COVID-19 and Missions: What I’ve learned so Far

As a freelance author, I’ve felt led to tackle the issue of COVID-19’s effect on missionary work overseas, particularly in Japan, Italy, and Spain. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to write about missionary work and glad for the editors who are taking a chance on this subject.

I will say that I’m surprised that Christianity Today is not writing more about this (I’m available, if you’re curious, Andy Olsen). CT is the go-to resource for Christian news and this is a topic that is severely underserved. I hope that gets rectified.

At any rate, I want to share a few things that I’ve learned so far in my research:

  1. In many ways, missionaries are facing the same issues we’re facing in North America. I know a college teacher in South Korea and another in Lithuania. Both have had to move online and some courses are just not available right now. This is the same thing facing San Diego State University, UCSD, and just about every other school in America.
  2. In some countries, it really is that bad. Near Madrid, Spain, they really are using a mall ice skating rink for body storage, and the missionaries I’ve met there really are locked down in ways that we haven’t seen in the USA, even in California where I live.
  3. One of the biggest areas where missionaries are being impacted is in funding. Because they had to shutter their English classes at a local café (that they manage), Dale and Karen Viljoen have had to turn to other funding sources (supporters) to keep the ministry alive until the classes can resume. Another family, hoping to start a ministry in Italy this summer, now finds themselves stuck at 80% funding because they can’t travel to churches to find new supporters.
  4. Glimmers of hope abound, but it might be awhile before we hear about them in the hardest hit areas of the globe. People are really struggling in Italy and Spain. These are places that don’t have evangelical churches to serve as a reference point, not that they can do that at the moment at any rate. Still, in Japan, Dale and Karen have found reasons to be hopeful, and we should look for those reasons too, whatever our situation. I just saw a post from some missionary friends in Lithuania that was full of gratitude despite a recent decision to extend that country’s lockdown until at least Easter Monday.
  5. Everyone overseas right now needs our prayer. I know…you need prayer for your family’s well-being too. Maybe you’ve lost a loved one. Even still, we are blessed beyond comprehension as believers by the sheer fact of our belief. People are dying in neighborhoods that have no evangelical gospel witness, and I hope that breaks your heart like it’s breaking mine. Pray.

As I get word that my articles are being published in the various news outlets, I’ll share them out on Facebook, Twitter, etc. In the meantime, please pray, and if you give, try to continue doing so if at all possible. Give more if you can. Keep overseas work going.

You can read more about why I chose this topic on THIS BLOG POST.

Until the next update…


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First Fiction Credit

The Gem CoverI’m so excited, and grateful, that my first fiction piece just appeared in The Gem, a take home paper for adults in the CoG denomination. Finding a place for short stories in the Christian market is difficult at best, so I’m grateful that my story, “The Roofer,” found a home in only two tries.

From my cover letter that sold the story: The Roofer,” is about a Christian businessman helping a homeless man after prompting by the Holy Spirit. The story will inspire The Gem readers to listen to those nudges from the Holy Spirit that we all get, but sometimes ignore. The message of this story is, “Stop ignoring the Spirit!”

If you have the April 8 issue of The Gem, take a look at “The Roofer!”

2018 Resource Investments

IMG_7389Since making a decision on Christmas of 2015 that I would become serious about my writing, I’ve made it a point to make one writing investment each winter. For the last few years, that investment has meant buying a few writing books. Here’s what I bought for Christmas of 2017:

  1. Interzone:
  • One of my goals is to get published in a science fiction magazine this year. Part of making that goal a reality is to fully understand what gets published in science fiction magazines. Side note: in the fall of 2017, I ordered a combo pack of Analog and Asimov magazines. You can do the same at this LINK). Link to purchase Interzone below:

  1. Christian Writer’s Market Guide:
  • I purchased the Writer’s Digest Writer’s Market Guide in September and was sorely disappointed in the religious section. Only a handful of periodicals were represented. I didn’t want to buy yet another market guide, but I felt like I had no real choice in the matter. I write religious articles and stories for the most part, so I need a good market guide for that industry.
  • Also, I have purchased the Christian Writer’s Market Guide several years ago when Sally Stuart used to publish it. It was a good publication then, and I am making an assumption that the agent Steve Laube has continued that quality as he oversees its publication. I like it so far. Link to purchase below:

  1. Writer’s Digest
  • I’ll be honest, I bought this because Andy Weir, who I listened to in person, is on the cover. He had some great stories about his writing career, so I want more. I don’t subscribe to this magazine (might start soon), but I usually buy the first issue of the year. Link to purchase a sample copy at this LINK:
  1. Crafting Novels and Short Stories:
  • I’ve submitted several stories in the past, and it’s only recently that I realized that I need some serious work on my short story craft. Honestly, my book-length fiction needs work too. I’ve become fairly good at writing articles and essays (enough to have over a dozen credits), but I want more.

While that’s it for now, don’t be surprised if I update this list from time to time in 2018. In making my writing more of a priority, I will be adding the resources to make it a successful expenditure of my time. Check back for more!

The Importance of Theology

You’ll find my first real foray into theological writing in the 23 July, 2017 issue of the Lookout (pictured below). While I have many writing credits and a Master in Arts degree from seminary (Liberty University School of Divinity), I haven’t been able to break into theology outside of preaching. Finally, that drought has ended.

The reason I’m most grateful for the opportunity is because I value scripture study far more than I value writing itself. If you have to pick between reading something I wrote (or anyone else for that matter) and something the apostles wrote or Jesus said, then pick the latter every time.

Even so, my heart’s desire is to write about the words the prophets and apostles left us, to dig deep into their lives and words and pull out what they intended for their first readers and what God intends for us now.

If you have access to a copy of the Lookout, then I highly recommend all of the articles in the 23 July issue. For the rest of you, you’ll find my article on Jesus’ rescue plan below. Enjoy and be encouraged!

Closing 2016 and Opening 2017

In December of 2015, I decided to officially make an effort to be a writer. Not just a guy who had a couple of publishing credits (I had five credits outside of a volunteer stint at the Sherwood Voice), but a writer with an extensive list of bylines. Also, because I was a freelancer, I wanted to have a wide array of credits in 2016.

I did two things to push me in the right direction for 2016. First, I started journaling. Writing about my writing helped me see my progress. Secondly, I set a goal: 16 in ’16!

Neither of those worked as I planned. I didn’t journal everyday, though I did journal often and it has shown me things like how much time I waste chasing ideas that don’t matter. It also helped me find my writing voice. That voice has started to become a solid part of who I am. For that, I’m grateful.

The goal of 16 credits didn’t happen, not by half.

This doesn’t mean that 2016 was a bust though. I got seven credits last year. I’m so happy with that! By pushing myself, I got more credits in one year than in the entirety of my effort since 2000 when I got my first byline. I’ll take the seven and run with it. I also made more money this year than ever before, though it was really not that much.

So, as the clock turns over on 2016 and my writing starts a new year, I need to decide what 2017 will hold.

First and foremost, it will hold a closer relationship with God. I wrote about this in my main blog post on 2017, but it bears repeating…none of the following goals matter if my faith is not strengthened in the coming year.

Instead of making a 17-in-17 goal, I am making a goal of hitting certain wickets on my path as a writer. For example, in 2016, I got published by EFCA Today and EFCA Now, both periodicals with (you guessed it!) the Evangelical Free Church of America. This year, now that we’re members of a Southern Baptist Church, I want to focus on getting published by an SBC publication. I have already started the process, but more details will have to wait.

Another goal in 2017 is to increase the exposure that my writing receives. Here’s another example: In 2016, I was published in many smaller-circulation e-zines or periodicals. This year, I want to increase my writing exposure by going for magazines like, On Mission, Christianity Today, Outreach Magazine, and the like. These are bigger names in publishing, and I’ll probably get rejected a lot, but I’m used to it (been getting rejection letters since 1999!

The final goal of 2017, and the biggest one as far as I’m concerned in writing, is getting an agent and/or a book deal. Since the book is still in planning and writing, I don’t know yet if I’m going to sell it to the publisher directly or get an agent for it. Of course, it would always be cool to say, “well, my agent is working on…” but I want to do what is right for the book. If the book can be sold directly, then I’ll probably go that route.

Here’s to 2017. While I didn’t reach all of my writing goals in 2016, I made a huge splash with the number of times my writing appeared in periodicals. I believe 2017 holds even more promise!

My one and only Sci-Fi Credit

I have always dreamt of being a sci-fi writer. Actually, I already am a sci-fi writer. I’ve got thousands of words written about science fiction characters, planets, what have you. Maybe someday I’ll share them with you, but I’ve stepped back from sci-fi for awhile to focus on writing from the back pew.

This post is not about being a sci-fi writer, however, but being a sci-fi author…meaning that I’ve got published credits. To that end, I do have one sci-fi credit. I wrote a piece that I submitted to Ambitions Magazine (it was also submitted to Nth Degree and rejected). Sadly, that magazine isn’t in production any longer.

Anyway, I not only got the below piece published (for which I’m grateful), but I got paid $2.00 for my efforts! Funny thing is, I never cashed the check. The article appeared in 2004. Sometimes I go a little sideways with my theology, but just remember it’s a speculative piece. Enjoy!

Mars and the Garden of Eden Ambitions Mag

Query Rejections

It’s September 3rd, and two days ago I got yet another rejection. I should be happy for the rejection email. Many times, editors don’t say anything at all. At least my most recent rejection, a piece I pitched to the magazine The Banner, came back with a personal reply from the new editor.

This year, I have submitted 42 queries and or complete pieces to almost as many periodicals. Two of those queries were for a book and seven were for science fiction short stories, but the rest were in line with my main thrust for the year…writing practical theology and essays about Christian living. I’ve received 27 rejections (or no response at all).

So far this year, my writing has appeared in four periodicals with one more coming in the next few weeks. That’s painful! Percentage-wise, I’m batting .119. That’s bad enough to get sent back down to the minors in the MLB! The ratio of published to rejected is a little closer 5.1 to 1.

It gets so frustrating sometimes, as you can imagine. However, and I say a big however here, I feel good going forward. Several of the queries out there right now show promise (I have nine queries or stories out). I’m learning more this year about what to submit and what to hold off on for further development. I’m holding off on the book project for a little bit (more on that in a few days). Finally, I’m ditching science fiction writing for the time being. I might even publish those stories independently.

Bottom line, things are rough as a freelance writer, but the future looks good for me. Yes, a rejection letter (or email nowadays) hurts. In fact, I often get very disappointed and discouraged by rejection. I’m just also hopeful for the future. I’m grateful for the credits I have this year so far, and look forward to the rest of the year!

Have you faced rejection in writing? Tell me about it in the comments section!

My First Publishing credit wasn’t even Baptist!

I grew up in and was licensed by a small Bible church in Southeast Kansas. Sadly, the church shuttered its doors several years ago, but I still have the Bible the church gave me when I graduated high school. As you may know, the theology of a Bible church and a Baptist church is essentially the same.

Soon after joining the Navy, I got involved with the Southern Baptist Convention and the IMB. In fact, I was baptized into the SBC by US Navy Chaplain (Captain) Ralph Gibson in 1998. With some notable exceptions, I have been in the SBC since then. Even when I’ve gone with a different church, it’s been in the same conservative vein (such as EFCA and Baptist General Conference).

Knowing my religious history, then, it might come as a surprise to learn that my first publishing credit comes not from an SBC magazine or newspaper, but from a Pentecostal periodical! I submitted my article in September 1999 and it appeared in Pentecostal Messenger in March 2000. I remember the editor was really wonderful to work with and while I didn’t understand how to follow up on contacts then, I will forever be grateful for the start he gave me. That article earned me my first payment for writing as well. I got a cool $22.50!

I’ve included that original article, published in March 2000. You can read it below:

My Acknowledgment Page

Every writer, in the beginning of every book, will discuss those who helped him or her get to where he or she is now. In particular, the acknowledgment section will talk about how this person or that person helped them with research, editing, agent representation, etc in order to get the point across.

As I am mostly a short form writer published in newspapers and magazines, I don’t get to include an acknowledgment in my work. Yet there are countless people who have helped me in this process. This post is just the beginning of it all.

My mother was the first to see and develop my love for writing. She helped me write when I was too young to put words together. She would then have my dad take my “books” to work and make copies. I’d take them to my 1st Grade Class in Girard, KS, and distribute them. I doubt anyone remembers that.

In the 3rd Grade, Mrs. Byrd let me read aloud my stories to my classmates. I will forever remember her as encouraging me, even though at that age, I was basically retelling the stories I was reading at the time (Call of the Wild and White Fang).

Fast-forward to high school and I’m writing like a madman, pushing out hundreds and thousands of words onto the computer screen. We didn’t have a lot of extra money back then, so while some of my friends had Nintendo systems (the original!), or computers with AOL, we didn’t. I would look at ads in magazines and see that I couldn’t afford a computer, but I did buy a typewriter with some money I made while mowing lawns or bailing hay.

Anyway, my high school Lit teacher, Mrs. Johnson, saw my desire to write and would check out a laptop to me as often as I wanted one to take home for the night. I would write and write on that borrowed laptop. I’ll forever be grateful for her acknowledgment of my dream.

My wife now fulfills that role of encourager and champion. She is as happy as I am when another article is published, no matter how little I get paid. When asked, she edits. Mostly, though, she encourages me to pursue the dream. Someday, when I hit it big, I know she’ll let me spend the money on that new boat I’ve been wanting to (let me dream, honey!).

There are others of course, including my first newspaper editor, Warren Watkins, Diane McDougal (editor at EFCA Today). I’ve written about Ms. McDougal before, as well as Mr. Watkins. I’ll cover others periodically as time goes by. If you’ve been instrumental in my writing career, just know your time is coming!


Publishing Experience: Evangelical Missions Quarterly

Sometimes, even I get surprised by what an editor will like or not like. When I proposed an article idea to the Evangelical Missions Quarterly (EMQ) about my travels overseas, I couldn’t believe they wanted it!

You see, my hope was to show how deployed military personnel could be beneficial to missionaries, and vice-versa. I was very excited to learn that EMQ accepted the article. They didn’t pay except in contributor copies, but it was a good experience overall. The editor,  Mr. A. Scott Moreau, was easy to work with and very business-like. My article was essentially published as was written, though they do say in the writer’s guidelines that they may make edits or suggest edits.

I look forward to writing for EMQ again someday. Even though it isn’t a paying market, it is an easy market to write for (in that the editor and staff are easy to work with) and gives me an opportunity to work out some ideas on the missionary enterprise. This is especially true considering my continued traveling career. If you’re looking for a place to work on missions, give EMQ a look!

Here is the article I wrote:

Missionaries and Deployed Military 1

Missionaries and Deployed Military 2

Missionaries and Deployed Military 3