The Making of Operation World
An Interview with Patrick Johnstone
After a gap of seven years, the fifth edition of Operation World is now ready for the printers and distribution will begin on September 20, 1993. See page 12 for more information on how you can get bulk quantities of the book at amazing discounts. The US Center has ordered an incredible 100,000 copies for $3.37 each.
Since the first edition appeared in 1974 this world prayer guide has established itself as an invaluable resource for the church world- wide in the task of world mission. It is not just the best of its kind but there is simply no other book like it. We would urge every Bible believing Christian in America and around the world to pick up a copy and use it daily.
Just as the finishing touches were being applied to the new edition of Operation World, Patrick Johnstone was gracious enough to grant a brief interview to Mission Frontiers about his book
Mission Frontiers: One of the things that's most impressive about Operation World is the depth and clarity with which you're able to present highlights for each country of the world. How do you approach the material for a country - say, for the Philippines?
Patrick Johnstone: As you might expect, it varies for each country, depending on such factors as whether others have done research there, how much has been published on church growth and mission work in particular, and whether I have a personal network of correspondents to help me discover "nuggets" otherwise unavailable. For the Philippines, there's quite a bit available-for example, research done by the Philippines Council of Evangelical Churches and by coordinators of the DAWN program.
MF: But how about for a newer, or less accessible, country like Kyrgyzstan?
Johnstone: The independence of the new Central Asian republics has prompted the secular press to uncover a lot of helpful background information. I've also found it useful to write pointed letters to key individuals, asking them a few specific questions and giving them my previous text (if any) with which to interact. Furthermore, I've been able to tap into the growing number of inter-mission consultations and informal networks on behalf of the world's least- reached countries and peoples. This is one way I've met new informants and correspondents, who not only give me facts but also alert me to nuances of tone and emphasis. And, for this edition of Operation World, we've been able to elicit some information through electronic mail as well as the standbys of fax and post.
MF: But what happens when your sources disagree among themselves? Does this happen?
Johnstone: Oh, yes, quite often. This is especially true when a respondent has an axe to grind or a chip on his shoulder! In such cases I have to make a more personal or subjective judgment, though I try to be consistent in the application of research principles described in the introductory pages and appendices of Operation World.
MF: With the sheer volume of data available, how do you decide what to include and what to leave out? Selectivity would seem to be a crucial principle.
Johnstone: So true! Because Operation World is primarily a prayer handbook, my first concern has been to highlight the spiritual dynamics behind the headlines and to lead OW readers into informed prayer. Second, I've given special emphasis to the needs of the Church and the presence of less-evangelized peoples and areas. Third, I've left some good news unreported when publication would harm the ministries involved.
MF: That's good to know. But help us to better visualize your process for research and writing.
Johnstone: Our editorial team (representing five mission agencies) divided up the responsibilities. My (late) wife Jill (WEC) and Robyn Erwin (WEC) supervised the clipping and collating of some 300 periodicals. Darrell Dorr (USCWM and Frontiers) scanned the clippings and correspondence for major prayer points. David Phillips (WEC) ferreted out political, economic, and social statistics, and Sue Witham (SIM) and John Woodman (YWAM) did an enormous amount of work on the hardest job of all - our church and mission databases.
All these streams then converged in my office, where I incorporated a few other sources into the writing of first drafts, often very early in the morning. (This edition is a 90% re-write of the previous one, even if the format is similar.) After Darrell edited the drafts, we circulated them, when possible, to our informants and solicited their feedback. Meanwhile, Joan Woodman (YWAM) and John Bardsley (WEC) crafted the graphs and maps, while Marko Jauhiainen (WEC) masterfully handled the computer programming and Margaret Bardsley (WEC) cheerfully persisted with the constant volume of word processing.
MF: And how long has this gone on?
Johnstone: Well, in a low-key manner since the previous edition of Operation World (1986), but I began revisions in earnest in 1989, and then the process accelerated in 1991 with the arrival of other members of the production team. Until recently, I also was serving as Deputy International Secretary for WEC.
MF: Where do you go from here? To take a well-deserved rest?
Johnstone: Actually, yes! After a bit of breathing space and time to tackle my backlog of correspondence, I plan to take my first-ever sabbatical between August and December. I'm looking forward to it.
MF: And when should we look for the sixth edition of Operation World?
Johnstone: Oh, no, don't talk to me about that! (laughter) As I mention in the edition now going to press, I make no promises, but the year 2000 may be the appropriate time for a further edition. One important factor is the Lord's provision of more long-term workers for our team at the WEC International Research Office, since many of those helping with the 1993 edition have now moved on to other tasks. We'll wait and see.
Now There Is One For Children!
Operation World has produced an offspring entitled You Can Change the World. It's a children's version that like its parent encourages prayer and involvement in world missions. It has 128 pages with 52 full color double page spreads that feature a different country or people group. There is one of each for each letter of the alphabet. >From Albania to Zimbabwe, from the Azeris to the Zulus, children will discover peoples they've never heard of, read stories about children from other cultures, and find out fascinating details about far off lands and the Christians who live in them. For every day there is a simple pointer to specific prayer for people and places. It is ideal for use in Sunday Schools, children's church groups or holiday clubs or at home during family devotions.
Patrick Johnstone's late wife Jill was the author of this children's version. Jill completed the manuscript for the book just shortly before her death in June 1992. Jill was a qualified nurse who worked with children in southern Africa for sixteen years. Returning to England in 1980 with her husband Patrick, and their three children, she worked with him at the UK office of WEC International.
This children's version is due to be released in September 1993 in conjuction with Operation World.