As a young man, my grandfather had a motorcycle and was an adventurer. He also loved to hear about what God was doing around the world. Around this same time, he was invited to spend a week with some missionaries in Spain and decided this would be a great opportunity to use his vacation time and his motorcycle. While he was visiting these missionaries and hearing about their work, one of the men asked him if he could take him to a town a couple of hours away. Always ready for a new experience, he said sure and they took off on the motorbike. When they arrived at the small town, they parked the bike in a main plaza and the man asked my grandfather to wait for him while he went to an important meeting. Apparently not too many people in this town had ever seen a motorcycle before and a crowd started to gather. Little kids came up to him asking to touch the bike and adults looked at it admiringly. He wanted to be friendly, but had one big problem – he did not speak any Spanish. All he had to work with were smiles and hand gestures until he reached into his pocket. He had forgotten that the missionary he had been traveling with had given him some gospel tracts. Quickly he began handing them out and watched people’s eyes light up as they realized the words were in their own language.
That moment was a turning point in Ken Adams young life. He had experienced first hand the power of words on paper to cross cultural and language barriers and he would never forget it. Several years later, he had founded CLC (the Christian Literature Crusade) and was working with a courageous group of missionaries in England to get this organization off the ground. God had already done so much for them during the war years (World War II) and they had seen the ministry grow quickly. Now that the war was ending, a unique opportunity presented itself to supply books in German to the POWs in England and after some persuasion and a few more miracles, the doors were opened wide. It was clear that God was using the power of the printed page to reach even the most hated people on earth at that time in a way that nothing else could. Getting Christian books published and distributed in the heart languages of the world became a vital part of the CLC ministry in the years to come.
This week the story continued in Portugal. My close friend and CLC colleague, Carlos Cunha, was able to get two new books published in the Portuguese language. Originally published in English by our team here in the USA, these two books – Changed into His Likeness by Watchman Nee and Holiness without the Halo by Stuart and Jill Briscoe are being published in Portuguese for the first time. While this may not sound particularly remarkable, it is when you consider that Carlos is the only person working in the CLC ministry in Portugal and is entirely dependent on volunteers to help him run a bookstore and now do this publishing work. Given his limitations, it took him longer than he had hoped to get them translated and published, but he is delighted that the project is now completed.
As I celebrated this wonderful accomplishment in Portugal, I could not help but think about the importance of getting more Christian books published in Urdu, Farsi, Arabic and Indonesian. So much of the Muslim world is virtually unreachable by traditional missionary workers and yet books are widely available. While Christian books will be discouraged and even banned, they also are capable of reaching into places that Christian people never will. In a roundtable discussion on television today, a Muslim woman was talking about the power of the Wahhabi branch of Islam to persuade women to commit acts of violence in the name of their religion. As she talked, she held up a book that she had found being extensively distributed in Pakistan that espoused this philosophy and was being widely read. What a difference it could make if these same women had access to books that told about the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus has already made on their behalf and that violence will never solve the problems they are facing. This is the challenge for my generation of Christian literature workers to find ways to get the truth of the gospel into the hands of some of the most despised people in our world. Sounds like an adventure that my grandfather would have been excited about.