Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Interview with Sylvia Stewart--and Book Giveaway!

Today I'd like to welcome special guest Sylvia Stewart to ICFW. Sylvia has spent many years in Africa, which is the setting of her tween novel Kondi's Quest.

VC: Sylvia, I see that you grew up in Africa. Were your parents missionaries?

SS: Yes, I'm an M.K. My parents served in the (then) Belgian Congo. It's had some name changes since then. We first arrived in Congo two weeks before my 6th birthday. I still remember the palm trees flashing by as our twin-prop plane went flying down the red clay runway. We spent three years in Congo, but my mother became seriously ill with amoeba, and in those days the cure for it hadn't been found so we came home. Mama weighed 88 lbs. when Daddy carried her in her dressing gown onto the homeward-bound plane.

We spent three years at home in Oregon. Mama was prayed for at camp meeting and miraculously healed. We returned to Congo when I was 13. I came home when I was 16 and Mama and Daddy stayed home until my freshman year of college. They went back to Congo just a few days before my Bible College training began. I'm 71, so all that was a long time ago.

VC: Awesome to hear about your mom's healing! And then you went back to Africa as an adult?

SS: My husband and I served for 21 years in Malawi, where this book's setting is. Then we went on to Ethiopia for another 11 years until we retired. KONDI'S QUEST is a book for pre-teens who live in unhappy circumstances. This book clearly presents the message of salvation through Christ.

VC: What is it about Africa that wrapped itself around your heart?

SS: Africa is my second home. I always longed to return there. I had planned to take nurse's training and return as a medical missionary. However, I met someone tall, dark and very handsome in my Junior year of Bible School. We were married between my Junior and Senior year with our eyes on Africa. As our District Superintendent said to me at the time we applied for missionary service, "Seeing the need is one way God calls His children to service."

VC: Did you become a nurse, then?

SS: No, I never did. However, I did a lot of dressing of wounds for Malawians. We lived 8 miles from the nearest hospital and about two from the nearest clinic, so folks in the nearby village came to the mission for help. Once, a young boy was riding his father's bike in bare feet, going fast, when he hit a bump and his foot went into the front wheel. I had to cut away the thick callous on the sole of his foot to get it to heal. I didn't have proper scissors, so used sterilized hair cutting scissors. LOLOL

VC: Tell us about an African Christmas!

SS: When I was about 9 we lived in a government rest house for several months -- over the Christmas season. There were no evergreens and that area at all, so Dad went out and cut limbs from the acacia forest surrounding the resthouse. We decorated it that morning, but by noon, the branches were wilting to the point that the balls were sliding off and breaking on the cement floor. So we quickly opened our presents, what few there were, and dismantled the tree. It was a short Christmas.

VC: Do you have any photos of Malawi to share with our blog readers?

SS: No, I don't have any uploaded to my computer. We have hundreds of slides, but haven't worked with them to digitize them. (Is digitize a word??? LOLOL) My folks have a picture of me and my brother, standing with pigmies. I was about 8 and my brother about 11. We were taller than some of the pigmies were!

VC: What was the seed for Kondi's Quest?

SS: The plight of African children always tugged at my heart. Africa's children are as darling as American, English or Eskimo ones. However, when we were there, about half of the children born in Malawi died before the age of five. Malaria, dysentery, cholera and chicken pox were too much for many of them. And now, with the AIDS pandemic, many young teens are left to raise their younger siblings. One generation is virtually gone.

I wanted to leave a legacy for the children of Africa -- a story that even village children could relate to. It is my hope that one day, KONDI'S QUEST will be translated into Chichewa and Swahili, too, perhaps. KONDI'S QUEST is a redemption story in children's language and story format. However, even though it is a pre-teens' story, adult readers have told me they love it because of the African culture, life-style and landscape.

Here's what Kondi's Quest is about:

All she longs for is her father's love. Kondi, a 12-year-old Malawian girl, is sure her father, Bambo, doesn't love her. He seems to care more about the secret brown envelope he carries with him everywhere than his own daughter. She's convinced things will improve, though, when her mother's baby arrives. Then one night Bambo beats Mai in a drunken rage, and neighbors rush her off to the hospital. Will Mai and the baby live? Will Kondi be sold off by her uncle Kakama to a rich man to be his third wife? And what could possibly be in Bambo's brown envelope? The secrets are about to be revealed. A beautiful coming-of-age story of love, betrayal, and forgiveness that you won't soon forget.

Would you like to read this beautiful story set in Africa? Sylvia has offered a copy of Kondi's Quest to one reader of this blog. If the winner lives outside the USA, they'll be awarded the ebook version. If the winner lives within the USA, they may choose either an ebook or a paperback.

To be entered, all you need to do is add a comment with your email address, and tell us something interesting about Africa. Do you live there? Have you visited? Where would you go if you could? All entries must be in by Thursday, January 5.

"Void where prohibited; the odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. Entering the giveaway is considered a confirmation of eligibility on behalf of the enterer in accord with these rules and any pertaining local/federal/international laws."

To listen to a blog talk radio interview at The River with Sylvia, click here.

Valerie Comer's life on a small farm in western Canada provides the seed for stories of contemporary inspirational romance. Like many of her characters, Valerie and her family grow much of their own food and are active in the local food movement as well as their church. She only hopes her creations enjoy their happily ever afters as much as she does hers, shared with her husband, adult kids, and adorable granddaughter.

Her first published work, a novella, will be available in the collection Rainbow's End from Barbour Books in May 2012. Visit her website and blog to glimpse inside her world.


  1. Thank you for sharing, Sylvia. Is your book available in Malawi or other African countries? I would love to read it. I have lived in Mozambique, Ethiopia and South Africa, originally as a missionary librarian in theological education. More recently doing story hours with children affected by HIV&AIDS. I'm supposed to tell you something interesting about Africa: It is summer in South Africa right now, and most of my friends had a braai (cook out) for Christmas. On a drab, snowless day in the Northwoods that sounds pretty nice right now.

    leanne at leannehardy dot net

  2. That great continent is full of mystery to me. I'm an Aussie and, with my evangelist husband, have ministered in many Asian countries, but Africa remains an enigma. I watch any movies I can eg "Out of Africa" or TV shows on Africa's wild life and the warmth and cheerful attitude of the folk amaze me.
    Sylvia, I do wish God's blessings on this book. May it inspire and encourage many youngAfrican kids!

    ritagalieh at gmail dot com

  3. Don't enter me in the competition as I live outside USA and don't have an E reader for an E book, but our daughter and her husband were on a short time mission to Malawai a few years back so we got to learn and see a little about the African culture then through them.

  4. I too am like, Dale - in Australia and no e-reader - but did want to thank you Valerie for this interview and many thanks to Sylvia for sharing with us a little of her interesting life. My husband and I fell in love with Africans, especially the children, during our short term mission trips there but we did not make it to Malawi. However, a member of our first team back in 1997 is now a missionary in Malawai and of course we do support her there.
    This is definitely a book I'll be looking for on the bookshelves here!

  5. Great interview! Loved hearing about your life. We've lived in Africa for over a decade now and it has become home. Thanks again for sharing!