Kenyans create meditations for the world
“Mary was sick and her condition seemed hopeless,” wrote Joseph Alum of Kenya in a recent devotional published in The Upper Room. The woman was wracked by tuberculosis, seemingly beyond recovery, but God answered prayer for her healing.
Joseph’s moving story -- reaching readers in 100 countries and 45 language editions -- would have remained untold without the training he received at a Nairobi writer workshop organized by Philip Polo of Africa Upper Room Ministries.
When Philip first began working for The Upper Room as a distributor, he noticed the lack of international writers in the devotional. A few years later, as editor of the devotional’s Kiswahili edition, he thought, “It could make a difference to encourage readers of our meditations to share their faith stories by writing about what God did in their everyday lives.”
So, Philip began conducting monthly devotional writing workshops in Kenya. At the workshops, he discovers and trains new writers like Joseph Alum.
The transition from reader to published writer, however, is not always easy. Polo’s writing workshops instill new writers with the necessary skills and confidence. “Some first-time writers feel that they are not as good as the writers of the meditations they have read,” he said. “Also, not many people are willing to write meditations about their experiences; they would rather just verbalize them.” Training for devotional writing is essential to encourage faith-sharing and drive fear from novice writers, he says.
During a typical session, participants begin by sharing their faith stories aloud. Then, they write a short meditation and exchange them for review and improvement. While the workshops currently focus on meditations, Polo plans to produce a quarterly Christian journal with these writers.
Polo (pictured at right) says the training sessions are valuable for readers, writers and potential writers. They “widen the scope of international writers who can become a blessing to the global audience of readers of The Upper Room devotional guides.”
The Upper Room, a ministry of the United Methodist Church, has published daily devotional guides since 1935. Writers worldwide are invited to submit meditations. Guidelines are available online.
By Meaghan Zang, MAI intern
Photos by Eric Gitonga