Posted by: Andrea Mullins | 3 August, 2010

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This is the second post from Ann Reese’s unpublished book, The Fields Are Not Always White, written in the early sixties. Ann gives us a glimpse of her awakening as well as others to God’s love for all people. Look under Ann Reese to find other posts from her book. Ann established the Jackson Reese Endowment for WorldCrafts, a Fair Trade company helping people around the world to have sustainable income and eternal hope. Ann’s concern for immigrant women led her to invest in the ministry of WorldCrafts. Learn more about WorldCrafts at http://worldcraftsvillage.com.

Kozue _____ was the most unhappy soul that we have encountered. Married nine years, and childless, she was the hapless victim of an arranged marriage by her Buddhist parents. No one could ever forget her wistful voice saying: “What would you think if I say—Sometimes I wish I die?” She thought American women frivolous, and much in need of a life of quiet contemplation. In short, she was not easy to love. But love her we did. We were to learn that she had experienced an unhappy relationship with a Christian group in Japan. She had been a teacher in a mission school, where they had pressured her to become a Christian, and forsake the errors of Buddhism. Remembering that one should never criticize or make light of anyone’s religious convictions, we took a different course. She accepted a Japanese-English New Testament and began to read it occasionally. When we seemed to want her friendship more than her instant conversion, she began to ask questions. But more importantly, she observed our lives and what Christianity had done for us. For we were happy, while she was miserable, still searching for an answer to the longing of her soul. One day in earnest conversation I told her that I thought if Buddha lived after the coming of Christ, he might have been a Christian, for he was a seeker of truth. Before she returned to Japan, she was our friend. A letter to our missionary in Japan kept the witness alive. When our pastor led a world tour in 1968, waiting in the lobby of a hotel in Osaka was Kozue _____. She had come 300 miles on a night train to meet the group. We still hear from her from time to time. Since our missionary is back in the States, we passed Kozue’s name to the new missionaries who will continue the witness. Although she has never committed her life to Christ, she is still open to the love He gives us.

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At first all of the Orientals looked alike to us. And they tell us we look alike to them until they know us. But from the start Masaka _____ was unlike the others. Taller, slimmer, aloof, oddly beautiful, she had been a TV fashion commentator in Japan until her husband had brough her and her five year old daughter, Y____, to Birmingham. Masaka spoke almost no English. She came along to our group with Machiko _____, and just sat quietly and sewed. Little by little she picked up the language, even attending worship services to hear English spoken. This surprised us since she was a practicing Buddhist. One day she asked for help in finding a kindergarten for Y____. Since we had no kindergarten at that time at our church, we arranged for Y___ to go to the kindergarten at another church. The children and workers there adored their new pupil. Y___ is now a college student in Paris, but I am sure she has wonderful memories of her first American birthday party at kindergarten.

Perhaps as the years go by I shall forget many names and experiences. But one shall linger I think. It was Masaka’s last Sunday before her return to Japan. She slipped into her accustomed place beside me in church carrying the kerchief knapsack which the Japanese use as a carry-all. Out of it she took her Japanese-English Testament. As the time for the service drew near, I opened it to John 3:16 and said, “Masaka, this is the most important verse in the Book. If you remember nothing else we have told you, remember this. Then in her faltering English she replied: “When I come here, I do not know your God. Now I know Him.” All the problems of communication with our world friends were trifles, compared to this simple expression of faith. My heart nearly burst with pure joy. Then from the knapsack, she took her camera. As the pastor sat with bowed head during the prelude, she snapped a picture. Then another as he read the Scripture and another as the deacons came to receive the offering and finally one of the choir during the anthem. As she replaced her camera she said, “Now I show my friends in Japan what my church here do.” After church came the final goodbye. I expected her to thank us for the varied services we had been privileged to perform but not so. It was a trivial thing she remembered. “I will never forget the day you saw me with watermelon and take me home.” Nearly forgotten was that day when she first came to this country. I was leaving the church in a hurry to get to another appointment. As I crossed the church parking lot, I spied Masaka and Y___ going down the street, each carrying a too heavy load. After an argument with my conscience and the clock, I pulled alongside them in my car, and signaled for them to get in. There was no delay on their part, for the day was hot and the half mile walk seemed longer than usual. She could only repeat two of the few words which were her vocabulary then, “Thank you. Thank you.” And now I say when small opportunities come our way, “Thank you, Masaka, for teaching me that LITTLE THINGS COUNT.”

Posted by: Andrea Mullins | 30 July, 2010

Legacy: Past, Present, Future

 

The Capitol of Alabama

As a native Texan, I have a love of Texas history. After all, the name of one of my ancestors is included in one of the list of names inside The Alamo. A favorite book is True Women, A Novel of Texas. But since I’ve now lived in Alabama longer than anywhere else, I decided to tour the capital city, Montgomery, with a good friend who lives there, and learn a little more about this state where some of the most important history of our nation has been made.  

Dexter Avenue Baptist Church

The first surprise is that the Capitol sits on Goat Hill, named this because goats roamed the hill eating grass in years past. This same building was also the Capitol of the Confederacy in 1861. Nearly one hundred years later Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, right down the hill from the Capitol, became famous as the place where Martin Luther King, Jr. organized actions of the Civil Rights Movement.

The Alabama River

The best feature in Montgomery is the Alabama River that runs from Mobile through Montgomery to join the Coosa River to the Mobile River. Rivers and bridges add ambiance to any city. The railroad runs along the river and we were fortunate to watch a train making its way along the river.

 Alabama’s legacy cannot be ignored by anyone interested in its future. The visionary founder of the school where I received my doctorate has rightly argued that the right to create the future can only be gained after one understands the past.

The future of New Hope Publishers cannot be understood apart from the legacy of our parent company. The concern has always been and still is the commitment of believers to pray, to give, and to go in response to the Great Commission. Every church has a history that continues to influence its members. Every publishing house has a past that impacts its present and future. For New Hope, it is the call to God’s mission. We have a legacy as contemporary as it was over two thousand years ago, and definitely just as relevant.

Posted by: Andrea Mullins | 26 July, 2010

It Feels So Good-Consistency

It feels so good. When my grip is just right. When I am focused on the ball. When the club is facing the target. When I am well balanced. When my hips and shoulders and legs are where they need to be at the right times. When I feel the club connect with the ball. It feels so good when I see the ball fly through the air straight toward the little white flag marking where I want to go.

It does feel so good, every time I do it. Persistence to keep working at improving. Patience to continue through the good and bad until there is more good than bad. The dream lies just ahead–consistency.

Golfers dream of consistency-great long and short games, and more one putts than three–again and again. Every instruction video or Web site or book stresses the importance of consistency and how to reinforce consistency.

Consistency– in golf, in life discipline, in leadership, and most of all, in Christ.

Called to Love by Kaye Miller

Posted by: Andrea Mullins | 25 July, 2010

The Fields Are Not Always White by Ann Reese Chapter One, Part 1

The year was 1964. The place was Birmingham, Alabama, a city in the fire storm of the Civil Rights movement. The bombing at 16th Street Baptist Church where four young Black girls died in 1963 had provoked a turning point in the Civil Rights Movement. In 1964 the Civil Rights Act was passed.

Churches across the South were shaken as the assumptions about race, color, and language were tested. Ann Reese, founder of the Jackson Reese Endowment for WorldCrafts, decided to write a book about her personal experience as a member of one of these churches. In a recent visit to her home she allowed me to bring home the original typed pages she has keep to herself these years. She also agreed to let me share her unpublished book, The Fields Are Not Always White, on my blog. Throughout the next few weeks I will be sharing excerpts from each chapter. I have left some of the names blank for privacy reasons and the content is just as it was written in the 1960s.

Ann’s title, The Fields Are Not Always White, isn’t hard to grasp when we realize her church was just blocks from 16th Street Baptist Church.  She explained the premise of her title in the preface.

We feel it is not blasphemous to say

The fields are not always white unto harvest.

Sometimes we labor in an unproductive area.

But surely the Lord of the harvest

Still calls us who are busy in His vineyard

To yet another work which is plenteous—

BUT NOT ALWAYS WHITE.

 

Ann’s book is a glimpse into the awaking of believers to an active concern for people who were not always “white.” Her story is our story, as we allow God to move us to see His love is for all people.

Chapter One (Part 1)

THE SILVER LINING

It was a Sunday morning much like any other, when I spied a friend in the hall, talking to a tiny Japanese lady and her two small children. How surprised I was to learn that they lived in sight of the church. From Osaka, Japan they had come to Birmingham so that Dr. ___ might do advance study at the medical school. He was quite busy, but his family was lonely day after day in a strange land. When I asked Mrs. ___ if she would like to come to the Community Ladies Club, she responded eagerly in the affirmative. Having spent nearly 40 years in the Orient, Mrs. Adams was excited that one of her dear Orientals was almost on our doorstep. She volunteered to accompany Mrs. ___ and the children to the church the following Thursday.

For a number of years with increasing frequency we had seen various Internationals in the Birmingham area. Sometimes in the Medical Center one would see an Indian couple, he in Western dress, his wife in her native sari. Occasionally in a restaurant, a table would be filled with Oriental people noisily chatting in their own tongue. The sight would provoke natural curiosity, but one can’t just march up and say—“hey there, I’d like to be your friend.” But at last one of them had come to us. Kosue ___ was a Christian and she had sought a church. It was like the dawning of a great light upon us—here was our ministry. Instead of looking around in frustration at the empty lots where the poor no longer dwelled, or looking back with nostalgia to the “good ole days” at Southside, we should open our eyes and our hearts to the growing number of Internationals all around us. After reading helpful suggestions on working with the foreign-born, we equipped ourselves with bi-lingual dictionaries and Bibles. For Kozue had several Japanese friends whom she brought. They had other International friends. That first year ladies from Ecuador and Argentina, Norway and Cuba, Taiwan and Japan came to sew and cook and talk each Thursday.

Each is a story in itself. There was the vivacious little bride, Machiko ___, who was to stay in our midst nearly three years. She was a graduate of the famous Dosheisha University in Japan and a devout Christian. Immediately she joined a Sunday School class and a Circle. Her delightful personality endeared her to all of us. Our former assistant pastor’s wife took her under her wing and taught her to cook American style. As their friendship grew, Machiko’s husband was drawn into the circle of love, and they visited often in each other’s homes. Almost a year after their return to Japan, Dr. ___ came back from a convention in San Francisco and on to Birmingham for a few days. Machiko could not come for she was expecting. Imagine the happiness that filled us all as he told us, “We shall send you word of two births soon—our new baby and mine.” For Dr. ___ had opened his heart to the gospel, and had experienced the new birth of salvation. Perhaps all of us could take a lesson from Machiko. Patiently and lovingly she had waited for her husband’s acceptance of Christ—with her prescription for all Christians: “Share your joy.”

Posted by: Andrea Mullins | 24 July, 2010

Focus

 

Fellow Golfers

I was late getting to the driving range and along with fellow golfers found the heat had already settled in. Even so, none of us let the 100 degree heat index stop us from practicing our long game.

If you can see the little white flag out past the golf ball retriever in the photo below, that is where we were all aiming to land our little white balls. I always feel encouraged because there are balls literally everywhere between the golfers and the flag, which means there are lots of golfers hitting lots of balls that go lots of places!

The little white flag is out there somewhere.

My friend had said, “Keep your arm straight, ” so I had one more thing to focus on today. Along with the other aspects of my swing, I worked on keeping my arm straight. No doubt it helped me see my ball fly on out there closer to where I wanted it to land.

I had to focus. There are too many tasks involved in a good swing to let your mind wander. A good golf swing requires learning to multi-task. How you stand, how you balance your weight, what you do with your knees and torso, what you do with your arms and how you grip your club are just in the preparation of the swing. Once the swing begins, the backswing requires keeping your front arm straight and rotating your shoulders and hips correctly. From here you go into the downswing shifting your weight, giving attention to your wrist movement, and rotating your body on an axis. Last, you swing through the ball keeping the club moving toward the target.  Focus results in all of these tasks happening when and how each should take place.

Focus isn’t having one or a few tasks to do. Rather it is understanding when and how each task takes place, and then working in such a way that everything we need to do is effective. Today’s ministry is nearly always multi-tasked. Few of us have the luxury of one or even a few assignments. We are charged with more assignments and less time. Just a golfers are willing to spend hours on the course learning to focus the many tasks involved in a swing, our success will depend on commitment to bring focus to our multi-tasked ministries.

Posted by: Andrea Mullins | 21 July, 2010

An Ice Cream Afternoon

Andrea Mullins and Ann Reece discuss WorldCrafts

An afternoon with ice cream is more perfect when spent with a woman whose concern for the plight of women led her to invest in WorldCrafts some years ago.

Ann Reese tells the story of women coming from other countries to Birmingham in the 1960s. She quickly discovered that many could not speak English and were virtual prisoners in their own homes. Her concern for their needs led her to begin English as a Second Language classes in Alabama. She led her church to get involved and women from many nations were freed to a new life in their new country.

Today Ann rejoices that WorldCrafts is helping women and children, individuals and families, communities and societies around the world. She is one of the founders of the Jackson Reese Endowment for WorldCrafts. Her investment is making a difference as impoverished people are given dignity because they have a sustainable income for shelter, food, clothing, education, and health care. Because of WorldCrafts and our partners women and their families have access to the most basic needs of life.

Ann’s experience with women immigrants led her to invest in an endowment for the ministry of WorldCrafts. She knew that helping impoverished women use their skills to create beautiful handcrafts to sell brought dignity to women who might otherwise be abused, sold, enslaved, trafficked, or end their lives in destitution because no one cared. 

Ann’s commitment blessed me. If you would like to know more about WorldCrafts and the people WorldCrafts represents, visit our Web site, http://worldcraftsvillage.com. If you would like to know more about how you can help sustain the ministry of WorldCrafts visit www.wmufoundation.com/givingopitions.

Thank you for joining us in bringing dignity and hope to families and communities around the world.

Posted by: Andrea Mullins | 16 July, 2010

Set Someone Free!

Set1Free Video
You would be surprised at how easy it is to set someone free from exploitation. WorldCrafts provides an opportunity for you and me to provide dignity, hope, and freedom to women and children around the world who face being sold, being used, being abused, or being trafficked and exploited for someone else’s needs. The Set1Free video helps tell the story of hope for freedom that WorldCrafts is committed to giving.

When we choose to invest our dollars in Fair Trade products we have assurance that those who are making the items are given an opportunity to participate in the global economy of commerce. We insure that those who are making the products are given fair wages, have decent working conditions, and a sustainable income to build for the future.

Women on every continent are in situations that restrict them from having many of the opportunities available to most of us. Join WorldCrafts in our Set1Free commitment.

Kazakh Egg Project

A group of ten women in a village south of Almaty, the former capital of Kazakhstan, have started a company called Ymit, which means “hope.” One of the ladies is Russian. She buys the well-known wooden eggs from St. Petersburg and then she and others hand-paint them with traditional colors and designs. Through this project, our contact hopes to help the women develop their small business so that they can support their families and their fellowship. Help your sisters in the former Soviet Union by purchasing one of these collectibles today!

See more stories and the beautiful handmade crafts that represent hope from around the world at http://worldcraftsvillage.com.

Posted by: Andrea Mullins | 15 July, 2010

Barriers Jesus Crossed

  

View ImageI visited a  friend who lives in one of the housing districts of Birmingham this week. She is disabled, has four small children, no way to work, few people to turn to, and even fewer who care enough to get involved. As we visited about solutions, one reality we discussed is the unwillingness of people to come into the public housing districts. Even many who claim Christ are afraid to cross the barrier of poverty. This realization has reminded me of a few of the barriers that Jesus crossed. No doubt you can think of many more His example has taught us to overcome.

What People Think

Jesus acted out of His desire to please God rather than people. Jesus didn’t hesitate to accept the gift of worship from a woman known to the Pharisees as “a sinner.” She bathed Jesus’ feet with her tears and wiped his feet with her hair. In gratitude she kissed and anointed his feet with ointment. When Jesus saw the abuse of the poor in the temple, He ran the “robbers” out, knowing He would make enemies. Scripture tells us that this event contributed to the desire of the chief priests and scribes to kill Him, yet Jesus refused to let the reaction of others keep Him from reaching out to all who needed compassion and hope.

What People Consider Unclean

 Jesus knew a woman had touched him. Her desperation gave her courage to touch the bottom of his cloak, hoping that her touch would bring healing from the sickness that had plagued her for years. When Jesus turned and addressed her, she fell down before Him with fear and trembling, expecting the same rejection she had experienced from others. But Jesus responded to her need with loving attention. He spoke to her, affirmed her faith, and rewarded her with complete wholeness. 

The “unclean” in our American sphere are often the elderly, the physically and mentally challenged, the sick, and the poor. City of Joy tells the story of people who dared to reach across barriers to provide help and hope in the City of Joy, a slum on the edge of Calcutta. When their ministry extended to lepers, others in the community became violent because of their fear. Lepers had been carefully segregated from the rest of the community, and when they tried to enter into society, they were persecuted or killed. Those who would dare to embrace, or invite them into their homes and lives, experienced the same treatment. The City of Joy illustrates human response to the unclean. Jesus illustrates God’s response to the unclean. 

 What People Have Devalued

 Jesus lifted up those who were devalued by offering them His friendship. He invited women, Samaritans, Gentiles, thieves, centurions, and tax collectors status as children of God. In a time when women were often been viewed as property, the Lord of Lords counted women among His closest friends. Jesus traveled through Samaria to find one woman hungering for living water. He found a tax collector in a tree, forgave him, and visited in his home. The devalued gained new status through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

Today we may receive an invitation to go with Jesus into places that call us to rely on Him for love, compassion, grace, courage, and strength. But can you think of a finer way to spend a day than walking with our Savior, wherever He may lead?  Leaving our comfort zone to follow Jesus is not only one of life’s greatest blessings but is our expected way to live.

Then those sheep are going to say, “Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?” Then the King will say, “I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.”  Matthew 25:37-40 (MSG)

New Hope Publishers partners with authors who cross barriers of poverty, justice, prejudice, imprisonment, disability, and more.

Posted by: Andrea Mullins | 10 July, 2010

Celebrity vs. Relational by Jonathan Howe

 When New Hope Publishers decided to make major changes in our business, and basically rebuild our publishing house from the bottom up, Jonathan Howe had been on the job about 1 week. To this day I am convinced that God brought him to New Hope to walk hand in hand with our managing editor and me as we navigated new partners, new processes, and a failing economy. I love to laugh, and Jonathan does, too, and that has seen us through some really challenging times.

I quickly discovered that Jonathan doesn’t use a chronogical calendar, but the Nascar schedule to plan his year. He has driven his car around the Talladega Superspeedway, even! But Jonathan is also brilliant, enjoys theology, and helps us stay in touch with those who are influencing the Church today. We both like to see sales numbers, and after working hard we pray for good ones. You’ll enjoy reading what he has to say about authors.

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Like any other consumer-driven industry, the Christian book market is celebrity-driven to a point. We have our “rock stars” like Rick Warren, John Ortberg, John Piper, Jon Eldredge, Max Lucado, Beth Moore, Joyce Meyer and Stormie Omartian. There’s nothing wrong with that. As an industry, we need big names to give us a place in the general book market and to create fan-bases of devoted followers/purchasers.

 The odd thing is that “big-name” authors are almost always a bigger deal to consumers than to those who work in the industry. While it would be great to meet some of those authors, my reaction compared with that of a “huge fan of author X” would likely be a bit more tempered. You might not be surprised by this. You might say “Well I would hope so, Jonathan. You need to show professionalism.” Or “They’re just another person. They just happen to have sold a couple million books. No big deal.” And you’d be right with both statements. However that’s not the true root of my tempered response.

 Working in the Christian book industry and attending conventions like ICRS has proved that respect for and admiration of authors comes more from their relationships than their celebrity.

Every time I go to a convention or conference there will undoubtedly be a select few authors promoting their celebrity status. You can see them from across the floor. They’re the ones with an image to uphold, a status to protect, a point to prove. Then there will be the best-selling author who walks by and just strikes up a conversation and you don’t even recognize who they are until you steal a glimpse of their name tag.

That happened to me at ICRS last week. I was standing around waiting on a co-worker when a man dressed in a simple navy t-shirt and jeans strolled up, said hello and just made small talk for a minute. He was waiting on someone as well. Then I saw his name tag. It was Randy Alcorn, best-selling author of Heaven and numerous other books.

I wouldn’t have considered myself a “huge fan” of Randy Alcorn the author before that. I’ve only read bits and pieces of his writings, but I did know who he was and greatly respected the biblical focus of his books. But after that encounter, I can now say that I’m a huge fan of Randy Alcorn the person. He made an indelible impression on me not because of his celebrity status—which he definitely has. He made an impression on me because of his relational quality and humility. Believe me, the next person who recognized him was not quite as tempered in their response as I was.

 Like many things in life, celebrity comes and goes. It is fleeting. Many times people will forget what you wrote and how many books you sold

 Relationships and relational qualities last a lifetime. People don’t forget when they met you for the first, and possibly only, time.

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