What do you do if you want to find the latest Christian best-selling novel? Or a book to help you understand better the teachings of St Paul? Or one to help you apply your faith in everyday situations? Perhaps, you can borrow a copy from your local public library. Visit a local bookshop. Order a copy from one of many online retailers. Or even download an e-book version. But what if none of these options exist?
That is the situation for millions of people living in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region. Bookshops stock few if any Christian books – it is illegal to do so in some countries. Online retailers face postal problems and import restrictions making any purchase very difficult. There are also few e-books available in Arabic, and lack of internet can be an added problem.
What do many Arab people do instead if they want a book? They attend book fairs. And, at Dar Manhal Al Hayat (DMAH), that is what they do too. Over the past 3 months DMAH has exhibited at the Beirut, Cairo, and Baghdad International Book Fairs with the opportunity to meet many of the 3 million people who have attended these fairs. Book fairs in this region are a great opportunity for the public and publishers to connect. However, DMAH is more than simply a publisher of Christian books. The heart of DMAH is for ministry.
Equally important to displaying books is the opportunity to share God’s love and salvation through Jesus Christ with the many who visit the DMAH stand. By deliberately siting the booths in the main exhibition halls, rather than the Christian section, the DMAH team has the opportunity to witness to the many people from non-Christian backgrounds who attend. This is what excites the team’s heart the most - the chance to speak to anyone who comes to the book fair, even those not looking for Christian literature. The team is eager to create the opportunity to speak with locals and non-locals, Christians and non-Christians alike, about the love of God and His mercies to all. To offer to pray with people who ask and minister to their needs in a holistic way.
“Some visitors to our stand come because they want to be able to argue against Christianity more effectively, and books on apologetics are certainly popular. Some come because ‘we all live together’ but know little about each other’s faiths, and some come because they are genuinely interested” said ‘F’ - one of DMAH staff. Certainly, many Muslim leaders come and listen with respect and openness. DMAH is one of only a few Christian publishers present, so this is a wonderful opportunity to witness. “People are looking for the truth but for many it is dangerous to go to churches but here is public place. Even so, some are still reluctant to take a book so we summarize the book for them. That way they still have something to ‘take away’.”
Surprisingly, perhaps, many visitors now consider themselves as atheists and so the DMAH team always has resources ready to introduce people to the God of the Bible. But, of course, today’s generation question everything and don't just accept what they are told. At the Beirut fair, the team spent a full evening talking with just one group of visitors!
It is hard work ministering to the visitors but the team receives many encouragements too. Visitors bring their friends along which shows that they trust DMAH. In Beirut a young couple who gave a visit last year spent over an hour searching for the DMAH booth again because they wanted more books. Such was their keenness to get more information.
Please pray for everyone with whom the DMAH team has met at these three book fairs (and will meet at other fairs later in the year), that they will be touched by God’s Spirit as they read from the books they have received and think about their conversations with the DMAH team.
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