In 1991 in Medellín, a city notorious for high rates of murder and kidnapping, a few Colombians dreamed of infusing their violence-ridden society with Christ’s hope through books and magazines. That year, Media Associates International (MAI) led a writing workshop at the Biblical Seminary of Colombia, one of the country’s top theological schools.
“Those were two extraordinary weeks that made a powerful mark on my life and ministry,” wrote Fernando Mosquera, then the seminary’s assistant dean. Inspired to action, he launched a Christian writer group in Medellín. Since that first workshop, he has published five books, his latest, Christianity, Justice and Peace. The topic couldn’t be more appropriate for the country.
Colombia is “the worst humanitarian crisis in the western hemisphere,” reports the United Nations. More than 2 million people have fled their homes, making the nation’s number of displaced people the world’s second-highest after Sudan.
Despite adversity, churches have grown. Pastors and lay people have suffered kidnapping and murders, victimized sometimes by rebels threatened by increasing numbers of evangelicals. In 1933 there were only 15,000 evangelicals, but in 2000, Protestant evangelicals numbered almost 2 million, according to Operation World.
Colombia boasts a vigorous publishing industry and major writers like Nobel Prize winner Gabriel García Márquez. But few Christians are writing a message of hope for general society and producing literature to help disciple new churches. Fernando and the Medellín seminary believe Colombia needs a new generation of thinkers and writers who will relate biblical truth to the people’s real needs.
In 2005, Fernando invited MAI back to Medellín for an initial writer workshop. Last year, 25 of the most promising writers were invited to join a three-year program to develop publishable manuscripts in collaboration with the seminary and all six of the country’s evangelical publishers.
Author Doris Ramos, a lawyer and professor of church history, is writing a book on the constitutional rights of evangelicals. In this heavily Catholic country, evangelicals at times have been denied permission to start churches or even minister to displaced peoples. Publishers talked with Doris about ways to relay this technical subject to the average person.
“This is parched ground. Any help or encouragement you can give is very valuable,” says Ian Darke, Latin America regional trainer. Each month, seminary staff will contact and encourage all the writers individually.
Colombia’s needs may be staggering, but seeds of hope for life-changing literature are growing.
This article by Dawn Herzog Jewell, was used by permission of Media Associates International (www.littworld.org) and first appeared in the Autumn 2006 issue of MAI’s Words for the World newsletter.