Jeanette Windle Biography: As daughter of missionary parents, award-winning author and journalist Jeanette Windle grew up in the rural villages, jungles, and mountains of Colombia, now guerrilla hot zones. Her detailed research and writing is so realistic that it has prompted government agencies to question her to determine if she has received classified information. Currently based in Lancaster, PA, Jeanette has lived in six countries and traveled in more than thirty on five continents. Those experiences have birthed 16 international intrigue titles, including bestselling Tyndale House Publishers release Veiled Freedom, a 2010 ECPA Christian Book Award and Christy Award finalist and sequel Freedom's Stand, a 2012 ECPA Christian Book Award and Carol Award finalist and 2011 Golden Scroll Novel of the Year finalist. Jeanette mentors Christian writers in both English and Spanish on all five continents.
1. You write international suspense, dealing not only with contemporary events from Bolivia to Afghanistan, Amazon guerrilla zones to the Congolese rainforest, but a variety of social justice issues as well. Why these particular stories?
The answer is actually simple. As authors, we're told to "write what we know". I write about the world I know, a world well outside of safe American borders. I grew up the daughter of American missionaries in rural areas of Colombia that are now guerrilla hot spots. After marrying another missionary kid, my husband and I spent sixteen years as missionaries in Bolivia, one of the world’s top-five most corrupt countries. From Bolivia we were called to leadership with a ministry that serves in more than fifty countries on five continents. As result, I've now lived in six countries and traveled in more than thirty, including some of the planet’s more difficult corners.
Along the way I've come face to face with a depth of human depravity and injustice to break my heart. A two-year old street urchin scrabbling for garbage scraps. An 11-year-old girl in prison for running away from a forced marriage with a 60-year-old degenerate. A 14-year-old girl setting herself on fire to escape being forced into prostitution by husband and mother-in-law. Boy soldiers with their cold, dead eyes and lost dreams. Church and civic leaders murdered or imprisoned for speaking against injustice that threaten business profits of the rich and powerful.
On the flip side, I've learned even more of the over-riding sovereignty and passionate love of our Creator God, of love and self-sacrifice expressed by God-followers, in the darkest of situations. Those places and people, the spiritual lessons God has taught me along the journey, have spilled over to become the settings and themes of sixteen novels to date.
2. Is there a story behind your newest Tyndale House Publishers release, Congo Dawn?
Growing up in the world's largest rainforest, the Amazon, I was captivated by missionary biographies from its second-largest African counterpart, the Congo. Among them the story of Dr. Helen Roseveare, who helped establish several mission hospitals and medical training centers in the Ituri rainforest despite violence and unrest of impending Congolese independence, herself held captive for five months during the 1964 Simba rebellion. The largest of those centers Nyankunde was in turned razed in 2002 during the continuing conflict that has taken more than five million Congolese lives in the last decade. Today's fighting is greatly aggravated by the value and pursuit of conflict minerals in that zone.
As always, it has been the mission pilots, medical personnel both expatriate and Congolese, and other followers of Yesu, Jesus Christ, who have been first back into the conflict zones well ahead of United Nations, embassy, local law enforcement or any other humanitarian and corporate interests. Their courage in shining bright the light of Yesu's love in one of the planet's darkest corners gave voice to this story.
3. How did you come up with the concept for Congo Dawn?
For the story's actual suspense thread, I've had personal opportunity to witness what a multinational corporation is capable of in dark corners of the Third World when no one is watching (an experience in itself too unbelievable to write up as fiction). In Africa as elsewhere, both the protective and striking arm of such corporations has historically been hired foreign mercenaries. But today's private military corporations are vastly different, possessing more fire power than the average country. What struck me was the lack of any accountability to outside oversight beyond some paid-off local warlord.
So what happens when a multinational corporation with unlimited funds hires on a private military company with unbridled power in a Congolese rainforest where the ultimate 'conflict mineral' is up for grabs? Coming up with one very plausible possibility birthed Congo Dawn.
On a deeper spiritual level, Congo Dawn addresses the age-old question of how a world filled with such darkness, injustice and pain can possibly be the creation of a God of love. How can followers of Yesu [Jesus] in the bleakness of an Ituri rainforest conflict zone or any other dark corner of this planet take seriously a Scriptural mandate to rejoice in their suffering [James 1:2; I Peter 4:13]? What value beyond our own comprehension might human suffering possibly hold that a loving Creator God permits it to continue?
4. Congo Dawn's main protagonist Robin has a strong sense of social justice herself. How much of her quest for justice and faith comes from your own real life experience?
At one of the story's high points, the main protagonist Robin asks a question with which I think every reader can identify:
“I would give my own life to stop the pain I’ve seen. To stop little girls and boys from being raped. Or just as bad, forced into armies where they’re turned into killers. To keep families from being torn apart by war. Children dying of preventable diseases for lack of a dollar’s worth of medicine. So am I more compassionate than the God who created all these people, created all this beauty? How can an all-powerful God who claims to love humanity look down on our planet and watch such unspeakable things happening, innocent people hurting and dying, bad guys winning over and over again, so much suffering, without it breaking His heart? Without reaching down and putting a stop to it?"
Robin's personal faith journey through the pages of Congo Dawn reflects my own spiritual wrestling with the above questions and the whole issue of a world that falls so far short in areas of social justice. The answer begins ultimately with recognizing as the protagonist does that I am not more compassionate than my Creator. Any love I can possibly feel or show is a dim reflection of our heavenly Father's love.
So if I begin with the recognition that God is truly love, that He loves us far more than we can love others, I must come to the same simple, yet profound realization to which Congo Dawn's main protagonist is ultimately drawn. The coexistence of a loving Creator with human suffering is no oxymoron, but a divine paradox those refined in the fires of adversity are best equipped to understand. The smallest flames of love and faith shine most brightly against the darkest night. Our heavenly Father really does know what He's doing, and His ultimate plans for our lives and all His creation will not be thwarted.
And in that realization is the basis for a faith that cannot be shaken however dark the night.
5. Have your books prompted any "social justice" responses?
I will never forget a Guatemalan aristocrat who wrote that my novel Betrayed had so convicted him of the role his own family had played in his country's situation that he'd dedicated a part of the family fortune to just such a "garbage dump children" outreach as I described in the book. A similar letter came from a humanitarian aid worker in Tajikistan who wrote me she'd been motivated to found an outreach for women as depicted in my Afghanistan novels Veiled Freedom/Freedom's Stand.
Another reader of my Afghanistan titles wrote that my characters Jamil, Steve, and Amy had become so real she found herself praying for their situation. Then reminding herself they were fictional characters, she'd been impelled to commit herself instead to daily prayer for the Afghan people.
I could tell such stories with every book; this is why I write!
6. What would you like your readers to do once they have finished reading?
Choose to be more involved in their world beyond the four walls of their home and the streets of their own neighborhood, even if it is only by becoming more informed and through prayer.
7. How can a reader connect with you on the Internet?
I'd like to invite any reader interested in knowing more about Congo Dawn, my other titles, or my own life journey to visit me at my website (www.jeanettewindle.com) or contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'd also be delighted to participate with your local book club or discussion group through Skype video or on-line chat conference (or in person if I am in the vicinity).