Another missionary working in Papua New Guinea (and currently on another island) told my wife that they only got a newsletter out about once or twice a year. It is hard, and they just can’t “whip one out like [Michael] does.” I have a confession. I don’t just “whip out” a newsletter. OK, maybe a quick photo of the week email with no major content is pretty quick, but the “official” newsletter that we archive on our web site, email to our partners, and have printed and mailed to our email-less partners takes about two days of labor to produce. It would take less time if we made it longer, actually. We know that people are busy, so we endeavor to keep the newsletters short; no more than one sheet of 8.5 x 11 inch paper, printed on both sides, using type that most people won’t need a magnifying glass to read. In addition, we know that people like pictures. We like them, too. Pictures aren’t just fun to take, they are also effective tools to communicate a lot in a little time. Pictures tell stories. Of course, pictures bring to mind stories, too— usually more stories than I tell. Actually, one of the best things about our web site is that it gives me a place to put the overflow from stuff that didn’t make it into the newsletters. It also is a nice place to be able to post pictures without a really small size limit on the captions. Of course, I realize that not nearly as many people will read all that I post or enjoy the pictures as read our newsletters, but that is OK.
The richness of the full-color range of experiences and adventures with God here and in our travels just flat-out won’t fit in two pages every month or three. There are many significant things going on, times where God has gotten glory by protecting and healing His people, trials and victories over trials great and small, all mixed in with cross-cultural salsa and sprinkled with miracles. Sometimes it seems like a real struggle just to not lose heart, and other times, the joy of the Lord just overwhelms a guy. Through it all, God is faithful. Of course, adventures with God don’t require crossing large quantities of salt water. People struggle to grow close to the Lord in the busy USA, too. So, we keep trying to condense significant events, prayer requests, vision, thanks, and news of what we are doing into less than a page a month. Why do we even bother? Accountability. Reminders for both senders and sent of their dependence on each other. Reminders to pray. That makes it worth it.
Lately, I’ve been experimenting with making the newsletters a little “deeper,” at least for some people. By embedding hyperlinks in our newsletters, I make a way for people who are reading the electronic version online to dig a little deeper or see a little clearer picture with a simple click. At least that works for people who are on the Internet at the time. If they aren’t, or if they are looking at a printed copy, then they still get a decent newsletter.
I’ve also used prayer letter writing as a learning experience. I suppose that a normal person would figure out one software program for creating prayer letters and stick with it. I’ve used a wide variety of programs, sometimes just to learn to use that program. The most recent newsletter I produced was the first one that I produced with Scribus running under Ubuntu Linux. I like it. I think I’ll keep using Scribus for our newsletters for a while. It makes a really good PDF file for our purposes.