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The Truth in Fiction: Ministry, not money, motivates these writers

For as long as she can remember, Laura Anderson Kurk has loved writing.
She didn’t find her story, though, until two years ago. That’s when she experienced a deeply upsetting dream.
“I was in a house that wasn’t familiar to me, and I heard a girl crying,” said Kurk, a member of the A&M Church of Christ in College Station, Texas. “I looked and looked for her, afraid that it might be my own daughter.
“I found her in an upstairs room looking out a window, crying that cry of true grief,” said the mother of two, who received a bachelor’s degree in English from Abilene Christian University in 1991 and earned her master’s from Texas A&M University in 1992. “She wouldn’t talk to me, and I felt helpless.”
That girl became Meg Kavanaugh, the main character in Kurk’s debut novel, “Glass Girl,” published in 2010 by WestBow Press, a division of Thomas Nelson. The story takes a teenage girl from the darkness of grief to the light of hope.
Kurk said the darkness of young adult fiction frustrated her — vampires, werewolves and zombies but few real teens with real problems. Real teens need hope, and so did that girl in her dream.
Kurk couldn’t let that girl — or that message — go.
“When I saw that it wasn’t going to go away, I said, ‘OK, God, let’s find a way to turn darkness into light, despair into hope, in a story that appeals to all the teenagers who are this sad,’” Kurk said.
Kurk found her voice — and her ministry.
“I had this faith that this story was coming out of a really pure part of my heart, and I didn’t think God would have put it there if he didn’t plan on using it,” said Kurk, who worked in public relations and marketing before becoming a stay-at-home mom.

Does God use novels — and the writers who spend countless hours writing, editing and seeking publication — to widen his kingdom?
This might be difficult for some of the “people of the Book” to believe, but Kurk is just one of many fiction authors in Churches of Christ who see their writing as a vital ministry.
Fiction can reach some people where other ministries might not, said James Andrews, owner of Publishing Designs Inc., a Huntsville, Ala.-based publishing house associated with Churches of Christ.
“Jesus taught in parables, and we have stories in the Bible that are not intended to be real,” Andrews said. “The story Nathan told David about the little lamb was pretty powerful. Fiction is a powerful thing.”
A teenager in a juvenile detention center recently sent Janet Lee Barton a letter after reading one of her Christian romance novels. To Barton, the letter illustrated the power of a story.
“He said he wanted to be a good man and there for people who loved him the most,” said Barton, a member of the Edmond Church of Christ in Oklahoma, who has had 15 books published with Barbour Books.
Then there’s the e-mail that Kurk received from a teenager who read “Glass Girl.”
“She’d not studied the Bible, and after reading it, she was researching baptism on her own,” Kurk said. “Getting that one letter was enough for me. The angels sing over one soul.”

Doug Kashorek, an author and preacher for the Plattsburgh Church of Christ in New York, said he hopes his fiction writing drives readers to the best nonfiction book of all time: the Bible.
“If Christian fiction can get kids and young adults excited about reading Scripture, then that’s a good thing,” Kashorek said.
His debut book, “Kin of Cain,” is the first in a planned fantasy trilogy. It weaves together fiction, history and myth with storylines from the Old English poem Beowulf, pre-flood biblical history and the Adirondacks area of New England.
Kashorek and other Christian fiction authors say they know the plan of salvation can’t be written any better than it already has been in God’s Word.
“If my books can get someone to read the Bible and find the truth, I’ve done what God wanted me to do,” Barton said.
But in the hands of an unbeliever, Christian fiction authors said, a paperback novel can seem less imposing than a Bible.
“Fiction is an open door more so than listening to a testimony,” said Lacy Williams, president of the Oklahoma Christian Fiction Writers and author of “Marrying Miss Marshal,” a historical romance set for release in August by Steeple Hill Books.
“Someone might pick up a book where they would never ask me ‘Why do you believe what you do?’ or ‘Why do you go to that church?’” added Williams, a member of the Memorial Road Church of Christ in Edmond.
If nothing else, writing is a leap of faith, these authors say.
Once they jump, these writers may never know how their stories influence the lives of readers.
But they do know that they experience tremendous personal spiritual growth, they said. And sometimes, that is all the encouragement they need to keep writing.
For these writers, this ministry is not about making money. In fact, many opt to self-publish their novels, publicizing their writing through Facebook, blogs and word-of-mouth.
“I’ve been able to touch and be touched, and that has given me a lot of courage and a voice that I haven’t had before,” Kurk said.

  • Feedback
    I’ve been searching for a long time for Christian fiction for teens. As a high school librarian, the contemporary titles available to me for purchase have been of much concern, and I’ve wrestled with decision-making. I look forward to reading the reviews of the the works of the authors highlighted in the two articles just published in the Chronicle. Thank you for for bringing attention these efforts. I hope these authors are well-received and their stories/themes direct readers to the Lord.
    Kathy Lee
    Aztech church of Christ
    Aztec, NM
    June, 20 2011

    Lorna Kinney a York Coll Grad and member of the McPherson Ave congregation just finished her third ‘christian fiction’ novel. Making Waves and A Great Catch are published.
    Pete French
    McPherson Ave COC
    Council Bluffs, IA
    June, 16 2011

    Great one there.
    How good it is for brothers to motivate fellow brethren through the written page.
    Well,please i want to know if i can send an article for publication which would fetch me a little income.
    Michael Fordjour
    Church of Christ.
    Takoradi, Western
    June, 16 2011

    I have two nieces that do this type of writing. One attends the Columbia Heights congregation in San Francisco,Rosiland Coats and the other Kamika Whetstone are active writers with a play coming out entitled: “Unequaly Yoked”. This story is inspiring.
    Raymond Coats, Sr.
    Rio Vista
    Rio Vista, California
    June, 16 2011

Filed under: National Staff Reports

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