Sunday, May 31, 2009


On Sunday, June 7, I will fly to China.

The first week will be taken up with traveling and visiting Bethlehem friends with Evergreen Service in the Shanxi Province, about an hour's flight from Beijing.  

On Sunday, June 14, I will go to Beijing to join other friends. We will spend the week primarily in becoming more familiar with China.

We will be thankful for your prayers.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Gail Schoonmaker: Reflecting God's Image in Art

by Gail Schoonmaker
Illustrator, Do You Want a Friend? and The Big Picture Story Bible

The creation of the artwork for Do You Want a Friend? began when I received Noel's manuscript along with her notes for specific pages and for the artwork in general. 

I was delighted to read her desire to see families of various ethnicities, as this reflects not only God's kingdom, but the environment in which my husband and I have chosen to live and raise our own children. In fact, our kids are the only ones in their [public school] classes with white skin, and they see nothing unusual in these illustrations!  

I was equally pleased to see Noel's desire to include drawings of people with various disabilities. My own son Andy is severely autistic, and my beloved nephew has Down Syndrome. God has used the the joys and challenges of parenting Andy to, among many things, enlarge my heart for His covenant children whom society would marginalize. It has been a privilege to be part of a picture book that celebrates the reflection of God's image in so many ways.

That said, the biggest delight is the focus of the book: Jesus as our best friend in every way, and ultimately as our Saviour. 

I spent some time jotting down ideas for illustrations, creating a cast of recurring characters, and sketching possibilities. Ideas were easy and comfortable, as I was fortunate enough to experience God's grace in a home where my parents constantly acknowledged, thanked, praised, consulted, and asked forgiveness of the Lord. His friendship has been demonstrated to me in every way, so I didn't have to wonder what Noel's words might mean. 

When I had a rough sketch completed for every page (such as the one above), Noel took a look and provided feedback. When these ideas were incorporated and the resulting drawings were approved, I began to paint. I work on four watercolor paintings at a time, which allows each newly painted section to dry before I return to it. 

The entire process took several enjoyable months.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

How Do I Get Started Writing?

Recent email question:

How did you get started writing children's books? I feel that the Lord has been gently leading me to write  . . . but I have no idea how to break into this business. Thanks for your help!

I'm afraid my story may not offer a lot of direction. I told a friend an idea I had for a children's book. He happened to work for a publishing company and encouraged me to write it. 

But that wasn't really the very beginning. A lot of groundwork had already been laid. Many of my thoughts about becoming a writer are in a letter I wrote in response to someone who asked a similar question about how to get started writing. 

Here are some additional resources that I find helpful:

Christian Writers' Market Guide 2009, by Sally Stuart. This is the top of my list -- a fat book that is a treasure chest of advice, lists of publishers and publications sorted by type and market, list of Christian writers' conferences, etc. My copy always ends up flagged with dozens of sticky notes.
Sally Stuart's website -- filled with similar resources as the book, but probably not as detailed.  
The Christian Communicator website -- resources, courses, tips, helpful links, etc.  

I can't repeat too often, WRITE. Write letters. Write in your journal.  If you want to be published, write material for your church, for the neighborhood newspaper, for an e-zine, for a magazine--wherever you can publish, whether for children or adults, whether or not you get paid. It's good practice, and it proves you can write.

May God bless you and your readers through your work.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Ruptured Friendship

I received this email from someone who was going straight out to get a copy of Do You Want a Friend:

My granddaughter (2nd grade, now 8 yrs. old) has been having a really hard time at school because of ruptured friendships--a good friend "dropped" her for another girl.  She has been in much pain and sadness over it. I thought your book might help strengthen her dependence on the Lord and clarify some thinking on friendship and God's power in friendship for her. 

[I want her to have it right away, before] the issue may be resolved without the strengthening affect of the Lord through your story. 

I pray this book will give many children a glimpse of true friendship.

Friday, May 22, 2009

It's Here!

The time seems long between writing a book and holding the published product in your hand.

The time for Do You Want a Friend? is now.

I wish I could give a copy to all of you, but I guess God has blessed me with too many friends for that.

Next best thing: Desiring God is offering the book for almost half off the list price.

May it be a blessing to you who read it and to those you read to.

(p.s. Coming soon: a new look for this blog and a new direction.)

Monday, May 18, 2009


I heard that the photobook link didn't work for a number of people. Let's try again

On this page you can click to view the book, click to order if you wish, or click to save the book to your own Shutterfly account. If you don't have a Shutterfly account, but want to save the book, it's free to start an account.

If you have problems connecting, leave a comment.

A choral thank you

The children at CEFED Special Education School in Santa, Cameroon (near Bamenda) prepared a program to welcome us to the school. 

I'm so glad I was running my video camera, because there is one song I return to over and over. It was written especially for our team and for Joni and Friends. I think of the work that someone put into writing it and that the children put into learning it. I see their smiling, welcoming faces. 

The gift of this song was a wonderful punctuation to our time in Bamenda . . . and a magnet drawing us--and you?-- back again, Lord willing.

Friday, May 15, 2009

CEFED Special Education School

From Sue Murr, team member

One of the huge blessings while we were in Bamenda was being able to spend time at the CEFED Special Education School, founded by Nungu Magdalene. There are more than thirty young people there with a variety of physical and cognitive disabilities. Some of them came to receive wheelchairs at our Harvest Project distribution center, and many are using the chairs they received two years ago.

I had the opportunity to spend two days at the school, adding to the great work that Anna, another short-term physiotherapist had been doing.

She got Eliot walking for the first time with an adult-sized walker, and Tim was able to cut a walker down to fit him. His smile pretty much tells the whole story. 

Many of the children will benefit from an ongoing therapy program. We were able to photograph the exercises and leave behind copies to remind the workers how to position the children and make sure they are working up to their potential.

(Elijah learning to do sitting push-ups in his new wheelchair!)


These children are so blessed to have such a wonderful place to live and study!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Mothers Day

Mothers Day makes me think of dozens of loving parents we met in Yaounde and Bamenda, Cameroon.  We saw smiles that barely covered the underlying anxiety for a child with disabilities. We saw tender touches against the cheek of a child that no one else seems to care for. Some of those children were young, some were adults. And we saw loving adult children caring for parents.

I share glimpses of these children, mothers, fathers, and grandparents with you, especially if Mothers Day is not what you've always dreamed it might be, perhaps because of loss, disappointment, pain, struggle, fear. . . .  

As you look to your heavenly Father, perhaps you above all others will know how to bless these children and their families through your prayers.