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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Advances in DNA Analysis Affect Tragedy in Sunset!

So the crux of my work in progress, Tragedy in Sunset, is that a young woman is assaulted and raped, but is too scared to give a name to the police. They have a DNA sample, but it doesn’t lead to any new results.

Well, all of that might be about to change, and I’ll have to figure out how it affects my story. According to an article in the San Diego Union Tribune, DNA samples are being used to match alleged perpetrators to a crime scene by matching the sample against a family tree. The suspect is then narrowed down and an arrest made.

This was used most effectively in 2018 to find the Golden Gate Killer, so named because he raped over 50 women and killed 13 people in the years between 1974 and 1986 in California.

When I first wrote Tragedy in late 2016, this data wasn’t available like it is now. That’s the problem when writing a story that relies on systems and processes that are apt to change wildly from year to year.

The basic plot is still fine and will provide quite the story, but I will probably have to do a little modifying as I go.

One idea, thanks to one of my friends, is to bring up the privacy issues that go with matching publicly-available DNA samples when handling crime evidence. I think that might very well figure into the rewrite of Tragedy. Stay tuned to see how it plays out!

To stay up to date on Tragedy in Sunset, as well as my other writing, sign up for updates at THIS LINK and get a free ebook as my thanks!

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!


Newspapers- One of my favorite venues

A lot of freelance writers shun newspapers. Some of them do it for good reason. The turnaround time is almost immediate (meaning you don’t have a lot of time to write the piece), the pay is very low (in most cases), and the readership is small and shrinking (overall).

These freelancers, however, miss a great opportunity by bypassing newspapers in their publishing careers. Some of my best writing opportunities have come from newspapers.

In fact, the Sherwood Voice, which at the time was run by Warren Watkins, gave me my first real shot at writing a weekly column. I covered local schools, the monthly city council meeting, and even an occasional public event like Cinderella (below) and the Alabama farewell tour. Warren Watkins, and the owners of the Sherwood Voice, allowed me to gain some amazing experience into newspaper publishing and writing. Do not pass up the opportunity to work for one if you get the chance.

Some of the local rags I’ve been published in:

Sherwood Voice (Clips below)

Lake County News-Sun

Girard Press

I’ve also written for small Christian papers:

Christian Courier

The Christian Journal

Following are a few clips from Sherwood Voice:


Review 01 Cinderella