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African Artists Reach Youth with Christian Comics

Steve Jobs, former CEO of Apple Inc., once said, “When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. After a while, it seemed obvious to them.” Greg Burgess experienced exactly that. After spending time in French-speaking Africa, he simply saw something that was obvious. Creative action was his only possible response.

Greg attended Grace College in Indiana as an English and Business Administration major. He finished the last year of his degree in Lyon, France, and it was one of the more formative experiences in his life. While he was there, Greg volunteered at the publishing house called Éditions Clé, founded by former Encompass Director Tom Julien.

After his studies were completed, Greg returned to the U.S. and worked as a writer for local newspapers. Though after such a positive experience in Europe, he felt compelled to work in missions. When Encompass World Partners asked him to return, Greg packed his bags. He started his work with Editions Clé as an Encompass Global Worker in 1990. Since then, Greg has worked on publishing Christian books and Bible software through Clé.

Over 15 years ago, a friend invited Greg to go on his first ever outreach trip to French-speaking Africa. Though the trip focused on other ministries, Greg couldn’t help but connect with Christian publishers and writers. While he was there, he made two observations. First, the majority of the content being offered in the region centered on a Western audience, which neglected culturally relevant topics for Africans. Second, most of the content available was not very attractive to the majority demographic: African youth.

Greg saw a need and an opportunity, so in 2008 he started a new ministry to fill the need: PJA (Publications for African Youth).

PJA is a non-profit publishing ministry that focuses on godly content created by African Christian writers and artists for an African audience, with young people as a priority. One of the first PJA products was an African youth magazine, which Greg organized and published. The magazine was read by youth all over French-speaking Africa. It had culturally relevant stories and comics, which were attractive to the young audience. It was to become the seed of future projects.

In 2009, while attending a book show, Greg connected with former Marvel and DC Comics illustrator Nate Butler. Nate had founded COMIX35, a ministry that helps Christians create better visual storying media for missions and Christian growth. Nate suggested that Greg start a Christian comic made by African writers and illustrators, and the new comic, Eclats, was born.

Greg began contacting African artists. He organized a workshop with Comix35, where 20–30 African artists received training in writing, illustrating and storyboarding. The first group met in Yaoundé, Cameroon, and consisted of writers and illustrators from many neighboring countries. The week-long workshop produced the first edition of Eclats.

Today, the Eclats group has grown to over 70 African Christian artists and script writers.

Three issues have been produced with two new issues scheduled for upcoming release. The Eclats comics are distributed throughout French-speaking Africa in Christian bookstores, churches, schools, and youth ministries. Copies are also given to the artists to sell for profit or to be used in their professional portfolio. PJA also helps collaborators publish their individual work, fulfilling one of PJA’s main goals: to give African writers and artists a platform to glorify God with their talent.

Today, Greg dreams of his newest project, a graphic novel version of the Bible entirely written and drawn by African artists. Their common vision is to create the African Comic Bible in a culturally relevant way that appeals to and will impact young people. Comics are depictions of people in dialogue and in action. This fits well and is attractive to many people within Africa’s cultures that are oral at heart. Greg knows that these culturally relevant, African-born, comics will serve to bring God’s truth into the hearts and lives of African youth.

Without a doubt, the Great Commission will be fulfilled on not one platform, but on thousands; not by one creative idea, but millions. The creative media Greg Burgess has developed over the years is one of many innovative pursuits for reaching the nations around the world today. He saw the need, saw the potential, and took action to make exciting things happen.

When you look around, what do you see? How might God use your creativity to reach the nations?

Want to know more about the African Christian comics project? Email Greg.