This past week my friend Tim Keesee and I met for coffee. He was excited to tell me that he has a new book coming out at the end of May. The book has the same name as his award-winning DVD series — Dispatches from the Front. There are currently 6 DVDs, and a 7th one will be coming out this summer telling what Tim saw and learned in North Africa.
Here is the first paragraph about the DVD series from the webpage:
Believers everywhere desperately need a renewed vision of Christ and the unstoppable advance of His saving work in all the earth. Our view of God’s Kingdom is often too small and limited to what we have experienced. Dispatches from the Front highlights the marvelous extent, diversity, and unity of Christ’s Kingdom in our world. The journal format of each episode underscores the daily unfolding of God’s activity on the “frontlines,” bringing viewers up-close with sights and sounds from distant corners of the Kingdom.
If you have never viewed any of the DVD's, you need to! If you have viewed them, you know what a masterful storyteller Tim is. His training and background as a historian, his gifts of observation and journaling, his openness to understanding cultures foreign to his own, and especially his ability to paint vivid images with words make the video series go far beyond being merely informative (which the most definitely are!). The images and word pictures reach into the very hearts of the viewers as they meet fellow believers who are on the frontlines, following and serving Christ.
I asked Tim for permission to give my blog readers a taste of his new book. Here is a section of the Prologue that he penned while visiting his native Danville, VA:
"A train calls to me in the night silence. For as long as I can remember, it has provided the music—and my pen the words—to a restless life. A million miles later, I'm back where I grew up—and the train's whistle is as sweet and lonely as ever....
"Mama used to play hymns on a beaten-up piano with a keyboard that looked like an ugly grin—its ivories yellowed, cracked, or missing. I remember how pretty she was at the piano. She had a lilting style that made me sing, even when I was too young to read. An old plaque still hangs on the living room wall: "The way of the Cross leads home." Mama has finished that journey, and yet tonight on this side, amid the clutter of memories and the mocking monotony of a ticking clock, I miss her.
"One of the things I love her for is that she gave me to the Lord—which meant that she had to let me go. Travel just wasn't in our family's DNA. Our roots run deep in the red clay of the Virginia foothills. Only things like world wars and great depressions could move us away, but always we came back to these familiar hills. I was the first in ten generations to leave Virginia. So even though Mama did not understand my wanderlust, like Hannnah, she had given her son to the Lord, and she kept her word, even when it hurt. She bought a globe—it's still here on the dresser—and over the years, she traced the paths of her promise.
"And so, I've gone far from this place. A sixteen-year-old sailor who used to be me looks down from the shelf. The picture is faded, but I still smell the salt. Back then, my small world suddenly became as vast as the ocean. And everything I saw I wrote about, filling in the blanks that only imagination could attempt before.
"My path wound on. For a while I took up writing textbooks, and then teaching, but I escaped my cubicle and classroom to help pastors in Eastern Europe, as the winds of freedom began to stir in persecuted churches as well as in these prison states. Browsing them now, my journals seem to read like the pages of the history of our times....
"With the dissolution of the Soviet Empire, I witnessed the fall of one great power and the rise of another. China was stirring and stretching, her influence evident far beyond her soaring cities. I saw it from the backwaters of Laos and Vietnam to the diamond fields of Sierra Leone in West Africa. At the same time my travels in Asia and Africa brought me face to face with another force—violent Islam.
"The horizons of my world were changing, but in an unexpected way. It had less to do with passport stamps and frequent flyer miles than it did with my own heart. Growing up, when I thought about the church around the world, it looked like my church. That was all I knew. Sure, Christians in other countries had different languages and cultures, but if their worship styles were different or their theological preferences deficient, well, that's why I was going over to teach them. And so, as is too often the case in missions, church planting resembles church franchising instead....
"...the gospel gives me perspective not to think that the greatest Christians are over there; neither are the greatest Christians over here. Actually Christ is the greatest, and in every land he is saving, calling, and enabling men and women to take risks to advance his kingdom—cross-bearers who love him more than their stuff, even more than their own lives....
"A million miles lie between me and this room where I spent my childhood. Here I dreamed of the world beyond my view. I could never have imagined that the world I wanted to explore was just a window to my King's saving work. The following are the stories of kingdom advance—dispatches written along the way, often scribbled in the moment, praising our Captain's brilliance, describing his victories, and telling of his gracious, sleepless care as he walks among us on the front lines."
In the various chapters of the book Tim goes on to tell the stories of many foot soldiers for Christ that he has met as he visited those frontlines. Some of the stories are in the DVDs, but many aren't—about half of the stories in the book are not part of the DVDs. The book covers over 20 countries from 8 regions of the world, spanning the past 20 years.
Here's a picture of the cover of the book, expected to be available May 31, 2014.
This man who has traveled to remote areas in over 80 countries and met everyone from dignitaries to lowly peasants became especially dear to our family when he made a special trip while on a speaking engagement in Ohio to visit my mother who is under hospice care in a nursing home. Here's the picture he sent me of their visit:
I look forward to the comments of those who have seen any of the DVDs or have other remembrances of the man who is behind allowing us meet some of these dear people before we get to heaven.
"The more I grasped the gospel, the more I loved Christ—and the more I loved him, the more I loved his people." — Tim Keesee
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