Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Finding Hope in Kenya, Africa: Littworld 2009

I've always been quick to insist I am neither pessimist nor optimist, but a realist. Unfortunately, a realistic assessment offers a dark picture of this world in which I find myself. Materialism and self-centeredness of 'have' nations. Poverty, starvation, despair of 'have nots'. Corruption, injustice, and greed on all fronts. Wars and rumors of wars. A planet gasping under the weight of human wrong choices.

Our Creator has been kind enough to give us a sneak peak at the end of the story (Revelations 21-22). I have no doubts the war is won, the last page written. But the immediate battle looks desperate, casualties piling high, the enemy huge and powerful. And my small candle lifted high to shine God's love and Word into that darkness seems too dim a flicker to make any impact.

Except realist that I am, I should be the last to forget my candle is not raised alone. Or that one tiny flicker adjoined to another and another can add up to a full bonfire of light. Participating in Littworld 2009 this past week, Nov. 1-6, in Nairobi, Kenya, I caught a glimpse of just how bright our pooled light can be against the darkness. And I came away with revitalized assurance that if the final war is not lost, nor is the immediate battle.

What is Littworld?

Littworld is a global conference held every three years (formerly every two years) by Media Associates International (, a ministry that develops and mentors indigenous Christian publishers and writers to reach their own cultures with the written word. Talented men and women from close to 100 countries have participated to date.
This year for the first time, the continent of Africa hosted Littworld at Brackenhurst International Conference Center in the mountains outside of Nairobi near Kenya's famed Rift Valley. Some 150 delegates from all five continents came together for six days of workshops and networking. The theme: 'One in Word'.
This is my fifth Littworld (I have been privileged to train and mentor Christian writers around the world for more than a decade). My own involvement included several workshops, mentoring with fiction writers, and networking with international publishers regarding translation rights for our own ministry curriculum. All of which exceeded expectations. Far more so did hearing what God had been doing in lives and countries around the planet since we'd last all met face to face in Sao Paolo, Brazil in 2006:

Kenyan ambassador and keynote speaker Bethuel Kiplagat shared how his personal faith in Jesus Christ has impacted a lifetime career in conflict resolution and reconciliation work around Africa.

Alexander Flek, Czech Republic, presented the culmination of a fifteen year vision and his own labor, publication of the 21st century translation Czech Bible.

Sookit Li, Hong Kong, shared new publishing opportunities and challenges in mainland China.

Claudinei Franzini, Brazil, told of 1.2 million Avon ladies carrying Bibles and other products of Editora Mundo Cristao, where he serves as sales manager, to Brazilian households.

As for the majority contingent of publishers and writers from across Africa--Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Angola, Benin, Zambia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Congo, Malawi, Camaroon--their life stories and vision give ample reason for hope in that great continent's future.

And so much more . . .

Hakuna Matata
Wednesday included an outing to the Rift Valley, one of the most beautiful spots our Creator has dreamed up for this planet. The Disney movie Lion King was based on the Rift Valley, as its music and famed saying 'hakuna matata' (no worries) was lifted straight from Kenyan culture.

Today the valley contains far more humans than the movie would indicate. But we saw giraffes, zebras, wildebeest, walked the shores of Lake Naivasha, witnessed flamingos taking flight and hippos chatting. As special bonus, we watched the sun set over a spectacular piece of the Rift Valley still so empty of human presence we might have been overlooking the original Garden of Eden claimed by some to have been on this spot.

A visit to Kenya wouldn't be complete without its music. Who would have thought staid and proper publishers and editors from across five continents could get down and boogie Motown-style? But the highlight of Littworld 2009 was definitely seeing old friends and making new, fellowshipping together, the oneness in spirit of a common bond and faith. Everywhere and at all times, people-huddles dotted the Brakenhurst grounds, talking, laughing, sharing ideas, visions, triumphs, life stories, contact information.

The conference ended with what has become a Littworld tradition, a candle-lighting ceremony to the lyrics of an old hymn: 'Bind us together with chords that cannot be broken . . . Bind us together with love." The symbolism was unambiguous. For six days we'd basked in a blaze of collective warmth and light. Now it was time to carry our own individual flames back home, to raise high a light wherever our outbound flights carried us.
But if saying goodbye to one more Littworld is invariably difficult, there are always Facebook and email. As John Maust, president of MAI, commented during the conference: "Once you've been part of Littworld, you can't get away. You are forever member of the ongoing MAI family around the planet."


A family of likeminded brothers and sisters in faith, lifting high the flame of God's love, bound as one in God's word, a blaze in the darkness.

Now that's something of which I'm thrilled to be a member.