, who is unable to attend this year's LittWorld. "I cherish deeply every memory of the time shared with people from around the world, with their rich heritage of mixtures, textures and cultures, all celebrating The Written Word."

Over the years, a kind of Littworld "family" has evolved--men and women bonded by their shared experience at LittWorld and on a deeper level by the ministry of the written word. Pearl belongs to this "family," and we will miss her at LittWorld 2009.

If you, like Pearl, cannot attend LittWorld 2009 but would like to send greetings to the LittWorld family gathered in Nairobi, please use this blog or send me an email, We'll see that your greetings are shared with the group.

Man of Letters

When it comes to LittWorld, Barine Kirimi is our "man of letters." He writes the invitation letters for conference participants applying for Kenyan visas. (He is far more "important" than the immigration person described in a previous posting!)

Writing invitation letters is just one of Barine's many invaluable tasks as Chair of the Kenya Host Committee. He has led the committee's work, helped find local sponsors, looked into "freebies" for the welcome bag, and made arrangements with videographers, translators and local worship teams, among (many) other things.

Today he drove to Brackenhurst Conference Centre to go over last arrangements with the staff there. Barine does all this while directing the work of Evangel Publishing House in Nairobi. When you see Barine at LittWorld, be sure to thank this gracious "man of letters."

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

....And Counting

Lately we're getting questions about numbers. How many speakers will you have at LittWorld? a friend asked today. "At least 43," I said. How many publishing houses will be there? I hadn't counted yet, but more than 20 came immediately to mind, and I know there'll be more. What about French-speakers? someone e-mailed today. I thought of at least a dozen offhand.

Then, the most frequent question: How many people have registered so far? It looks like about 140. The numbers vary from day to day, as new people register and a few others drop out for health and other reasons.

Frankly, we've been so busy with preparations that we haven't stopped yet to do all the counting. That will come later. We just pray that every single person the Lord wants in Nairobi for LittWorld will in fact be there.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Most Powerful Person in the World? You Might Be Surprised

Who is the most powerful person in the world? A frequent-traveler friend asserts, "It's the person in passport control at the airport." You know the feeling. You've handed over your passport, and the frowning official slowly flips through the pages. Seconds drag like hours. The official holds a rubber stamp, which eventually circles above the page. Circling, and still circling. Finally, the stamp thuds onto the page. There is no better sound to the international traveler.

Around 150 Christian publishers, editors and writers from 30 countries will attend LittWorld in Kenya. Many will fly into Nairobi. We aren't expecting any visa problems. Yet please pray the "most powerful people in the world" in airport passport control will also be the friendliest people in the world, and that anyone needing a tourist visa will get one.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

MAI “Ambassador to Cameroon”

By John Maust

“Do it lively! Put some life!” Who could say, no, to Dr. Magdalene Awa of Cameroon, leading a chorus at LittWorld 2006 in Brazil. Even the most traditional (stuffy?) among us began bouncing and turning to the African rhythm. (See this at )

Dr. Awa is one of the most unique, not to mention gifted (and exuberant), people I’ve met at LittWorld. The married mother of 6 earned master’s and doctoral degrees in History. She is a published expert on African family and gender issues, and helped start a female Christian publisher and writers group.

Several years ago, Dr. Awa urged us to hold the coming LittWorld in Africa, and she welcomed MAI to her country any time—dubbing herself our “ambassador to Cameroon.”

Dr. Awa and her husband have spent recent months in the U.S. visiting family and getting medical care. Earlier this week she called, wanting the latest news from MAI and LittWorld. She may not attend LittWorld in Nairobi, due to health and other issues. But her heart and prayers will be with us. When we sing and worship at LittWorld, let’s “do it lively” in Dr. Awa’s honor.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Power of the Written Word

By John Maust

Earlier this week we received an unexpected LittWorld scholarship gift from our friend Mary. "I soooo wanted to attend LittWorld," she said, "but it has not worked out to my great disappointment. God has blessed us with some extra this month, so at least I can help someone else get there."

Mary's gift encouraged us, and so did her reminder about the power of the written word. "I recently nonchalantly gave a retired pastor friend of mine a wonderful reflective book by Joan Chittister, The Gift of Years: Growing Old Gracefully," Mary wrote. "He later told me that it literally changed his life.

"He was in a depression about retirement, and God used Chittister's words to challenge and redirect him. That author will never know about this one pastor who was touched by her writing, years after her book's publication. So, don't get discouraged or grow weary...because you never how God will use even one author's words in his/her town, village or country."

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Building Trust, and the People You'll Meet at LittWorld

By John Maust

“I don’t believe a word you’re saying.” Ever heard someone say that? Maybe an angry father to his child, a teacher to a misbehaving student, or sweethearts in a quarrel.

But what if you’re an author or publisher, and one of your readers says it? Nothing undermines publishing impact like a lack of credibility.

I’ve been thinking about this since a recent visit to Cambodia and Fount of Wisdom Publishing House. During a lunch meeting, director Steve Westergren asked his staff, “What is your dream for the publishing house? “

Three of the six said simply, “We want to gain people’s trust.” It was a praiseworthy goal, but a little surprising—given they could have said something like, “Sell a million books,” or “Win hundreds of converts to Christ.”

Afterward, I asked Steve about this. Raised in Cambodia to missionary parents who had to leave during the years of war, Steve said political lies and brutality dating to the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime created a popular attitude of distrust.

So, it’s no surprise Cambodian readers may not necessarily believe everything in print, Steve said. Fount of Wisdom is working to overcome this mentality by publishing quality Christian books that build trust with readers through a message of Truth and hope.

Steve hopes to take a couple of his staff to Nairobi. What’s so fascinating about LittWorld is the opportunity to visit with people like Steve and his team, Christian publishing pioneers who face more difficult challenges than many of us know.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Kindred Soul at LittWorld

By Marlene Legaspi-Munar
used by permission, originally posted on the author's blog

One of the pleasant surprises of participating in international gatherings is finding someone who can also speak your language. The following day after I prayed during the opening session [of LittWorld 2006] in my native Tagalog, I heard a feminine voice greet me from behind. There were only two of us from the Philippines attending this LittWorld, the other one being Mr. Ramon Rocha of OMF Literature. Who then could she be?

I turned around to see a lady beaming, obviously in a merry mood, and seeing and hearing her made me want to hug her. What a delight to find a kindred soul in a foreign land! It turns out that Ms. Miriam Adeney is a board member of Media Associates International and is an anthropologist, author, professor, editor, and mentor of Christian writers. She spent some years in the Philippines as a missionary and that's how she learned how to speak Tagalog.

For the next days, we occasionaly shared meals together and discussed issues in the Philippines like the diaspora of millions of Filipinos working overseas (which we have popularly called OFWs--Overseas Filipino Workers) and its economic and social impact to our society. Attending LittWorld and engaging in conversations with people who have much to share has stimulated me into thinking how I can contribute to my society through writing. This is one of the blessings of attending LittWorld.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Coming to the party?

By John D. Maust

Holding LittWorld is a bit like sending invitations to a big party, and then wondering how many people will come. We've been planning for 150 men and women from 40 countries, and I'm praying and trusting we'll hit that number. But one never knows for sure, especially since some people wait to confirm until the proverbial last minute. This can be a little unnerving.

I wish you could see the steady inflow of emails from publishers, editors and writers interested in the conference. One person said she prayed and fasted for a week for the funds to travel to Nairobi. A psychologist who attended MAI's writer workshop in Singapore last week just wrote to say, "I'm coming to Nairobi." A journalist chronicling human-rights abuses in Zimbabwe is trying to arrange travel documents to come.

The program for LittWorld 2009 shapes up as one of the strongest yet. So, I hope plenty of publishing professionals take advantage by coming to the "party." Just waiting for you to say, like my friend in Singapore, "I'll see you in Nairobi!"

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