MAI brings local authors into the marketplace.
In many countries more than 90 percent of available Christian books are translations of material written in a context foreign to the intended reader. According to John D. Maust, president of Media Associates International (MAI), “while some translated materials will always be needed and desired, readers often search in vain for content that speaks directly to their cultural context and needs.”
MAI has come alongside authors and publishers to fill in this gap with training and development programs focusing on countries with few Christians and little publishing activity. Since the organization’s founding in 1985, its mission has been to equip writers to create books and articles in their own language. To date, it has conducted training in 80 countries for 9,300 participants with inspiring results.
When asked about the importance of having Christian content by local authors, Maust says, “It has been said that the strength of the national church is in direct proportion to its body of indigenous Christian literature. The Gospel integrated in locally written books and articles can provide lasting change in each country around the globe.”
Evidence of this was a leaflet published by the Bible Society of Egypt in response to the murder of Coptic Christians in Libya that struck a chord among Christians and Muslims alike, and became the most widely distributed piece of Christian literature in Egypt’s history.
THE NEEDS AND CHALLENGES
Local Christian publishing houses have many needs. In some countries they work largely alone and without encouragement from peers; struggle to find Christian staffers; are essentially self-taught; and have little to no training opportunites or contact with other publishers. In addition, Maust says, “Many Christian publishers in the majority of the world work in a context of war, poverty, religious extremism, and political oppression. This is not a ministry for the faint of heart.”
Publishers also face challenges in bringing local authors to the marketplace. There’s the financial risk with taking on local authors over big-name international authors who already have a built-in market. “An ‘imported-is-better-than-local’ mindset must sometimes be overcome,” says Maust.
Complicating matters is the translation process is straightforward and predictable while helping an emerging author can be difficult, especially when the publishing house lacks an experienced editor. To meet this expressed need, MAI is now adding an increased emphasis on editorial training and development.
MAI averages 15 to 20 onsite training sessions per year in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East, giving priority to places where local training opportunities are scarce and where Christian publishing and witness are especially difficult. MAI also provides webinars and training resources on its website and through social media.
MAI training has two main goals: to help Christian publishers become strong and financially self-sustaining and to equip local authors who winsomely share Good News and expertly apply God’s Word to issues of the day.
Training is provided through a global network of volunteers. “Gifted publishing professionals and writers donate their expertise and time to equip others,” says Maust. “In addition, we have trustee groups in Europe, Asia, and Africa that help spearhead training in their respective regions and provide on-the-ground input for our international training program.”
As a result, “a lot is happening globally and organically at the grassroots level with low operational expenses,” he says. “With God’s help, our training program will result in more and better locally authored Christian content that enriches the church and influences society.”