Last week Mary Allen's Hoosier Ink blog (May 5, scroll down to view) was like a message from God to me. Mary wrote: "If God has given you a task -- say to write -- don't grow weary in doing that job. Don't let opposition or difficulties or logic sway you."
My surprise book has been just such a task. . .
The seed for Women of the Last Supper: “We Were There Too,” was planted in my heart decades ago in China, where I was born and raised during the devastating wars of the 1940's. And while my younger brother and I survived, our three older brothers are buried in Xian, along with millions of other victims.
Until seventh grade, my sporadic schooling was mostly by my missionary parents as we fled from place to place, seeking safety from bombs and anti-foreign-devil riots. So during my elementary years, Dad’s pocket New Testament was often my only textbook.
I still vividly remember one day reading a lesson in the Gospels and asking, “Daddy, why didn’t Jesus have any girl disciples?”
Dad looked at me with surprise and answered, “But of course, Jesus had girl disciples!” And he showed me some of the many passages about the women who followed Jesus, and about the girl he brought back to life.
After my family finally escaped to Taiwan in 1951, we were able to subscribe to the Reader’s Digest. What a happy day when each new issue arrived (usually months late)! It became my favorite textbook.
Then one momentous day an issue arrived with an article about Leonardo da Vinci and his famous Milan mural depicting the Last Supper. As soon as I read it, I rushed to Dad. “Look at this picture,” I said, “why aren’t any of Jesus’ girl disciples there?”
Dad patiently explained to me that it was a very old painting, and that for some reason the painter had left out the women and the girls. He didn't try to explain to me at my young age about centuries of church tradition and theology.
In the decades since, with great fascination I've researched this topic of women at the Last Supper, including at the Vatican and the Louvre, where there are huge ancient paintings showing women, children, and others present at the Last Supper. And why not? It was a Jewish Passover Seder family meal, much like our Thanksgiving dinners.
Twelve years ago when I moved to Chesterton, Indiana, for the first time I had a pastor willing to portray women at the Last Supper along with the twelve men disciples. (Not that I hadn't asked and begged before.) And that happened only after I wrote Lenten monologs for the twelve men disciples at my pastor’s request, who then with only a slight hesitation agreed to twelve women monologs as well (even though he was fearful it might be "heresy").
These fictional, but biblical and historical portrayals of women at the Last Supper by daring women from my Joy Circle at church caused quite a stir of controversy and interest! People soon were asking for copies of the women monolog stories. At first, my Joy Circle made copy machine booklets and sold them to raise money for missions. When my son Peter saw the booklets, he urged me instead to self-publish professional looking books.
So my first published book was also a surprise book, especially when study groups asked me to include questions and resources. My initial, timid print run of 250 books by www.instantpublisher.com/ was gone in two weeks. Now several years later, I’ve printed books several more times and sold many of my Last Supper books, mostly locally and mainly when I speak about this topic.
Right now, I’m nearly out of books (again), and am waiting on God for my next step. I’ve been sensing for some time that God is leading me to share about "Women of the Last Supper" beyond "Jerusalem." That’s where my agent Diana Flegal and Hartline Literary Agency come in. So these days I'm looking forward to Diana emailing me the good news that a brave, traditional publisher is offering us a contract.
If you'd like a look at some of the controversy about my topic, check out the responses to two articles I've recently had published titled "Women at/of the Last Supper" in Christianity Today's Kyria.com and in Light and Life Magazine.
www.freemethodistchurch.org/Magazine (The response letters are in the current issue on page 7. The article is in the Mar/Apr issue in the archives.)
So yes, Mary Allen, I was indeed grateful for your meaningful blog last week. God used it to encourage me to "hang in there" as I face opposition and difficulties with this topic and book that I share as a calling from God. You helped me recall something else my dear dad often told me, "Nothing worthwhile is easy!" And I echo it to anyone else reading this today who needs encouragement blessings.