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Reaching the Masses with Comics

- 03/11/09  

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March-April 2009


<  Friendship in a Broken World
< Reaching the Masses with Comics
< You Times Two!
<  No News Not as Good as News

<  Hot Incentives to Head to Nairobi

Hi, !

Comics are no laughing matter, reaching millions of readers worldwide. Learn how one ministry helps Christians create and use this popular street-level medium to share the Good News.

We hope our featured book on spiritual friendship inspires you to print and share this newsletter with a good friend over coffee or tea. We all need kindred spirits to share life's bumps and joys.



Friendship in a Broken World:
Thoughts on Friendship from the Emmaus Road

“When you go through a major tragedy, your eyes are changed. Suddenly you see that all around you are people who are also hurting and broken,” writes Malaysian author Soo-Inn Tan.


Friends in a Broken World is the first book published by Graceworks, a new ministry of Tan and his wife Bernice, based in Singapore. Graceworks promotes spiritual friendship in the church and society through publishing and training. 


Tan's book presents a series of meditations on friendship within the context of suffering, divine companionship, truth and practice. He parallels his own loss as a widower with the Emmaus road story: “A good friend, Lee Hong Kwang, would come by once a week and take me out for dim-sum and tea…He practiced the ministry of ‘presence’ and, in his presence, I experienced the presence of Christ.” 


“The best human friendships should mediate the friendship of God,” Tan writes. This is the heart of his message. 


Friends in a Broken World both challenges and encourages those who long for Christ’s presence in a life of uncertainty.

-Carolyn Edwards, MAI intern

Reaching the Masses with Comics

Nate Butler has worked as a cartoonist, illustrator and comic artist. Today he is President of COMIX35, an international ministry that produces Christian comics and offers training in using comics as a Christian witness.

Q: Why comics? 
More than one billion people read billions of comics every year—in places like China, Egypt, Greece, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Lebanon, Myanmar (Burma), and other countries in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Middle East.

Comics are an ideal "lo-tech" ministry tool - accessible, portable, reviewable - and relatively inexpensive compared to other media. To omit comics from outreach in most of the 10/40 Window, the world’s least evangelized countries, is to overlook the most popular street-level literature read by the masses.

Q: How did you get started?
I wanted to be a cartoonist after reading the "Dick Tracy" comic strip in the newspaper when I was four years old. I cartooned throughout childhood, worked for a newspaper after high school and then opened my own studio after I was born again in 1979. Eventually, I freelanced for clients such as Jim Henson Productions, working on more than a dozen internationally known characters including The Muppets, Popeye, Heathcliff, Bugs Bunny and Berenstain Bears. The Lord led me to co-found COMIX35 in 1996, and three years later I closed my studio to work full-time in ministry.

Q: How does COMIX35 work?
We help Christian communicators produce their own media. In deciding where to work, we identify those key countries, cultures and age groups that are most interested in and impacted by comics. The comics producers themselves determine the level of Christian witness in each publication.


We are now working on a comics competition for U.S. prison inmates, a tract for pre-teen and early teenage boys based on the popular "transforming robots" concept, and a contest for Japanese Christian manga (comics) creators.

Q: Talk about one of COMIX35's successes.  
Our greatest success in coaching and consultation would be Manga Messiah in which our Lord Jesus is referred to by His Hebrew name Yeshua.  Our assistance to Shinsei Senkyodan (New Life League) in Japan has helped them produce over 1 million copies in 13 languages. These books have had an overwhelming positive reception throughout the world.


Q: What are your hopes for the future?

We are excited at the possibilities of getting "home grown" evangelistic comic books into circulation in Quebec, Burma, and China. The French-speaking Quebecois of Canada literally kicked God out of their culture in the '60s and now have the lowest rate of church attendance in North America, and the highest rates of divorce, abortion and out-of-wedlock births in Canada. Not to mention, Quebec has the highest suicide rate in Canada and one of the highest in the industrialized world.


Outreach Canada, a church-planting and church-growth ministry, has labeled the Quebecois as "the most unreached people group in North America." As with all other Francophone cultures, they love comics (or bandes dessinées, as they call them). I envision a French-language comic book with a powerful "return to the Lord" message for the hurting, empty hearts of the Quebecois people.

-Carolyn Edwards, MAI intern

You Times Two! 

For a limited time, a generous foundation will double gifts to MAI from first-time donors and new monthly gifts made from a credit card or U.S. checking account. For example, a $50 monthly gift becomes a $600 matching grant over one year. So, maximize your money and sign up for direct giving.

>>Sign up now

No News Not as Good as News  


The other day I wrote a "how are you doing?" email to a woman who attended MAI’s writer conference in Thailand. I hadn’t heard from Esther since then.  "No news is good news," some people say. But, given the complexities of Esther’s closed country in Southeast Asia, I hoped everything was okay.


Typing the email, I remembered Esther and her four smartly dressed colleagues. They arrived in Chiang Mai with a single purpose:  develop and write articles for the first issue of a new women’s magazine. 


Conference sessions ran 12 hours each day, starting with group devotions in the main meeting room. Esther and her team arrived on time for all of them, but that was only part of their day. Before the cooks began rustling up breakfast in the dining hall, Esther and her team were gathered for a time of prayer and Bible study. They concluded each night with a team debriefing and individual writing. 


"I’ll send you English translations of some of our articles," Esther told me, as the conference ended. As the only team member fluent in English, she had interpreted for the other four ladies throughout the four-day conference.  Wasn’t she exhausted? "This is nothing," she said, smiling. "It’s even busier back home."


Weeks passed with no news. But soon after my follow-up note, a brief response arrived from Southeast Asia.


Esther wondered why I’d been silent. She’d sent the translated articles and news, but for some reason these never arrived. "Our first issue of the magazine was born during Christmas," she wrote, "and we sold 2,000 copies. We are happy now to prepare the next issue of our magazine for Easter."


Needless to say, that letter made my day. Occasionally, MAI sees fast outcomes from a training. More often, though, we learn of the results later…or maybe not at all because busy people forget to write or our emails don’t get through.


But here was a new publication, a "baby" birthed by five women through hard work and hands-on faith. Not only that, the publication obviously spoke to the heart interests and needs of readers, because 2,000 of them spent limited funds to buy a copy. God had definitely answered prayer for tangible outcomes from our Asian writer conference.


Hmmm…what if I hadn’t written the follow-up note, and what if Esther hadn’t responded?


Here at MAI, no news is definitely not as good as news.


J O H N   M A U S T

M A I   P R E S I D E N T 

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