By Greg Burgess
The literature work in the CAR was a thriving enterprise which had been running for more than ten years. It employed twelve full-time workers. It served more than 200,000 believers in the Grace Brethren churches and beyond. With the war, the literature operations center was demolished and left abandoned. The stock was entirely destroyed except for a few salvaged books. Christians fled their homes, leaving behind possessions never to be regained. The war incapacitated the minimal existing economic structures, leaving the country flat on its back and its citizens without resources and skeptical about the future.
Left to pick up the pieces of the literature ministry is Pasteur Dounia Marc, an African man clinging to his vision of meeting the Christian literature needs of his country. Assuming that he alone can reproduce all the books that were published over the years in a manner adequate to meet the pressing needs of a populous church is unreasonable. More than 80 books in French and Sango must be laid out, reprinted and put back into peoples’ hands. Any American Christian publisher would shudder at the thought of having to reinvest the time, money and energy into such a project. However, that is precisely the current situation in the CAR.
Should you, an American Grace Brethren Christian, care about this? United Nations describes the country as “a silent crisis crying out for increased international donor support and media attention” (two out of six newborns die at birth, the number of HIV positive is double neighboring countries, etc.).
Patrick Johnstone of Operation World says that half of conversions to Christianity are linked to Christian literature, not to mention the spiritual growth of believers touched by God’s Spirit through the printed page.
Cracking the safe to get to the jewels means cracking open our piggy banks. You may say that the Central African Church has only to pull itself up by the bootstraps and make do with the paltry means at hand. The goal of this call to action to the American church is not to create dependence on Western financial aid.
My dream, and the hope of Pasteur Dounia Marc, is to have the literature work in the CAR adopt policies that will allow it to stand on its own two feet after this phase of rebuilding.
Greg Burgess, a Grace College graduate from the Columbus, Ohio, area, has worked since 1990 with Grace Brethren International Missions in a local church ministry in Macon, France, and with Christian publications in France, Africa and other countries.