Kansas City is an area rich in religious history. Annika Bergen, a member of the Heart of America Christian Writers Network (HACWN), also based in Kansas City, recently co-authored a book on the topic of Kansas City’s Christian heritage. HACWN asked Annika some questions about this first book she has tackled. If you live anywhere in the metro radius, you’ll want to check out this book on Amazon (see info below). And you can check out HACWN at www.HACWN.org.
Annika, Tell us about your book.
The Spiritual Roots of Kansas City chronicles how Christians founded and built Kansas City. The first pioneers, fur traders Francois and Berenice Chouteau, also started the city’s first church. From day one until today, believers have created the identity of our city. For example, a Baptist missionary and his son founded Westport and became the father of Kansas City. A Methodist missionary founded Johnson County. The book connects well-known landmarks to church history and shares how Christians from all denominations have worked together to shape the city. The book weaves church history into Kansas City’s overall history in a colorful story of our past.
Where did you get your ideas?
Years of reading history books, and hours in the library! I also interviewed a dozen local Christian leaders to get their perspective on our history, especially the past thirty years.
Tell us about your writing journey.
Surprisingly, I never wanted to be an author! I majored in writing so that I could be an editor, and editing/publishing was my career focus. But in 2015, The Signatry, a Christian foundation, asked me to help write the book about Kansas City, and I said yes!
What was unexpected about the process or product?
I didn’t expect my own life to change through writing The Spiritual Roots of Kansas City! But two things I learned while writing changed my perspective: 1) I had always viewed cities as things that just were. Kansas City is just there because…because it is. But history opened up my eyes to see that cities are at the mercy of the people who live in them. We determine our own future, for better or for worse. And our choices affect future generations for hundreds of years. 2) Change never comes until one person is willing to swim against the current. Over and over in my research, I saw the same pattern: Before change happens, there’s one bold individual who’s extremely unpopular. This person goes against the grain and challenges an accepted norm. But after a few decades, their idea catches on, and society changes.
What are your dreams for the future?
I would love to keep doing what I’m doing! I write for The Signatry, and I also work as a freelance ghostwriter, writing books for clients who have a platform! Both are dream jobs.
What do you hope your readers get out of your book?
I hope they come away with a greater understanding of how much their actions matter, even the small things, when they’re serving the Lord. When you look at a city skyline, you can’t see the individual stones, but you see the skyscrapers they form. The same is true of history. We see the powerful Christian legacy, but we don’t see the thousands of anonymous Christians who faithfully served the Lord. Yet what they built lasts into eternity. As we serve God, we’ll likely stay anonymous, but our actions shape an eternal legacy.
What is something that might be surprising for the reader?
Readers will be surprised that famous Kansas City roads are named after church planters! For example, Holmes Road was named after Robert Holmes, who helped start the first Baptist church in Kansas City.
What words would you have for others who are interested in writing?
Do it! It’s fun. And the most rewarding part comes after publishing, when people come to you with stories of how the book affected them and their community. Trust that the Holy Spirit can guide your words as you invite him into the process. AND trust the feedback before publishing. If an editor tells you to rewrite half the book, do it! You’ll be glad you did.
What tips do you have for writers who are looking to collaborate?
The book was originally Bill High’s idea, and he asked me to help write it. We had lots of conversations about the content and direction of the book. So my advice would be, keep communication channels open and stay flexible. Two heads are better than one, but it requires lots of give and take!
–By Jeanette Littleton, Founding member of Heart of America Christian Writer’s Netwrork. For more information on their monthly meetings, visit www.HACWN.org.
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