Tuesday, July 28, 2009

20 Years of Writing Ministry

Last Sunday, I was carefully listening to the Adult Sunday school teacher as she shared about John Maxwell’s Law of Process when I was prompted to recall the year I started writing professionally. It was 1989 when I became one of the original staff of Aglow Christian Magazine, the first Christian lifestyle magazine in the Philippines sold in secular newsstands. Quickly, I calculated that it’s been 20 years ago, and that means this year is my 20th anniversary as a Christian writer.

A colleague was wowed when I told her about this realization. I was also caught by surprise. Until last Sunday, I wasn’t counting the years; I was just writing and writing, following God’s leading. Others may be amazed at such staying power, but others in the know are probably wondering how I’ve survived. Writers, like artists, don’t get rich (unless they’re a Stephen King or a local history textbook writer whose textbooks have been used for decades in most public and private schools in the country).

But I’d like to believe that God is using me to leave behind a “rich” legacy to my present and future readers. A college friend told me that to leave a legacy you have to plant a tree, bear children, and write a book. I am grateful that God has opened the doors for me and enabled me to write a short fiction book (on the theme of finding and receiving love through forgiveness); a Bible-based Values textbook for Grade 3 published by Glad Tidings Publishing (http://www.gtpicomm.com/) used in several private schools for the past 10 years; and another Bible-based Values curriculum for Voice Philippines (http://www.voice-phils.com/) which uses the material in partnership with churches in 115 public schools. The opportunity to shape young minds is an awesome privilege and a serious responsibility. I give all the glory to God for using me as His instrument to write all these and many other devotionals, articles, radio scripts, and translations.

But on the other side of the writer’s legacy is the writer’s process. God led me through many difficult, challenging phases of writing. From a staff writer, I moved on to freelance for both Christian and secular market, for both local and a few international publications. In my earlier days, I would write for free or for a measly honorarium. I would write and rewrite articles. I would imaginatively and diligently craft book proposals that would later be rejected and cause me to doubt my worth as a writer. I’ve battled with pride (especially when a peer was praised and my byline was erased) and impatience (often with the release of a payment). I’ve drunk cups of coffee and stayed up until dawn to beat deadlines. I’ve cried too many times asking for more rewarding projects and prayed almost all the time for wisdom and strength to write every assignment.

Yet, I continue. The words of God have been my comfort, hope, and direction. The God who called me to the ministry of writing reminds me of my calling. As the writer of 1 John says, “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete” (1 John 1:3-4).

Through my writings, I want others to know more about God and His grace through Jesus Christ. I want to encourage them to keep trusting God in their daily lives. I am still in the process of becoming a writer useful to God. So I keep on learning. I scavenge for books on writing from book sales; I browse websites on writing; I network with other writers; I attend seminars and workshops on writing and publishing; and yes, I am still hoping I could attend this year’s LittWorld, a Christian publishing conference to be held in Nairobi, Kenya from November 1-6.
Writers or not, we all are called to serve God in the ministry He has entrusted to us. May we all cooperate with God’s process and become a powerful tool in the hands of a mighty God. And at the end of each day and that final day, may we all say, it’s been a pleasure serving you, Lord.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Sausages, Franks, and the Favor of God

As my husband and I descend the stairs leading to the grocery, a chest freezer welcomes us, inviting us to peek and pick its choicest array of sausages and franks. We saw a variety of European sausages, but I particularly noticed those big, bulging, orange-brown tubes labeled “Hungarian sausages”. It’s been a while since we last had those imported sausages. For a second, my husband and I paused, looked and grinned at each other, then returned our gaze on the wieners. “No, it’s too expensive,” I said. So there, none of the sausages made it to our grocery cart.

Two days later, I decided to visit an old aunt whom I haven’t seen in perhaps a year. She was out of the house when I arrived, but my cousin and his wife were around to welcome me. My cousin, whom I haven’t seen in a while, excitedly told me the good news.

“God is so good! If it were not for Him, we would not have this new business.” I listened with curiosity, because just a year ago, this same cousin was in distress due to financial problems.

“We asked God for help, and one time, when she was praying,” he said, referring to his wife, “she opened the Bible and saw a verse in Deuteronomy 30 saying something about returning to the Lord and obeying Him so we can see our fortunes restored. We believed it and then God suddenly opened the doors for us.”

From fish processing, they diversified into high-end meat products. They are new in the field, but this early, their clients already include five-star hotels and a well-known supermarket. “We just started but how come we were able to get those clients? Only God could open these doors!”

I agreed and rejoiced with them, especially when I remembered how they struggled earlier and how God has rescued them now. “That’s the favor of God!” I exclaimed. God is gracious and merciful. And God’s favor includes opening doors that man can’t open and can’t close either.

Before I went out of their door that day, I also experienced an overflow of God’s favor.

“We’ll give you some of our products,” my cousin and his wife said. Then they took out a chunk of raw pink salmon and several smoked chicken breasts. In the next breath, he brought out sausages and franks and rattled off their names which to me sound foreign, except for cocktail franks. There’s kielbasa, chipolata, and chorizo Mexicano. All mine for free. I didn’t have to buy them from the grocery. Now that’s favor from God!

Whether you’re desperate and at the end of your rope (like my cousin was), or even when you’re not desperate (like we were) and just longing for something you haven’t tasted in a while, or wanting to attend the next LittWorld, God’s grace and favor is available through His Son Jesus Christ. God is gracious .