Asia, a continent I’d never really planned to visit! But this year the opportunity arose, and, as some of you may recall, this was my year for the word “brave”, so I took the bull by the horns to plan a trip across the Pacific. The occasion: the LittWorld conference for Christian writers and editors, offered every three years by MAI (Media Associates International). This year it was in Singapore, that amazing city-state that is an island not far from the equator.
Previous to the conference, MAI president John Maust shared his expectations: “At LittWorld 2018, global publishers and writers will look at fresh new ways to help today’s readers see and apply the power of the Bible in their everyday lives and to know the Word made flesh.”
After one flight to San Francisco and a six-hour layover, I set off for 16 hours across the Pacific. The longest night ever, that I can remember. Time for three meals, a good snooze, and four movies! (Including Paul: Apostle of Christ) Shortly before we arrived, a blood-red sun appeared on the horizon in the midst of a jet-black sky… surreal!
Writers, editors, graphic artists, publishers and more from 52 countries gathered to share, learn, network, and be challenged to use their gifts and knowledge to reach out to even more with a message of hope, the Good News. Some participants arrived from “closed” countries which made their attendance somewhat risky. Fiction, non-fiction, cartoons, film, and poetry were represented. Journalist Lekan Otufodunrin from Nigeria spoke on writing for Internet, as well.
Plenary sessions included speakers from quite a number of nations. One that made a special impact on us all was by Ramez Atallah, of the Bible Society of Egypt. He shared how, after the shocking news of the decapitation of 21 Christian Egyptian workers in Libya in 2015, they were led to publish more than 1.5 million tracts with a reflection on the tragedy. The reality of modern-day martyrdom, and the unswerving faith of those men, spoke with a powerful message to both Christians and non-Christians around the world.
Conference-goers could choose a track of their interest to focus on. For the first time there was a screen-writers track, led by Simon David Hunter.
In the magazine track, magazine editors covered quite a range in terms of their public and more. A Kenyan couple spoke of their work with a young people’s magazine with a distribution of 30,000, which is distributed in many secondary schools. At the other end of the spectrum, Gökhan Talas from Turkey publishes a magazine in a country of 70 million inhabitants and only 7,000 evangelicals, so he seeks to include topics of general interest which include culture and the ancient Christian history of the country. Daniela Encheva from Bulgaria started a magazine for women with small offerings given with much sacrifice in a time of economic crisis.
How can our writing stand out from the rest? The emphasis of accomplished writer Miriam Adeney was not on flashy style, but on having a Christian worldview that adds freshness and hope. Otherwise, she warned, our message may sound like everything else out there. Her own work is proof of the pudding. Her book “Kingdom without Borders: The Untold Story of Global Christianity” has been recognized as a gem even by secular publishers, and shares touching stories of what God is doing in the church “in every nook and cranny of the globe” as the focus shifts from the European and North American church to the third world. In the closing ceremony, Miriam was rewarded with MAI’s Lifetime Training Award for “her stellar equipping and encouragement of writers in multiple nations across more than four decades”.
In the past I had taken a workshop with Jeanette Windle, whose riveting novels set in different countries involve guerillas, drug mafias, terrorists and more. This time I attended her non-fiction workshop, as this area is more down my alley. She has written the testimony of the mother of the Amish schoolhouse shooter, and how the forgiveness of the affected community helped her heal. During my trip to Asia I was privileged to read All Saints, the story of a dying Anglican church in Tennessee which was unexpectedly revived with the arrival of Burmese immigrants from the Karen ethnic group. The case was one of such hope that it became a movie as well.
The sampling above represents only a small number of the options available at LittWorld. Yet undoubtedly most attendees would agree that most important of all was the opportunity to meet others from different nations, different ministries, different experiences and perspectives. From each we could learn and be encouraged.
Among others, I was excited to meet two people whose names I knew from reading Our Daily Bread: Tim Gustafson and Amy Boucher Pye. I always like to remember what name goes with the initials on my daily devotionals!
No less important are the many others I met, including a Russian woman and two Laotian women who took a walk with me to the beach, where after the drizzle stopped, a spectacular rainbow delighted us. Sisterhood across cultural “barriers”… I was touched when the Laotians commiserated with me over the loss of my husband; one had been widowed much younger than myself.
All of this took place minutes from the beach in beautiful, tropical, multicultural Singapore, with its four official languages and a rainbow of religions. The Singaporean team of LittWorld, including pastors, publishers, and writers, did an excellent job of hosting the event. During morning devotionals, songs were projected in both English and Chinese. At the closing banquet, many attendees showed up in colorful garb from their native countries. Many different tongues could be heard in the dining hall and elsewhere. Yet in that diversity, the unity of Christ’s people focused on similar goals made for magnificent harmony.
As several mentioned… it was a foretaste of heaven.