Writing for the World: An Unexpected Missions Ministry
by Stephanie Agnes-Crockett
For Robin Jones Gunn, author of Christy Miller, Sisterchicks and Finding Father Christmas, it all started on a Sunday school camping trip at San Clemente. She was leading the junior high girls’ weeklong excursion and noticed the sort of books they were reading, evocative romance novels. At the time, there was no literary market for Christian teenagers, and the girls loved to read. Rather than confiscating the questionable material, she struck a deal with the students: They needed good books to read, and Robin would write them. With abundant input and feedback from the girls, the Christy Miller book series was born.
Before pioneering the realm of Christian fiction for teens, Robin didn’t plan to become an author. “I was always a storyteller,” she says, “but I really wanted to be a missionary.” That dream was realized soon after Focus on the Family published the first Christy book, Summer Promise. In the novel, high-school student Christy Miller decides to commit her life to the Lord, following a series of upheavals in her young life. “Within a few weeks,” Robin says, “we had mail coming in from girls who read the books and prayed with Christy. I was a missionary. I wasn’t going out to these remote parts, but the books were.”
Years later, the Christy books continue their legacy. Not only do Christy’s experiences and prayers continue to minister to young ladies around the world, but Robin has chosen to continue the Christy narrative. “The timeline for Christy has spanned fifteen years,” Robin explains, adding that it’s “rare” to follow a single character from age fourteen to her thirtieth birthday. Since 1988, readers have been living life along with Christy, and November 2016 welcomed the newest Christy book series, Christy and Todd: The Baby Years, as well as Christy and her husband Todd’s first baby.
In birthing Christy Miller, Robin sought to create a relatable character for girls seeking a role model. Accordingly, Christy shows readers “how to make choices and understand God’s presence in their lives.” And Christy isn’t the only one of Robin’s heroines to do so. Robin has also written numerous novels and novellas, including the Finding Father Christmas trilogy, as well as the Sisterchicks series for adult women readers.
Each of the Sisterchicks novels witnesses a female protagonist’s personal interaction with Jesus as she travels to some delightful destination. Indeed, Robin came up with the idea for Sisterchicks while en route, aboard an airplane. She was making frequent visits to her dad, who suffered from a stroke and subsequent paralysis. As with Christy Miller, the Sisterchicks were birthed from a desire for the different. “I would take a book with me on the plane and read all these stories that were so depressing,” Robin says. “I wanted to read something that would give me hope.”
Robin’s recent trip to Finland furnished the content for the first book in the series. She had several humorous and heartwarming tales from the excursion, and friends had been encouraging her to write a book about it. The first Sisterchicks novel, Sisterchicks on the Loose was a success, and Robin’s publisher asked her to write more, which she did.
Equipped with a budget and a prayer binder, Robin enjoyed trips to numerous tourist destinations, from Australia to Italy. Each of Robin’s books begins as a prayer. She records it in her binder and watches God move the manuscript to completion. “When I sit down and write a prayer for each book, there’s always something that comes to mind,” Robin explains. “That theme comes out in the prayer and then in each book.” When Robin writes about a character receiving the Lord’s ministry, she is truly speaking from the heart, recording the very messages God speaks to her. “My sister can look at each of the books and see exactly which season of life I was going through,” Robin says. As God whispers His messages to Robin, her characters receive these same truths, and as a result, so can her readers.
Robin considers her calling as a writer to be a gift from God. “Most of us with our gifting, we kind of shrug,” she says. “The reason God has blessed us is so that we can be a blessing to others.” And Robin’s books reflect that blessing, as she continues to receive reports on how God uses her writing in the lives of women of various ages. As one woman recently told her, “I would not be the person I am today if I had not discovered your books.” Robin gives all the credit back to her Heavenly Father. “The Spirit does the deeper part and takes the stories,” she says. “God’s Spirit infuses the stories with His power. It’s not just, ‘Oh, I have a career as a writer.’ It’s something supernatural.”
Stephanie Agnes-Crockett is a recent graduate from Biola University, where she studied Creative Writing. Stephanie has written for home decor and Christian magazines, including Victorian Homes, Purpose, and Jesus Magazine. She loves publishing random questions and really bad puns.
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