Thank you, John Harrower
Pioneering publisher and bookseller Beatriz Buono honours outgoing SparkLit president.
I served with John and Gayelene Harrower in the shadow of the military dictatorship; a time of great fear and pain in Argentina. Without their example and encouragement, my family and I would not be who we are today.
John was Nehemiah among us. He thought and acted as an engineer, economist, pastor and theologian. Before the ruins of our student and literature ministries, he wept, cried out, devised a strategy, established a plan, gathered resources and raised up a team. Despite the attacks he faced from inside and outside our ministry, he counted on God’s favour, kept his faith firm, and little by little achieved the results we hoped for.
Guided by the Spirit of God, John was able to see beyond my youth and inexperience and persuade me to join the team that would rescue the Certeza publishing house from bankruptcy. He equipped me with English courses, mentors, and links with publishers and Christian literature ministries in the United States and Australia.
With wisdom and faith
What is it about John that I most value? His childlike but unshakable faith? His passion, discipline or sense of humour? His multilayered reading of reality? His judicious reforms that reached the very roots of our organisation?
Before he left Argentina in 1988, John gathered together the ABUA and Certeza teams and painted a scenario of the challenges we would face in the coming years. “Crisis or no crisis, the church of Jesus Christ in Argentina will grow and it will need good books.” He encouraged us to become jugglers and keep as many balls in the air as possible, so that if one falls, the others remain aloft. Thanks to this wise strategy, our bookshops, publisher, importer and distributor survived and flourished for many years until, for various reasons, the time came to focus only on publishing and distributing our own books.
In gladness and in grief
John and his son David visited us in February 2018. When we organised the itinerary for their trip many months earlier, none of us could have imagined what was going to happen during their stay in Buenos Aires. I don’t think it was a coincidence. God enabled John to accompany me when the sale of the Certeza bookshop was settled. Again John challenged me. “Let’s pray in the shop.” This was a dark and sad time and I was reluctant to return to the empty premises. Later, I appreciated the healing I received as John prayed, giving thanks for the years of service we had provided in that place. We had been together at the opening celebrations and we were together in the grief of closure.
I thank God that he brought this precious family to serve with the Asociación Bíblica Universitaria Argentina (ABUA) and the Certeza publishing house. They came as prophets of hope in times of desolation. Thank you John and Gayelene. You were our comfort and family. You influenced and impacted many people. I am one of them.
Beatriz Buono is the director of Christian publisher Certeza Argentina.