Pic: Dr. OM Samuel around 1996 When He Agreed To Join The Systematic Theology Team
Writing an indigenous Systematic Theology for the first time in an Indian language (Malayalam) was an unusual challenge. Such a work was never done by any in the Assemblies anywhere in the world. What is more, while I understood Malayalam language very well (having Sanskrit as my second language), I was not fluent in written Malayalam. I therefore asked Dr OM Samuel to join us as a fellow writer. He happily agreed to join the team but told me clearly that he would not be able to write anything. Instead, he handed me over his already published work on Eschatology and asked me to use it as his contribution to this book. This was a book published about 6 years before that time.
While Saneesh and Shibu were writing nine sections of Systematic Theology from scratch with my help, I worked on the already published Eschatology of Dr OM Samuel to edit it and make it suitable for our book. Malayalam was a difficult language for me at that time still I was able to edit this book to a form in which it could be added to our book. This is how the Escatology section of our book was produced. Of course, Dr OM Samuel being the most senior among us, we honoured him using the traditional Indian system of honour, and we placed his name as the first among the writers on our book-cover.
Meanwhile, Sathyam Publications put forth a stipulation that if they have to go ahead with the publishing of such a massive volume then I should buy 200 copies of the book when it is published. I was not having enough money to manage my family, let alone buy 200 copies of such a big volume. However, by this time it was clear to me that this book is going to be a milestone in the history of the Brethren Assemblies and therefore I wanted the book to come out at any cost. I discussed the matter with my family, and my wife and children agreed that we should sell a plot of land that we had in the name of the family and use that money to buy these 200 volumes. It was a cheap land situated outside the city of Gwalior, and it was our only land holding at that time. In divine providence we very soon found a buyer who was willing to give a reasonable amount of money for that plot of land.
I immediately sold that piece of land and used part of this money to pay the cost of 200 copies to the publisher. The remaining money went to support Saneesh, Shibu, and the team of scribes in many ways which will be mentioned later. This was a time my family barely had money to pay for children’s fees and clothing, yet it is they who decided that this money should go for the publishing project. That was two decades ago. None of us ever regretted making that investment two decades ago. The Lord took care of my family.
Once I indicated to the publisher that I would be willing to buy 200 copies, they went ahead with a very massive advertising campaign to get pre-publication orders. At that time the biggest book published by an assembly writer was 400 pages long and was costing only Rs. 150. People considered that as a very high amount. Our book was going to be 800 pages long and was priced Rs. 300. This was an unusually large amount two decades ago. There was scepticism all around about whether the publisher would be able to get buyers. The publisher personally told me that he usually got 600 orders when he gave advertisement for pre-publication booking. Since I had assured him to buy 200 copies, he said that he would now be happy if 400 people placed advance orders.
What happened after they started advertisement amazed everyone. It seems that though I had not done much writing in the Malayalam language, I was widely known among Malayalam speaking people because of my two decades of extensive speaking and crusade on the subject of Bible and Science. The publisher told me that people started placing orders because most of them already knew my name and my contributions in the field of Bible and science and also in the field of Christian apologetics and biblical apologetics. This encouraged the publisher to launch a more extensive publicity campaign.
What followed in the next five months amazed everyone. Whereas, even the most popular writers attracted only 400 to 600 advance orders for their highly popular books priced only one fourth of the price of our book, our Systematic Theology finally brought in more than 1800 advance orders. Never has any book in Kerala Assembly history received such a response before or after this book. The only exception was our next book, “Complete Christian Apologetics” which attracted almost 4 times higher booking. However, this was a different publisher who did not know how to handle the market and he failed miserably at the market level. [To Continue …]