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How I got started writing

Written February 4, 2002

As a missionary with Wycliffe Bible Translators, I have been writing a letter every three months for 31 years to the people who support us. Somewhere around 1995, as I read other missionaries’ letters, some of which were downright boring, I decided to make our letter worth keeping. At the least, I wanted to share something inspirational on a regular basis. Had God not done wonderful things for me?

One day I was amazed to wake up and be pressed to write a poem that was swirling around in my head. It was called “A Prism.” It was good; it encouraged others. Where did it come from? Certainly not from me. Oh, I have always been able to write a grammatically correct sentence, but a poet, a writer? Not long after, other words seem to come pre-packaged as I took walks in nature or meditated on Scripture.

A prayer letter from my friends, the Pohligs, encouraged me to be more creative. I loved some of their letter subheads: Bald man meets bald eagle and 80-year old midwife delivers septuplets! What fun! Intrigued, I was compelled to read on and find out what they meant. (Grandpa from the United Kingdom gets to see an American bald eagle, and grandma helps deliver puppies.)

I started to share my heart in our letters, as well as the needs and goals of our Bible translation–related ministry. People responded; many were touched by what I wrote. I also longed to share all the wonderful ways that God has led me and our family as missionaries. My dream had always been to lead a women’s Bible-study group or teach Sunday school. However, my poor health since 1985 precluded this. God never opened up that path to me. I felt so discouraged and frustrated. Was I not worthy to share with others?

In October 2001 my husband Neal and I took a month’s trip to Indiana to speak in churches that support us and to visit friends. We spent our first night on the road with a couple in West Virginia. They pumped us for stories from our years in West Africa. I gladly shared, and they responded with: “When are you going to write a book?” I was amused.

However, once we got to Indiana, I kept hearing this same message from one person after another. “Carol, we love your writing! You should write more.” After the sixth comment, I started feeling almost frightened. I started to pray, asking God if he had a writing assignment for me.

By the time we returned home to the JAARS campus, I was fired up to write. More people complimented my writing. But later, a query to a Wycliffe publication returned only a tepid reply. Next, a lady who is also a writer encouraged me to talk with an administrator about an idea I had for a booklet. I went to his office and we discussed it, but I felt he was internally rolling his eyeballs and thinking, “Oh, no, another aspiring writer!” He said, “If you want to write, why don’t you go over to the Creative Services department and tell them?”

No, that I would not do. Other times in the past I had forged ahead on my own only to regret it later. I continued to pray. I wrote an article “Is the Price Right?” and included it in our next prayer letter and sent a copy to the director of JAARS. A few days later I attended the vespers service at the center with my husband. We were walking down the aisle to our seats when that director jumped to his feet and startled me terribly. He complimented me on the essay. “That was so good! I read it and said, ‘Hmm.’ I read it through again, and I wondered why this woman was not writing for Wycliffe corporately... Why aren’t you?”

I was electrified and could feel Neal was too. I replied, “Well, no one ever asked me.” He said, “I’m going to do something about that!” I thanked him and took my seat, hardly able to contain myself. This, I knew, was God at work!

The next day, I received an e-mail from the head writer at Creative Services, acknowledging the quality of the many pieces she had read in our letters. She encouraged me to take a writers’ course as soon as possible. The following week God sent me a friend who started classifying scores of writing resources—news and magazine articles, quotes, and more—that I had unwittingly been collecting over the years, a gold mine for creating articles.

I am amazed and overjoyed at this gift that God has given me. He is opening an expanded ministry for me through writing. There is something so satisfying and affirming when God himself intervenes. He gives gifts, some at birth, and some later in life. He is the loving Father who delights in giving good gifts to His children.