In the beginning was a sick nurse with a pencil and a dream.
One day a Bengali woman visited that sick nurse, glanced at her bookcase, and said, “You have so much in English; we have so little in Bengali.” Jeannie, the nurse, described it, “Into my mind flashed the Lord’s words, ‘For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required.’” Right then the concept of the literature program was born.
That was back in 1968. There were no resources, no training, and no facilities. It was an impossible dream. But the Lord does the impossible. As Jeannie saw Bengalis struggle to understand high literary Bangla, God gave her another Bible verse, Habakkuk 2:2, for Literature Division’s purpose: “Write the vision… make it clear.”
He transformed gifted Bengali men and women, who then formed the literature team. And He transformed one small room with two tiny storage closets, so that Literature Division’s work of planning, writing, proof-reading, dealing with printers, mimeographing, compiling materials, packing and mailing out orders could all be carried on right there.
Back then, books were written with pencils, translated and hand-copied onto blue ditto-masters, copied on mimeograph machines and spirit duplicators. Those were the days before computers, so materials were neatly hand-written before they could be sent to press. Back then, men carefully hand-typeset each page, dropping into wooden slots the individual letters, upside-down, inside-out, and back-wards. Then the pressman applied the ink. Laura, who is still actively involved in literature production, describes the frustration of receiving news that a page had been carefully laid out and typeset, and then the whole thing had tumbled off the table.
But then God miraculously provided land and a building in Chittagong city, so Literature Division spread its wings and began its own press. Along with their finds of old printing press machines, they even brought in a huge camera. Nowadays few people remember those bulky machines and laborious projects, but Laura describes the joy of receiving a newly printed book. Jeannie would grab that book and run from room to room, waving it eagerly for all to see.
A lot has changed since those early years. In the beginning there was only a dining-room table and a dream. Now Literature Division shares its spacious building with multiple like-minded organizations, and partners with others in producing and marketing its quality books. Back then pictures from old Sunday school papers were cut out and glued into children’s books. But now our computers quickly format page layout and add colorful photos. Constantly changing technology opens unlimited possibilities for high-quality printing, print-on-demand books, and even digital books. We research the market. We apply for grants.
And yet some things never change. We still cheer as God provides. And we still have a dream. We still trust God’s promise: “Being confident of this, that He Who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)
-Submitted Fall, 2017. Note: Much of this history was drawn from Write the Vision, a book written by Jeannie Lockerbie, the sick nurse who began it all.