In an earlier blog here, I shared about writing my China novels, While I’ve been writing those novels, I’ve had a surprise book happen.
My surprise book has been just such a task. . .
The seed for Women of the Last Supper: “We Were There Too,” was planted in my heart decades ago in China, where I was born and raised during the devastating wars of the 1940s. While my younger brother and I survived, our three older brothers are buried there, along with millions of other victims of China’s turbulent history.
Until seventh grade, my sporadic home-schooling was by my missionary parents as we fled from place to place, seeking safety from bombs and anti-foreign-devil mobs. So during my elementary years, Dad’s pocket New Testament was often my only textbook.
I still vividly remember one day reading a lesson in the Gospels and asking, “Daddy, why didn’t Jesus have any girl disciples?”
Dad looked at me with surprise and answered, “But of course Jesus had girl disciples!” And he showed me the passage about the young girl he brought back to life, plus the many other passages about the women who followed Jesus, such as Matthew 27:55 and Luke 8:3.
After my family escaped to Taiwan in 1951, we were able to subscribe to the Reader’s Digest. What a happy day for us when each new issue arrived! (Many months late back in those years.) It quickly became my favorite textbook.
Then one momentous day an issue arrived with an article about Leonardo da Vinci’s famous Milan mural depicting the Last Supper. As soon as I read it, I rushed to Dad. “Look at this picture,” I said, “why aren’t any of Jesus’ girl disciples there?”
Dad patiently explained to me that it was a very old painting, and that for some reason the painter had left out the women and the girls. He didn’t try to explain at my young age about centuries of church tradition and theology, and the painting’s place on the wall in a men’s monastery.
In the decades since, with great fascination I’ve researched this topic of women and children likely present at the Last Supper. And why wouldn’t they have been there? After all, it was a Jewish Passover Seder family meal much like our Thanksgiving dinners.
Some years ago when I moved to Chesterton, Indiana, for the first time I had a pastor willing to portray women at the Last Supper along with the twelve men disciples. (Not that I hadn’t asked and begged before.) And that happened because I wrote Lenten monologs for the twelve men disciples at that pastor’s request. He then with only slight hesitation agreed to twelve women monologs as well (although he mentioned it might be “heresy”).
These fictional, but biblically and historically based monolog performances of women likely present at the Last Supper were portrayed by daring women from my Joy Circle at church. The performances caused quite a stir of interest and controversy! People asked for copies of the women’s monolog stories. So my Joy “sisters” made copy machine booklets and sold them to raise money for missions. When my son Peter saw the booklets, he urged me to instead self-publish more professional looking books.
That’s how my first published book was also my surprise book. And then I was further surprised when groups started studying it and asked for study questions and resources. My initial, timid run of 250 books printed by www.instantpublisher.com was gone in two weeks. To date, I’ve printed my Last Supper books seven more times and sold thousands, mostly when I speak about this topic, but also on Amazon.
|The Chesterton United Methodist Church portraying Men, Women, and Children of the Last Supper during Lent, 2011. I am seated at the far left.|