Helping Jamaicans is this author's goal
BY TONI CASHNELLI
If you see Barb Coyle with an armful of books, better reach for your wallet. She aims to make a sale, and she won’t take "no" for an answer.
"If I have to, I’ll sell them out of my car," Barb says of the book she authored, In the Land of "Soon Come" (Cincinnati Book Publishing, 2016). But this is no vanity project. She’s giving the proceeds to missions manned by SJB friars in Jamaica.
According to Barb, "I’ve never done something like this. I didn’t sit down and say, ‘I’m writing a children’s book’. It’s one of the most wonderful, life-changing experiences I’ve ever had."
"Soon Come" is based on mission trips Barb has led to Negril for the past decade with students from Roger Bacon High School. (The title comes from the phrase Jamaicans use to mean, "wait", "not now" or "be patient". ) It’s told in simple language through the eyes of kids encountering this land of contrasts for the first time. Beyond the beaches and resorts, they discover the harsh reality of extreme poverty and the true beauty of Jamaicans who live with next to nothing but appreciate what they have.
"It’s a learning type of story intended for children to expose them to different cultures and lifestyle," she says, "to create a missionary heart at an early age and help them see God is present in everyday life." That’s the retired teacher talking. But Barb was inspired to write the book by something more basic – a divine directive.
A mission begins
The seed was planted more than 10 years ago when she read a cover story in St. Anthony Messenger magazine about the friars’ ministry in Jamaica. "As I was reading the article I heard God say, ‘Go and take the kids.’ I talk to God all the time but never heard words in my head and heart as I did then."
When Barb organized her first mission trip to Negril, students built and painted houses, volunteered at a soup kitchen and ran a vacation Bible school. In the process, they came to love the people they were helping. "They lack all of the things we think a person needs to experience a happy life," Barb says, "but in some regards, they have more than we do. The relationships they share are so rich." She told students, "The mission trip begins when you come home. Take what you learned here and live that; incorporate it into your daily lives."
Six years ago she was walking in Winton Woods when "the story of the book came to me. I went home and wrote it down and put it in a folder and put it away. I’d add a little more every year."
About that time friar Jim Bok, a pal since childhood, moved to Jamaica as a missionary. Within a few years he opened a soup kitchen and started a program called Get Kids to School, providing uniforms, meals and transportation to children in need. Two years ago when Barb wondered, "What can I do to make a large amount of money to help Jim?", the answer came: "Print your book. Print your book."
She needed an illustrator, but didn’t have to look far. "A granddaughter of a lifelong friend had just won a national contest" for her artwork. At age 14, Mason high school student Taylor Kling was already earning awards and scholarships. "I met her and her mother in July and told her what I wanted to do" with the book, Barb says. Taylor’s pencil-and-watercolor scenes captured the spirit of the story so well that even the author was surprised. "It couldn’t have been more perfect." Barb approached SJB’s Provincial Council with her plan, and received a grant to help with printing.
With the addition of a letter from Jim and a section of photos from mission trips, the 28-page paperback was ready to go.
Barb set up a Facebook page to promote "Soon Come" (https://www.facebook.com/ landsooncomebook/) and intends to contact as many parishes as possible. At $15 per book, they’ve already posted $3,200 in sales.
The moral of this story: "I hope this helps people to trust in God’s plan for them," says Barb, who never dreamed she’d write a children’s book. "God will take it where he wants it to go."
MEET THE AUTHOR
To purchase In the Land of "Soon Come" ($15 per book), e-mail Barb Coyle at email@example.com with your shipping address. Check or Paypal is accepted.
Two book signings are scheduled:
6-8 p.m. Friday, May 20, at The Villas at Park Place Clubhouse, 7955 Beckett Road, West Chester, Ohio;
6:30-8:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 31, a book launch/signing at Friars Club, 4300 Vine St., St. Bernard, Ohio. Missionary Jim Bok and illustrator Taylor Kling will join author Barb Coyle, who promises "a Jamaica-flavored event."