Innovation rarely happens in a vacuum. Quite often an innovator is inspired by the circumstances of their lives to try something new and different. Even Thomas Edison, the great American inventor, was inspired by his time as a telegraph operator. It was his tinkering with telegraph machines that one day led to his discovery of the elements needed for the first long-lasting light bulb and the means to electrify entire cities. One of my favorite Edison quotes that highlighted his tenacity and persistence in the face of insurmountable odds is,
“’I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Over the years, God has used many peculiar circumstances to advance the work of CLC. My grandparents, who founded the ministry, were greatly challenged by the literature evangelism efforts of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. By combining book tables with their tent evangelism meetings in England they began to discover the power of the printed page to help new converts to grow in their faith. Through God’s providential hand they met a visionary missionary leader who would not let them abandon their fledgling literature work, but instead envisioned a “Christian Woolworths” up and down the British Isles. A few years later, in the midst of World War II, God used the depressed real estate prices in the market to enable them to obtain a prime location in downtown London. Today, CLC is working in over 50 countries of the world and God is still doing unique things in our midst.
Not satisfied to have already translated and published half of all the Christian books in his home country of Myanmar, Jacob Mung is now working on his most ambitious project yet. Burdened by the need for good Bible study resources, he and his small team are working on the first ever Burmese Study Bible. They are not simply taking the notes from an existing study Bible and translating it into their language. Instead, Jacob is working with Bible scholars to create study aids that will be relevant and helpful in his context while being faithful to proper methods of Biblical interpretation. This new study Bible is destined to inspire a whole new generation of Christian leaders and pastors to study God’s word for themselves and to share the good news of the Gospel.
In Ebola ravaged Liberia, James Cooper and his team refused to close the CLC bookstore even at the height of the crisis. Instead, they took appropriate precautions recommended by health care professionals as did all shop keepers in the capital city of Monrovia. Every person entering and leaving the store now washes their hands in a solution of water and bleach. As they took this bold step, they noticed something happening. Instead of sales declining and customers staying away, sales began to increase as people had more time on their hands. With schools closed and many government offices shut down, people were looking for things to do and many turned to reading. In God’s perfect timing CLC USA had shipped hundreds of high quality used Christian books to Liberia before the outbreak of the crisis. These books could be sold for as little as $1 a piece and were available to fill the needs of people looking for something to read with very little money to spend.
Not interested in a quiet retirement in Georgia, Don and Betsy Veldboom are preparing for the next season of their life and ministry in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Despite having open heart surgery in December, Don is planning to travel with Betsy this summer for six weeks to help with two major English language book tables that CLC is sponsoring for other organizations that are holding annual conferences in this strategic city. Having spent his recent years as a pastor, Don is looking forward to utilizing his previous experience as a Christian book distribution leader to bless the people of Thailand and the countries nearby. Together, Don and Betsy will be filling a much needed role of providing English language Christian resources in a city that has become the hub for Christian ministry to all of Southeast Asia and a supply station for many other mission agencies. One thing is for sure; God is never finished with us and has unique plans for every stage of our lives. The Veldbooms hope to move to Thailand full time in 2016 to begin this new adventure.
As I consider my own work, I am amazed at the innovative God I serve. Nothing goes to waste with our God. Over the years, CLC has published hundreds of titles here in Fort Washington, PA and they have impacted lives all over the world. For the most part, this was the English language speaking areas of our world as all of our books are published in English. Today, that is beginning to change. Just this week I was talking with a colleague about our books that have now been translated into Italian and Polish. Some of these books have been in print for a few years already, but are completely new in these languages. New CLC authors are even seeing their books published in Spanish, French and Korean as well. Who knows how God will use the treasure trove of great Christian content that CLC USA has published over 50 years to change lives in many languages in the next 50 years.
I am greatly inspired by a God who never ceases to innovate in our lives as we make ourselves available to His working in and through us.