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Jamil renounced a life of jihad when he encountered the life-changing message of Jesus Christ, but villagers and authorities in the hills of Afghanistan respond with skepticism . . . and even violence.
Relief worker Amy Mallory is shocked by the changes in her organization-changes with dire implications for the women and children under her care. And concern for her former assistant, Jamil, weighs heavily on her heart.
Former Special Forces veteran Steve Wilson faces off against the riots and corruption of Kabul's upcoming election. He's looking for something that will give his life purpose but is confident that he won't find it in Afghanistan.All three are searching for love and freedom in a country where political and religious injustice runs rampant. But when religious freedom becomes a matter of life and death, they discover that the cost of following Jesus may require the ultimate sacrifice.
As the child of missionary parents, award-winning author and journalist Jeanette Windle grew up in the rural villages, jungles, and mountains of Colombia, now guerrilla hot zones. Her detailed research and writing is so realistic that it has prompted government agencies to question her to determine if she has received classified information. Curently based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Jeanette has lived in six countries and traveled in more than twenty. She has more than a dozen books in print, including the political/suspense best seller CrossFire and the Parker Twins juvenile mystery series.
Favorite Verse: Philippians 1:6 (NIV) 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.
Our Interview with Jeanette Windle
What is your favorite Bible verse? "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 (NIV)
Would you please tell us how you got started as a CBA writer?
Hmm, like much in my writing career, my start as a Christian novelist hardly fits any CBA norm. I'd written one children's book, Kathy and the Redhead, a children’s novel based on my growing-up years at a missionary kids boarding school, published by the school's owner mission, TEAM. My next project was a YA international mystery series, The Parker Twins Adventures. I bought my Sally Stuart Christian Writers Market Guide while on furlough from Bolivia where we were missionaries, working my way through publishers (no email then; hardcopy sent stateside with travelers). I'd received some encouragement and far more rejections when our family came stateside again for a three-month. By then I'd gone through every publisher on the list and was truly ready to give up. I can remembering praying and asking God to either open a door or close it completely if my writing was not His will so I would not waste more time that could go into other ministry.
Then shortly before we headed back to Bolivia, we were at a missions conference in Wenatchee, WA, when I was informed I had a call. To my astonishment, it was the editor of a new YA department for Multnomah (then Questar) Press. Multnomah had already sent me a rejection, saying they didn't publish juvenile, but would be interested if I ever wrote a teen novel (which became my one teen novel, Jana's Journal). The editor informed me that when Questar had merged with Multnomah, they'd found some wonderful children's mystery chapters tucked away in a drawer. My in-laws' phone number was on the proposal as our USA contact. They'd passed on our current location at the conference. Would I possibly still have the books available for publishing? Would I! The manuscript was in the mail the next day, the contract arriving just as we headed back to Bolivia, the first of six mysteries in that series and the beginning of my CBA career. That out-of-the-blue phone call at a missions conference would be too improbable for fiction. Which simply goes to show that one can follow every guideline, jump through every hoop, but in the end, delightfully, unexpectedly, there is always the 'But God' factor that turns all our own plans and efforts on end.
What inspired the concept for Freedom’s Stand?
Freedom's Stand is above all the second half to the story that began in 2010 Christian Book Award and Christy Award finalist, Veiled Freedom, set in contemporary Afghanistan. In Veiled Freedom, three unlikely allies came together on Kabul's dusty streets in their own personal quest for truth and freedom. Beyond an engrossing story, Veiled Freedom addressed the critical question of what is true freedom (true freedom cannot be bestowed on another people through arms or an aid package, but only through individual hearts transformed by coming face to face with Jesus Christ). Which led inevitably to the question Freedom's Stand addresses. Once you've found true freedom in Isa Masih [Jesus Christ], how far will love carry you in sharing that freedom with others? In Afghanistan that is a far from rhetorical question.
Ironically, the real-life story that most inspired Freedom's Stand had not yet happened when I began writing it, though conditions on the ground in Afghanistan were such I knew it was only a matter of time. Even as Freedom's Stand goes to print, Red Cross therapist and war amputee Sayed Mossa is but one Afghan Isa-follower who finds himself on death row for his faith under the current Karzai regime. My motivation in writing this sequel to Veiled Freedom was not just to finish the story of Jamil, Amy, and Steve, but to raise a voice for my brothers and sisters in Christ behind bars or suffering unjust persecution for their faith, not only in Afghanistan but across this planet.
Can each of the books be read as a stand-alone or must they be read in order?
Veiled Freedom can be read as a stand-alone, though the reader will cry out afterwards for a sequel. Freedom's Stand is that sequel, in essence, the second half of a powerful story, so readers will want to grab Veiled Freedom first if possible.
Do you have a favorite character in Freedom’s Stand? Why?
All three of the main characters, former Special Ops sergeant Steve Wilson, humanitarian volunteer Amy Wilson, and Afghan refugee Jamil, are equally favorites, if only because I've lived so long with each of the three. Each of these three characters made their own journey in finding true freedom and emerging through darkness to the courage of complete sacrifice, so I hope readers will care about each of them as much as I do.
You seem to have a tremendous depth of knowledge about the Middle East; have you been there?
I was in Afghanistan for the researching of this story and have been in a number of countries around the region. I also did extensive research. But I also had many 'boots on the ground', whether humanitarian, military, private security, and Afghan, including Isa [Jesus]-followers who daily lay down their lives in living sacrifice out of love for the Afghan people and the Savior they serve. I can say honestly it has often been their insights and passion for what they do as much as my own that come alive in the pages of this story.
How much research did Freedom’s Stand take?
Before I tackle a book set in a new country or political environment, I saturate myself in that place. Histories, biographies, political commentary, regional literature, travelogues, video documentary--I will have easily read 20,000 pages material before I ever pick up a pen or computer keyboard. If I missed a single tome dealing with Afghanistan's present or past, as well as Western involvement there, it wasn't on purpose. Check out my blog for a recommended reading list. For every place I write about, I also keep a Google Alert set for daily news digests. I follow blogs and travelogues of 'boots on the ground' whose lives and professions mirror the characters I am writing about. And of course on-site travel and extensive input from contacts on the ground who are real-life counterparts of my characters: Special Ops, private security, humanitarian aid, Afghans, etc.
What are the most interesting facts that you learned while researching and writing Freedom’s Stand?
What was most discouraging was how little has changed, despite a decade of American and NATO occupation and trillions of aid dollars. People are still starving, beggars everywhere. After an initial freedom, most women are back in burqas. Mud-brick hovels are still the norm, while less than six percent of the country has electricity. Afghans express more concern over the corruption and brutality of local police and government officials than the Taliban, while Islamic sharia law trumps any pretence at freedom and human rights. But there were other facts that give great hope. Isa Masih [Jesus Christ] is indeed changing hearts. Since sharing those facts can place lives in danger, I can only encourage you to read Freedom's Stand, where I've been able to tell some of those stories in fiction form.
What are some of the challenges you face as an author?
Finding time to write that next book while serving in full-time ministry as a missionary, missions journalist, editor, speaker, and other ministry responsibilities. I often wish I could just hole up for a few months and write. But the very ministry opportunities around the world that cut into my writing also give me the material and inspiration for my next book. So it comes back to the challenge of finding balance and discipline to keep on writing no matter what is swirling around my daily life.
What aspects of being a writer do you enjoy the most?
Rewrites. Getting the story down on paper (or computer screen) is a hair-tearing, heart-yanking, exhausting outpouring of spiritual, emotional, and creative energy. It is eminently worthwhile, but the hardest work I will ever do. But once the story is birthed, going back and working through each scene, polishing it up, cutting, adding, tweaking until I am sure every sentence says exactly what I want to convey, is both enjoyable and eminently satisfying. And, of course, the very best aspect of being a writer as opposed to actually writing is receiving that positive feedback from readers who are loving the story and characters you've spent so many countless hours creating. Even more so, who've been touched spiritually by the message of the book.
What clubs or organizations are you involved with helping with your writing?
I am president and founder of Lancaster Christian Writers here in Lancaster, PA, where my husband and I are currently ministry-based. I have also been involved for more than a decade with Media Associates International, a global ministry dedicated to developing indigenous Christian writers and publishers around the world, and with Asociación Látinoamericano de Escritores Cristianos, or ALEC (Association of Latin American Christian Writers). With both organizations, I continue to teach writers conferences and mentor Christian writers across Latin America, Spain, Eastern Europe, India, Afghanistan, South Africa, and other countries.
What were your favorite books as a child?
That is a hard question just because I read so voraciously. My twin and I used to work our way through the MK school library, shelf by shelf. All the usual: Narnia series, Little House on the Prairie, Louisa May Alcott and Anne of Green Gables, Bobbsey Twins, Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Wizard of Oz, all the Robert Heinlein children's sci-fi, ANY sci-fi, the British classics like the original Wind in the Willows, Winnie the Pooh, Mary Poppins, The Borrowers, Paddington Bear, Treasure Island, Gulliver's Travels, Swiss Family Robinson, and of course from the USA series like Danny Orlis and Sugar Creek Gang.
I could go on and on. Bottom line, if it came into my hands and had pages and words, I read it.
What do you do to keep your writing fresh and improve on it each time you write a book?
I don't set out deliberately to do either, but simply to write the very best book I can each time I write. I've certainly become a more polished writer since my first novel. But while I used to think writing each new book would get easier, it never does. Mainly because unless a book is ripping out your heart and soul as you write, it won't deeply touch the reader either. If a book, above all, its spiritual message, impacts me deeply as I write it, has me flat on my face before God, the tears streaming down my cheeks as I walk through the dark valleys and fearsome storms with my characters, somehow those are always the parts that I end up getting letters about from readers who've been equally impacted. Whether one book is improved on another will undoubtedly be the personal opinion of each reader.
Are there any other new projects on the horizon?
I am currently writing a novel set in the Ituri rainforest of northeast Democratic Republic of Congo, working title Congo Dawn.
What message would you like your readers to take from reading Freedom’s Stand?
I would like readers to close this book with a better understanding of Afghanistan and the entire Muslim world and how vital and interconnected events there, especially such issues as freedom of worship, speech, human rights, are to our own country's future and security. Even more so, I want every reader to understand what is the only true source of freedom. Bottom line, when enough individual hearts change from hate to love, cruelty to kindness, greed to selflessness, their society will be transformed as well. Change a heart, change a nation. And how does one change hearts? Hopefully, by the last page of Freedom's Stand, the reader will have an answer to that as well!
What is your greatest achievement?
Wow, that is quite a question since I've never considered anything I've done a particularly noteworthy accomplishment. Beyond the delights and challenges of raising to adulthood four children while maintaining reasonable sanity, I would say that the achievements that bring me most joy--and they are hardly mine, but God's!--are the human souls, especially the children, I've seen come to Christ during thirty-plus years now of ministry. When I first opened a FaceBook account a year or so back, I was astounded to get an FB message from Bolivia, where we served in missions for sixteen years. The writer posted: "Do you remember when you were my AWANA commander in Sucre [Bolivian highlands]? When I was ten years old, you were the first person ever to tell me I could possibly become a pastor someday. I am sending you a picture of my church. I am now the senior pastor."
As a non-techie, I will admit to reluctance in jumping on the social network bandwagon, but I have been delighted to hear from so many children and adults with whom I've ministered around the world who are now serving God in ministry, as pastors, even missionaries--and who most astoundingly now have access to internet and FaceBook in their distant corners of the planet. They are one achievement I can look forward to rejoicing over face-to-face when we all reach heaven-side.
What do you do to get away from it all?
Curl up with a good book. Though I feel I am getting away from it all every time I travel to a new country in ministry. Getting to know a whole new segment of my brothers and sisters in Christ, being introduced to their country, culture, food, worship style and music is as much fun if perhaps less relaxing as any vacation. My husband and I travel enough in ministry that when we do get time off, we actually prefer the opportunity to stay home and do nothing at all. Except curl up with that book (or Kindle these days).
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Only that as Christians in the West, we need to raise our voices, both in prayer and in outrage. We need to pray for Christians on death row in places like Afghanistan and Pakistan, for the body of Christ in so many countries whose worship of their Savior must be underground and under threat of death or imprisonment. But we should also be outraged against the compromise of our own governments in arming and aiding without requiring accountability regimes that do not permit the freedom to choose one's own faith in God. In Freedom's Stand, main protagonist Steve Wilson makes the statement regarding freedom of faith in Afghanistan[see Discussion Question #8]: "What won’t happen is that the ‘free West’ can keep enjoying forever their own freedoms while tacitly conceding those are now considered optional for the rest of this planet." If we do not speak up for accountability on freedom of faith issues, the day may come when such freedom is no longer a given for our nations either. Organizations like Open Doors and Voice of the Martyrs offer great resources on how to get involved. To learn more about Afghanistan itself, my own website and blog (www.jeanettewindle.com) has a list of recommended reading and other material.
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Jeanette M. Windle
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