Central Asia: Behind the “Golden Pen” Award

In your word I find my utmost delight.

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I want to honor its great worth aright.

Let me forever live within your word.

Pressed into it, may it and I unite.”

Readers are devouring Mary’s* stanzas across her nation in Central Asia. Last year the author received her country’s “Golden Pen” award and was invited to join the prestigious National Writers Union, recognizing her skill as a writer-poet.

The visionary woman committed her life to Christ in 1996 while raising five children as a single, divorced mother. Despite opposition and mocking by family members and friends, she persevered in her faith.

Just three years after her conversion, Mary founded a monthly Christian newspaper that peaked at a circulation of 27,000 copies with a readership beyond the Church. Only 5 percent of nation’s population is Christian, and the remainder Muslim. But people there enjoy more religious freedom than many Central Asian neighbors of the former Soviet Republic.

Financial difficulties forced her to cease publication in 2005, but Mary persisted. She completed seminary studies in 2008, feeding her growing children by running a general merchandise store in the public market.

Ukrainain publisher Andrey Kravchenko. Photo by Karen Crespo

Only two years’ ago, Mary launched the country’s first Christian publishing house. An MAI workshop for local writers in 2012 had helped inspire her. Then she spent 10 days in Ukraine gleaning insights from Andrey Kravchenko, director of Ezdra Publishing House. That’s when her vision to start a publishing house cemented.

When the new publishing house became official in 2015, Mary launched a book of inspirational poems by her and other local Christian writers. Since then, she has released a total of seven books. Mary credits God for the good sales and positive feedback from readers.

Today she hopes to mold the nation’s character by writing an ethics textbook for public schools. Formed after the collapse of the USSR in 1991, the country struggles to find its identity amidst widespread poverty.  “There are lessons on ethics in public secondary schools, but no textbooks on the topic,” she said.

Mary aims to engage teenage readers with her creativity while writing from a biblical perspective. “I’m convinced this project will help in our nation-building efforts.”

To enable Mary to complete her manuscript, MAI awarded her a modest scholarship from the David Alexander International Author Fund.  The Fund specifically helps Christians who are writing for general readers. Mary receives only a meager income from her writing, publishing and translating.

Pray for Mary’s words to bless her nation and for God to raise up more writers in Central Asia.
*Mary’s real name and her country are omitted due to security concerns.

We believe the strength of a nation’s Church is in direct proportion to its body of indigenous Christian literature. By training grassroots Christian publishing houses and writers, MAI is helping to build up the Church in countries like Mary’s.

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