I am currently doing a giveaway of my novel No Greater Love, the first installment in the four-book Extreme Devotion series, on my personal "Easy Writer" blog. The giveaway is in honor of Black History Month in America, but the book is set in South Africa in 1989. The tie-in? The book opens with an interracial romance in a time and place where such was not well received. For example, here is the opening paragraph: "1989 was not a good year to fall in love--at least not in South Africa, and certainly not with a white man. Chioma had fought it with every ounce of her being, but there it was, literally, in black and white." This particular relationship, though only a small part of the entire story, precipitates a clash of cultures and colors, as well as a confronting of everything the main characters have believed their entire lives.
The turbulent time just prior to the release of Nelson Mandela from prison and the downfall of the Apartheid system was an era that captivated me as I watched it from afar decades ago. I wondered at the time what it must be like for Christians caught up in all the violence and confrontation, and that very wondering is what eventually sparked not only the book but the entire series.
Now, in the midst of the Black History Month, when we in America honor the past achievements of members of the African-American race, it seems appropriate to revisit that turbulent time and to glean from the lessons learned by those who experienced it. Surprisingly, I was of the apparently mistaken idea that everyone remembered or at least knew about that time, as I did. Then I did a book-signing when No Greater Love was released and quickly learned otherwise. A young woman, probably in her mid-twenties and seemingly well educated, came up to me and asked what the book was about. I said something to the effect that it was set in South Africa in 1989, just prior to the fall of Apartheid. She gave me a blank stare and asked, "Was Apartheid a country in South Africa at one time?"
I learned from that encounter that we cannot assume that lessons learned by one generation are necessarily passed down to the next. And so it is important to write about them and to preserve them with our words. It is also why I believe it is important that we write internationally, for our world has shrunk since the advent of the computer and Internet. We communicate daily with people thousands of miles away, separated by oceans and cultures and beliefs. But ultimately, human nature is the same. Our need for God's love and forgiveness is universal, and we must use every means to proclaim its availability to any and all who will listen. For there truly is "no greater love" than that which lays down its life for others.