Different Contexts, Similar Challenges
By Carla Foote
The annual Evangelical Press Association conference is always open to participants from outside the U.S. and Canada, but the April 2019 convention in Oklahoma City intentionally featured international guests from around the globe. Magazine professionals from India, Mexico, Nigeria, and Turkey received training alongside EPA members, thanks to a generous grant from the Tyndale House Foundation, as well as connections with international publishers forged by Magazine Training International (MTI).
The idea came to EPA executive director Lamar Keener while attending MTI’s Crisis Publishing Institute in Hungary in 2017.
“I was moved by the stories we heard from Christian magazine publishers from all around the world, particularly the challenges and persecution many faced that were unlike what most of the members of EPA encounter,” said Keener. “By making it possible for a few of them to attend the EPA convention and engage with us in professional development and personal interaction, we could provide an enriching experience for everyone.”
Successful publications emphasize understanding their audience in order to serve them well. For Sally Isáis this focus reflects the mission of the publishing organization that she oversees (Milamex, Latin American Mission of Mexico) which publishes Revista Prisma. Based in Mexico City and serving as an evangelistic outreach, Isáis seeks out original content that is written by and for Mexicans. In the past, many Spanish-language Christian resources have been translated from English. While the information can be helpful, translated materials are not as relatable as content specifically written and designed for a local context.
Along with her ongoing emphasis on high quality content, Isáis recently managed a transition of the magazine from a long-standing print publication to a digital platform. She addressed many of the same challenges that U.S. publications face when making this transition.
Seeing the quality of publications which won awards gave Lara Odebiyi increased vision for what is possible with her own publication, Dabira, which serves women in Nigeria. “The contest winners displayed on the screen gave me new ideas. I have been focused on content, but now I want to learn more about design, covers, and titles—the whole package. Every detail on the award-winning magazines was top-notch.” Dabira magazine already has a clean, professional design, but it may get an update soon!
Odebiyi’s ministry includes a robust website and an annual women’s ministry event, along with a direct connection to women who request help with issues such as marriage, depression, and suicide. Women are connected for counseling via a private WhatsApp group to respond to personal needs.
The path to a print magazine for Joseph Benjamin was unique. He is a printer by profession and has decades of business experience. Gujarati Christians serves a language group in NW India as well as the worldwide Gujarati diaspora. He started a website after a major 2001 earthquake in the region, when many wanted updates on the situation. As the website transitioned from the disaster aftermath to content serving the Christian community, the audience asked for a print magazine. The Gujarati Christians’ transition from web to print is the opposite direction many EPA member publications have taken, from print to web.
In reflecting on the EPA convention, Benjamin noted that professional training is not readily available in his local area: “I was able to learn from pioneers and experts in their fields. Even though I have been in publishing for more than 30 years, I want to keep learning. However, some of the ideas may be hard to implement due to lack of resources.”
A morning panel on biblical literacy reinforced Benjamin’s emphasis on evangelism and biblical literacy. “The Gujarati Bible translation currently in use is more than 70 years old and language changes. In order to fulfill the Great Commission, we need to connect with the next generation in language that is easy to understand. I am part of a team working on a modern Gujarati translation.”
Gokhan Talas publishes Miras, a bimonthly magazine to equip Turkish Christians and as an outreach. He is also engaged in a project translating Bible story comic books into Turkish. A designer by training, Talas appreciates the opportunity to learn new skills and make contacts among professional peers. Along with design ideas, he is taking home specific learning related to social media tools that he can implement in his ministry. It is risky to be a Christian publisher in Turkey, but Talas is faithfully responding to God’s call to use his skills for God’s purposes.
Ann-Margret Hovsepian, an EPA freelancer of Armenian descent who, along with her family, has been doing short-term mission work in Armenia for the last several years, noted the bond of Christian faith that unites across cultures. “I had a wonderful conversation with Gokhan Talas from Turkey. I don't know if everyone understands the significance of an Armenian and a Turk joyfully talking with each other. That's what the Lord does! Gokhan may be able to help my family's ministry when we want to translate our books or tracts into Turkish.”
Learning goes all directions at EPA conventions. Anne Marie Winz (Cru) shares, “I gained new perspective on publishing in different contexts. I’m walking away richer because of my interactions over the past few days.”
Indeed, many of us are richer for connecting with brothers and sisters from different countries and learning more about what God is doing through Christian publications around the world.
Carla Foote is an Associate member of EPA, working as a freelance editor and writer (www.fineprintedit.com). She is also a trainer and board member for Magazine Training International.
Posted May 21, 2019