Book-writing serendipity

One day in 2007, a friend began telling a long story he had heard that had left a deep impression on him. It was about a young man in Ethiopia who, in a desire to become rich, followed a coffee trader to a distant city and there finally heard the gospel and was saved. His voice was then recorded with the gospel message, and. . . .

I found the details fascinating. “Where did you get that story?”

“It’s on an old cassette tape Aunt Bonnie lent me.” (Aunt Bonnie was a ninety-year-old lady who was everybody’s aunt.)

“I’d like to listen to it,” I said.

A few days later he put it in my hands. Indeed it was old. It was from 1982, twenty-five years earlier. This missionary, Dick McLellan, was speaking at a local Bible school here in Greenville, telling one amazing story after another about the amazing work of God in Ethiopia.

So of course as I listened I thought, “I want to write a book.”

After months of dilly-dallying, transcribing the tape and trying to get the stories organized, I finally communicated with the Evangelical Institute of Greenville, asking for information about this man who was probably dead. After all, in 1982 he had already been a missionary for many years. How could he still be alive? I simply hoped that some family member would give me permission to write a book about him.

The head of the Institute referred me to Global Recordings, the mission group who had recommended this speaker. I wrote to them, and they forwarded my message, lo and behold . . . to Dick McLellan himself, who was alive and well and living in his hometown of Sydney, Australia.

All this correspondence happened within the course of a few days. I marvelled at the work of God to my teenage son: how, with modern technology, these letters had flown around the world and back again so quickly. He just gazed at me placidly and nodded.

And then Dick McLellan told me that he had recently self-published a book, containing most of the stories from the old cassette tape as well as many more that had occurred since 1982. The book had come out only since my friend had told me that story.

Within days the book, Warriors of Ethiopia, was in my hands.

I stood in awe that the Lord had given me not just a tape, but a book on which to base the stories I wanted to write for children.

And now the children’s book is in production, With Two Hands: Stories of God at Work in Ethiopia, the first in the Hidden Heroes series. Christian Focus Publications of Scotland will be releasing it next spring.

And even as I stand in amazement of the work of God in one story after another that this book portrays, I also stand in amazement of the work of God that brought the stories into my hands and allowed me to be one of the instruments He has used to get them to the hands of children and their parents.

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