Thinking Out Loud

January 22, 2019

Rooted in Reality, Released as Fiction: Book Took 23 Years to be Published

Filed under: books, Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:28 am

Last week, Michael Bell, one of the contributors at Internet Monk shared the story behind the just-released book In His Majesty’s Secret Service written by his younger brother, Patrick. First here’s what Michael wrote at iMonk:

A little over thirty years ago my younger brother, Patrick Bell, left on an adventure. He joined Greg, his best friend from high school, on a clandestine team smuggling bibles behind the Iron Curtain. For two years they crisscrossed Eastern Europe bringing Bibles, medicines, and food to Christians who faced persecution and even death because of their faith.

They took ten trips into Romania, where Christians were having a particularly difficult time under President Nicolae Ceaușescu. It was also very stressful for the smuggling teams. “When you hear gunfire outside your hotel and there are bullet holes in the window and blood on the carpet, you know you’re in the thick of things.” A network of informers meant that they could never be sure who they could trust.

In his downtime he started writing about what he was experiencing. He wrote in the genre of a historical fiction, with himself and Greg being portrayed as two of the main characters in the book.

His letters from their Austrian base kept us up-to-date on what he was doing. Some of his stories made it into the manuscript he was writing. Others for security reasons did not. He wrote to our family about some of the ethical issues that a Bible Smuggler faces: What do you do when asked at the border if you have Bibles? How do you hold church services when they have been banned? These very real dilemmas were addressed in his manuscript in the context of a story of high risk, betrayal, faith, prison escapes, near misses, revolution, death, and even a little romance. All was skilfully woven together in a way that put the manuscript into the “can’t put down” category.

In the late fall of 1989 we received a letter from Pat. “I’m not very hopeful for the situation in Romania”, he wrote, “there are soldiers with sub-machine guns on every corner.” Six weeks later, the revolution had been successful and Ceaușescu was arrested.. “When Ceaușescu was shown on TV, soldiers became so angry at him, they wanted to shoot the TV.” On Christmas day, 1989, Ceaușescu and his wife were led before a firing squad and executed. They had been tried before a secret tribunal and found guilty of multiple crimes against the country.

A few days later I was watching the CBS evening news. The Romanian border had just been opened with the West and CBS had a reporter on the spot interviewing the first visitors to make the trip across. I almost fell out of my chair when I saw my brother Pat, and Holly (his future wife), smiling at the cameras from inside their vehicle? “Why are you headed into Romania”, the reporter asked? “We heard there was great skiing in Romania!”, came the response. The Bibles were, as usual, still carefully concealed. I learned later that they were given a tank escort into Bucharest and he was offered a ride!

So what happened to the manuscript? In 1995, Pat and Holly moved to Japan to teach English in order to pay down school debts. The manuscript went into a box. For the twelve years they were in Japan, another year in Kenya, and nine more years in Canada, the manuscript sat in the box unseen. About a year ago Pat happened upon the box and opened it. There was the manuscript. The floppy disks on which it had been written were long gone. “We really should do something with this,” Holly said. With the help of a friend, Pat had the book scanned and converted back into readable text. Holly found a publishing contest to enter, and so Pat spent a few more weeks editing the book to get it ready to submit.

They won the contest!

At his website, Patrick writes: “…I’m a Canadian, now living in Kelowna, BC. I’m a graduate of Wheaton College (MA, Inter-cultural Studies, 1995) and Regent University (MBA, International Business, 2007)…” He adds that he “is an ambassador for Open Doors, Canada. If you want to help your persecuted brothers and sisters around the world, there are so many opportunities to get involved.”

At Word Alive, here’s a summary of the book:

Jim, Nick, and Kirsten have always had a heart for their fellow believers behind the Iron Curtain. It’s one thing to pray for their brothers and sisters in Romania, though, and another thing entirely to face hostile border guards with illegal Bibles hidden in their van. Only God can blind the eyes of those searching the vehicle so the three of them will be allowed to pass through safely.

Someone in the underground Romanian church is an informer, and the three Bible smugglers want to know who. The brutal dictatorship of Nicolae Ceaușescu, the watching eyes of the secret police, and a personal vendetta being carried out by a colonel with a forty-year grudge have put them and all the believers in danger. As rumours of revolution swirl around them, Jim, Nick, and Kirsten face an impossible dilemma. If they can’t trust those who call themselves Christians, who can they trust?

At Internet Monk there’s an excerpt from the book.

Finally, at Word Alive Press, you can read the official contest announcement with winners and runners-up.

U.S. customers can inform their local bookstore that the title may be ordered through Anchor Distributors.


ISBN: 9781486617548 | paperback | 224 pages | $19.99 US/CDN

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May 16, 2012

Wednesday Link List

If you missed the bonus edition of the link list this week, be sure to click over to Monday.

  • Quotation of the day, from Arminius, after whom Arminianism is named: ““Next to the study of the Scriptures which I earnestly inculcate, I exhort my pupils to peruse Calvin’s Commentaries…” (appropriately, as quoted on an Arminian blog.)
  • Canadian author, apologist and television host Grant Jeffrey passed away on the weekend. His independent publishing catalog was purchased years ago by Random House subsidiary Waterbrook Press, with Wikipedia listing 34 titles including one scheduled for next January.
  • At Age 30, Chris Galanos is the youngest person to pastor a megachurch in the United States. Needless to say, it’s in Texas.
  • If you have ever struggled to sing the bridge to “Blessed Be The Name” — the “You give and take away” part — you might resonate with this article and many comments.
  • On the 20th anniversary of New Wineskins magazine, Keith Brenton deals with the emotional issues that arise when one reaches a crossroads in terms of their committment to their church home. To stay or to go, that is the question. 
  • Julie Clawson learns the hard way that when you’re in the fitting room trying on swimsuits, you’re a captive audience for the woman who wants to stand outside the door and share her faith. Not sure if this would work at the menswear store.
  • Lots of Bible-related links today; that’s a good thing, right? Now picture yourself sitting alone in your room reading your Bible. In the grander scheme of things, you’re not really alone.
  • Francis Chan makes a rather provocative statement about mission and worship, and — just like Andy Stanley’s fifteen minutes of controversy last week — the words get wrenched from the heart of what he’s saying. Gee…that’s never happened before.
  • How does a Bible translator feel when a new English version is introduced, knowing so many people still don’t have a Bible or even a complete New Testament in their language.
  • The Amish weren’t supposed to have cars, but did anybody say they couldn’t fly? In a community where the official ruling was still pending, a young man takes up flying in 1917, and where the Great War is going on, he also is an exception to the practice of exemption from military duty. All this makes The Wings of Morning a rather interesting looking novel.
  • The Gay issue. It’s the toughest challenge the church has faced in years. And each gay person is going to have contact — good or bad — with professing Christians. And for every 17 interactions, you have to hope one of us gets it right.
  • Pete Wilson boards a helicopter for a flyover of a piece of property central to a complete relocation of Cross Point in Nashville, and also celebrates a God-blessed history in this 15-minute video.
  • Sports Department: Victor Goetz is a championship golfer, however he’s also quite blind. He typically finishes with a score of 105. He also earned a Paralympic gold medal in lawn bowling.
  • Pop goes the music department: A new Owl City EP released yesterday with help from Matt Thiessen of Relient K.
  • A Lutheran (LCC) pastor thinks you can preach a perfect sermon but still get a failing grade if you’ve answered all the wrong questions or left people with the wrong mandate.
  • Michael Hyatt sits down with the originators of a rather unique new English Bible translation, The Voice. This edition uses a dramatic script format where applicable, and I’m hoping at some point to get a copy so we can delve into it here in much more detail. (There’s a page sample from one month ago at this blog when the usual suspects got upset about a particular phrase translation choice.)
  • For those who follow the Fundy Follies, Right Wing Watch blog is doing a series based on the student handbook at Liberty University; this link deals with the policy of random drug testing. Too bad thought-monitoring hasn’t been invented yet.
  • Which is a great lead-in to twelve easy steps the rest of us can follow that provide an absolute guarantee that we’ll never be mistaken for a Fundy.
  • ‘You and I in a little toy shop, buy a bag of balloons for the Bibles we bought…’ — They weren’t red balloons, but they carried Bibles into North Korea, and GPS tracking devices verified that they reached the target.
  • You’ve seen the line, “If you love Jesus click ‘like.'” Does that mean that if I don’t click, I don’t love Jesus? Is Facebook theology becoming shallow, or were the FB-ers who post this drivel spiritually shallow to begin with?
  • Now then, as to that Archie comic above. If you’re old enough to remember the “even then it was awkward evangelism” Spire Christian Comics and want to relive those memories, Carp’s Place has them waiting for you on .pdf files…
  • …And since one Archie deserves another, I thought we’d end with TV favorite 1970’s bigot, Archie Bunker; and if you dare, a link to Archie reading the creation story from Genesis, which isn’t quite the same as Linus reading the Christmas story.

September 15, 2010

Wednesday Link List

This week's links lynx is actually an Iberian Lynx

A special blessing will come your way if you click all these links and then send the list to ten friends.   Seriously.   Would I lie to you?

Actually, it’s just a list of things I found worth reading this week.   This weekly list is now consider the #1 list of links published on a Wednesday by a blog called Thinking Out Loud.   BTW, the Iberian Lynx is making what is only his second appearance here.  The first was in January this year.

  • If 56 million Bibles are printed annual in China, why would you bother to smuggle any?   Maybe because the number of Bibles produced are often English Bibles and Bible story books for kids which are exported for sale here in the west.   So the need is still there.
  • She was the champion of the use of the arts in church worship.   And still is.   But right now, former Willow Creek creative arts guru Nancy Beach is sitting in a director’s chair in Toronto on the set of a movie.
  • Sometimes you hear about charity fund raising projects and you wonder if anything is actually being accomplished.   18 months ago, I wrote about one involving worship musicians, Compassionart.   (I still enjoy the CD/DVD combo, especially the DVD.)   This past week, Rick Apperson dug up the stats on the projects accomplished by the project so far.
  • You can vote in the comments section whether or not you love this week’s YouTube clip or hate it.   But how can you not like little Mary Margaret’s flawless dramatic narration of the story of Jonah?
  • Back to the heavy stuff.  Here’s a great piece at Think Christian that helps you identify American “civil religion” when you see it. Simple marker: “Any statement that identifies the USA as God’s unique instrument for the salvation of the world is by definition blasphemous and idolatrous for a Christian to make.”
  • Mandy Thompson’s husband discovers that he didn’t actually marry that Mandy Thompson.
  • Thirty seconds of thinking:  Seth Godin on why it matters that there’s a difference to jazz versus bowling.
  • David Fitch wants you think twice about church planting in an auditorium as opposed to church planting in a living room.   Your choice could have repercussions for decades.
  • Here’s a great 5-minute animation of the Casting Crowns song, Praise You In The Storm.
  • Actually, I’ll give you a bonus video this week.   This is by Aaron Niequist, former Mars Hill (Grand Rapids) now doing the same job at Willow Creek.   The song is simply titled Changed.
  • Then again, why not go three-for-three.   This one may not fit your definition of a worship song, but it earn the adjective as much as anything else.   Check out Owl City’s Meteor Shower.
  • It’s one thing to have a more gender-inclusive translation of the Bible, but T.C. Robinson wonders aloud what do you do when “elders” in Titus 1 is gender-neutral as it is in the Common English Bible?
  • Are you a book-review blogger?  Here’s some advice to put what you do in perspective.
  • Skye Jethani is concerned because there are people attending church each week who are just plain bored.   Certainly that shouldn’t be.
  • Personal link:  This is what my oldest son gets up to when we’re not looking.   The musical instrument he’s playing here is called a Sonome.   Elsewhere on his channel you can do a quick tutorial he posted and find out how they work.   (If you’re reading this months later, it’s the Super Mario clip that was upfront when I wrote this.)
  • Our comic this week should be familiar to you.  Here we have Dolly partially deep in prayer at The Family Circus by Bil Keane.   Do you ever pray like that?   I’ll bet Mary Margaret does.

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