Potential, Characteristics of the Current Market, The Rare Aspects of Darkness
Delgado’s tale has the potential to bridge the gaps between Christian novel, missionary bio, and Bible-school text by drawing on its rare characteristics. Darkness Fled‘s combination of narrative style, team-life presence among Muslims, inclusion of children as participants on the field, and spiritual warfare experiences make it unique to the current market.
Characteristics of the Current Market
The following statistics are based on a comprehensive survey involving more than 350 Christian biography titles that was conducted at the largest Christian bookstore in Canada’s “Bible Belt”, i.e., the Fraser Valley. Of those titles, 15% were texts about missionaries.
In examining the missionary texts, 100% were found to be written in the past tense. This included first person accounts, such as memoirs and journals (57%) as well as textbook collections of “the heroes.” A little more than half of the texts reflected the lives of single adults, just over a quarter were written from a female point of view, and nearly a fifth centered around medical missionaries—some stories over a century old.
Newer to the market were the texts of efforts made to reach Muslims, of which 11% were biographies by Westerns (5% females to Muslim women) and 4% biographies by former Muslims. Instructional books on how to witness to Muslims were also shelved within this biography category, thus demonstrating room for market growth (as witnessing books were not sufficient in number to be shelved separately). Noting that the primary missionaries to Muslims were adults, the survey expanded out again to include all missionary texts and found only 4% featured children as active participants on the mission field and zero books included sufficient details, characters, conflict or story development regarding team members to be recognized as revealing team life.
The Rare Aspects of Darkness
Darkness Fled is a current, missionary family/team-life/instructional-how-to-witness parable for the Western Christian. And if the missionary biography market stands at 0% narration occurring in the present tense, and 0% fleshing out life on a missions team, and 0% addressing the spiritual realities of darkness involved in the Muslim world in a head-to-head confrontational way, then Delgado’s Darkness is poised to strike first.
Q: Why does the present tense matter?
A: Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games would not have worked in first person past tense. Instead of feeling like a novice warrior walking into the unknown arena, it would have lacked tension and felt distant, the narrator taking the position of reflecting back with full knowledge of how the events played out. No, The Hunger Games needed the emotional grip of ‘this-is-all-new-and-I-don’t-know-how-I’ll-survive.’
Delgado’s Darkness retains this valuable emotion and position, offering readers an opportunity to overcome this primary fear experienced by novice missionaries.
Our current biographies, though marvelously told in the past tense, are as comfortably distant as campfire stories. The author is safe. The readers are safe. Danger is far away.
Not so with Darkness.
Q: Why does team life matter?
A: Current mission strategies to “closed countries” often involve pioneering a business platform that is run by a small team. Darkness Fled reflects this reality and brings both the difficulties and rewarding aspects to light.
Q: And spiritual warfare? We need to cover that?
A: Yes. We need to stop not having the conversation.
Kerosene soaked wood chips keep the fire roaring up the chimney. Without them, the storm’s wet air would rush down and snuff the logs, leaving us in the dark.
Hesitantly, the husband relates his stories. He flies out into the bush, meets with unreached tribes, gets threatened by witchdoctors, hears voices and sees floating lights outside his hut at night. But no one’s there. No footprints in the sand. “I feel like I’m going crazy.”
The wife leans forward. “And once while he was gone…”
The husband’s face goes tight. “Our three-year-old girl started cursing her mother and threatening to stab herself with knives.”
“In a man’s voice,” the wife shivers. “I immediately started calling on Jesus, but it happened again and again.”
“We kneel down, look her in the eyes—”
“Shout her name at her—”
“—but she doesn’t respond.” The husband’s grim. “No one back home wants to admit this happens. We’ve seen it. Rather than help, our denomination pulled a family from the field, discredited them, and banned them from all future ministry work… We don’t get to talk about this stuff. We’re on our own.”
“In all our courses and training,” the wife complains, “they never even gave us a pamphlet, much less a book.”
They go quiet. The storm outside threatens to drown us in our thoughts.
Stand. Pray. Command.
I get up from my chair. “Let’s pray together. Where’s your daughter now?”
We owe it to our young missionaries to paint spiritual scenarios and walk through them together before encountering them on the field. Darkness Fled grants Bible college professors the opportunity to bring the real-life journey of a novice to the table for discussion.