International Christian Publishing: Dull or Exciting?
It was 1991. My wife and I traveled from Norfolk, Nebraska to Joplin, Missouri to attend the funeral for Don DeWelt. Don’s son Chris and I had served together several years as missionaries in Chile before returning to the U.S. Chris stepped into his father’s role of leading College Press Publishing Company, and I was teaching missions at Nebraska Christian College. After Don’s funeral, Chris opened a conversation with me.
“I’ve been thinking about international publishing. I want you to direct a new ministry that would help missionaries get books in the languages of their fields.”
Does that sound dull to you? I was excited. Let me tell you why.
Off the top of his head, Chris began telling me of one place after another around the world that needed Christian books in languages other than English. I scribbled notes on some scratch paper.
“Ajai Lall needs books in Hindi. With the iron curtain coming down, there’s going to be a huge need for books in Russian. TCM is teaching leaders in a dozen Eastern European languages. Jerry Thaprom was just in my office asking for help with books he’s writing in Rawang. LaVerne Morse called the other day. He needs help with texts for a Bible College in Burma. There’s a man in India with his doctorate in Tamil literature who’s been translating College Press books into Tamil for several years, but he needs help getting them printed . . . .”
My pen raced across the paper. Chris raced ahead with the possibilities. He reeled off names and specific requests of missionaries and national church workers in SE Asia, China, Russia, the Middle East, Haiti and Latin America. By the end of our conversation, I had a list of 23 different places around the world needing help to publish books in at least as many languages. There would be plenty to keep me busy.
Then I asked, “But what kind of help do they need?”
I remember Chris explaining that publishing was much more than printing. He showed me that publishing is a 7-step process:
Writing – Translating – Editing – Formatting – Funding – Printing – Distribution
“In most of the cases I know,” Chris said, “they have already done or are capable of doing the lion’s share of the work. They are translating or they are writing original material in their languages. And there’s no need to set up printshops, with all the headaches that go with that. There are commercial printers near them who can do the printing.”
“So what do they need from us?” I asked.
“Some will need help finding a translator, or acquiring permission from a copyright holder, or other aspects of the process. But the big bottleneck is the Funding step.”
Chris and I knew from experience that a missionary’s budget is usually stretched too far with requests for help with an unending stream of urgent needs. But some things are urgent, and some things are important. Often the urgent gets attention while the important gets delayed. Publishing books is a strategic part of discipling all nations, so it feels more important, but maybe less urgent. Publishing requires patience, skill, and money. Most missionaries heartily agree the need is huge; they just need help to keep it a priority, assure the quality is good, and pay the printer.
The list I scribbled that day has grown into a database of 1500 publishing projects in 80-some languages. In our 25-plus-year history, as a facilitator of international Christian publishing, Literature And Teaching Ministries has helped complete over 1100 of those projects in 79 languages.
Our narrow focus is to help publish Christian books in heart languages. So LATM serves as a bridge between need and resource. On the need side of that bridge, we come alongside cross-cultural workers, develop a trust relationship, and listen as they describe their publishing needs. On the resource side, we “bang the drum” on behalf of those workers, inviting churches and individuals to partner financially in this strategic effort to place Bible-based, Christ-centered, heart language books into the hands of seekers, disciples, and church leaders in a wide variety of Great Commission ministries.
LATM is privileged to be directly involved in some exciting ventures, giving strategic help to Christ’s Kingdom workers as they fulfill His Great Commission of discipling all nations.
In the former Soviet Union, for example, LATM has assisted with over 200 Russian book projects. Dr. Sergei Golovin is our partner in Ukraine, and Constantine Nazarov in Moscow. Sergei has a remarkable apologetics ministry, publishing books from Answers in Genesis, IVP, Zondervan, Standard Publishing, College Press, and many others. He has recently undertaken publishing a complete creation-based science curriculum. We’re helping him with that. That’s exciting.
We’ve helped Constantine with such hefty tomes as Edersheim’s Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Reese’s New Testament History: Acts, Smith’s The Pentateuch and North’s A History of the Church: From Pentecost to Present. A current project is the four volume Elders Series from College Press. These books get into the hands of Russian speakers all across the former Soviet Union – places where you and I will never go – challenging their worldviews, encouraging them in their walk with Christ, and equipping them to lead Christ’s church. That’s exciting!
Since the mid-90s, LATM has assisted with over 50 of the textbooks TCM International Institute (Sergei and Constantine are graduates) uses in their graduate level courses to train strategic leaders from many Eastern European and Central Asian countries. LATM gets to help in this way. That’s exciting!
Since our beginning we have partnered with Central India Christian Mission. We’ve assisted with 80 publishing projects in Hindi, most of which are not translations, but written originally in Hindi by Dr. Ajai Lall or his wife, Dr. Indu Lall. We have partnered with Drs. Jay and Romola Henry of Mid-India Christian Services, Bethlehem, most recently in publishing the Pictorial New Testament: Acts. Evangelists and preachers throughout Central and Northern India use these books to present the gospel and help young Christians to grow in their faith. That’s exciting!
I have the privilege to know two great workers whose hearts belong to Haiti. Dr. Etienne Prophete has led Haitian Christian Mission for decades, and sees the strategic need to produce Bible study and ministry texts in French for Haitian church leaders. LATM has helped publish eight different titles in French. Amber Pierre was raised in Haiti, speaks Creole like a Haitian, and has a particular interest in the language. LATM has published six of her translations, and we eagerly await number seven, Beth Moore’s Esther: It’s Tough Being a Woman. One of the exciting things about helping publish books like this is that it isn’t for one missionary or for one mission. These books are available to all Christian workers throughout Haiti!
A few years ago, we partnered with SIM Ethiopia in their gigantic project to publish 40 different titles for distribution to 10,000 Amharic speaking pastors throughout Ethiopia! We helped with one of those 40 titles, Mark Moore’s The Chronological Life of Christ. Just think, we helped put Mark Moore’s teaching on the Life of Christ into the hands of 10,000 Ethiopian church leaders. That’s exciting!
We partnered with Wing Wong to publish Robert Lowery’s Revelation’s Rhapsody in Chinese. Our Spanish project coordinators, Ralph and Cindy Shead, finished a Spanish translation of Jack Cottrell’s The Faith Once for All. We helped Safaa Fahmi in Egypt publish Dr. H. Lynn Gardner’sWhere is God When We Suffer? in Arabic, a timely book for Egyptian Christians in what they are going through.
I could tell of our partnership in ongoing publishing efforts in Bangladesh with Mawia Chhakchhuak, or with Paulus Trimanto Wibowo in Indonesia, or with Paul Highfield in Maasailand, or with Rapha House to put Denver Sizemore’s work into Khmer, or with over a dozen other workers in various places around the globe.
Plus we are using digital publishing, including Spanish books for Kindle, print-on-demand for books in many languages for U.S. readers, partnering with well-placed workers in the Muslim world on a smartphone app in Arabic, and PDF and audio file downloads of books in a language of Central Asia.
LATM’s Director of Development, Doug Reed, has a succinct way of explaining the big picture of what we do:
- The projects range in scope from simple booklets in Khmer to Pastors Book Sets in Amharic to K-12 science textbooks in Russian.
- The readers of these books range in demographics from children enjoying a coloring book in Spanish to tribespeople singing from a hymnal in Burmese to seminary students studying church history in Polish.
- The books range in topic from a PBT literacy primer in Vidunda to an encouragement to sexual purity in Serbian to a life of Christ in Hindi.
- They range in format from smartphone apps and eBooks to paperbacks in all sizes to hardbound library editions.
- They range in per unit “cost” from under $1.00 to over $10.00.
- Donations to support these projects range from pennies to $20 each month (Book Club) to up to a $50,000 donation to Momentum projects.
- All of that, and they only do one thing: Teach.
Unlike publishers who sell books in order to have revenue to continue, LATM is a support-based ministry which partners with workers on the field to allow them to produce the books they need for strategic ministry efforts. Donations of all sizes are needed, and can be designated for particular book projects.
We have a list of “projects feasible to complete in the calendar year.” For 2015 that list contains over 100 book titles in 27 languages. Our goal for 2015 is to complete 82 of them: 70 in printed form, and 12 in electronic format. Our 2015 Publishing Plan and information about the Book Club and TwoMillionbooks 2015 are available on this website.
Ultimately, LATM is not about books, although that’s the easily-measured result of what we do. And even that is exciting. We don’t exist just to produce books, but to help people of all cultures and languages FIND, FOLLOW and SERVE Jesus Christ. Now that’s truly exciting!