Some craft stories, some share lessons

GREENFIELD — They sit in the room with him, telling story after story, pieces of the larger stories that are their lives.

A couple who thought their daughter was dead — only to find out she was in the hospital, mistaken for another girl who was dead. A young man fleeing for his life in the Sudan. A missionary forced to stand for hours in a North Korean cell.

Mark Tabb becomes immersed in these stories, helping those who lived them share them in cohesive first-person accounts. Sometimes the gripping accounts become so embedded in this storyteller’s mind that, in dreams, he sees the events as though they were his own life.

Tabb, of Greenfield, is one of a handful of Hancock County residents who have produced books with some spiritual connection. Their works range from self-published novels, to collections of insights on spiritual life, to, in Tabb’s case, a New York Times bestseller.

The Greenfield resident landed at the top of the New York Times bestseller list in 2009 with “Mistaken Identity,” the story of two Taylor University students who were mistaken for each other after one of them survived a crash that killed several students.

Last month marked the release of “Not Forgotten,” in which Tabb helps missionary Kenneth Bae tell the story of Bae’s imprisonment in North Korea. Bae, who was born in South Korea and moved to the United States as a teen, moved to China and led groups of Christians into North Korea to be a friendly presence and pray for the country. His own family, in previous generations, had once lived in what is now North Korea.

“When Kenneth looked across the river, … (he thought) ‘This could have been me,’” Tabb said.

On one trip, Bae was carrying a new computer. He inadvertently also carried an external hard drive. The hard drive contained files documenting the purpose of his trips into North Korea. He was arrested and spent about two years in prison. In “Not Forgotten,” he details what happened and what sustained him.

Jai Haulk’s book, “Stronger,” is borne of his own story, of a commitment made two years ago to improve his health. As he made changes, he saw the changes that followed them, to the tune of 60 to 70 pounds, and realized the lessons extended far beyond fitness.

“I started seeing a lot of the practical daily things change in my life,” Haulk said, “and then realized that all of those applied spiritually.”

Haulk, student pastor at Fortville Christian Church, said people often look for a fast one-time fix to problems: The diet to fix the body. The vacation to rekindle the marriage. The retreat where “we binge on God’s word and relationships for a week.”

“Stronger” is about how to practice those things in a healthy way, every day, he said.

Steve Ellis’s writing has ranged from scuba diving instructions to a Conan the Barbarian tale for a nephew who is a fan. In the spiritual book realm, though, the pastor of Curry’s Chapel United Methodist Church has written the tale of a knight that Ellis designed to parallel the steps of salvation.

Ellis’ more recent main character?

“He was a thief, and he was a drug abuser, and he was a pimp. You name it; he did it,” Ellis explained.

But after that, he was a hardened quadriplegic in a nursing home. That’s when Ellis, new in ministry at the time, met him. “Albert’s Song” tells of their unlikely friendship.

“He taught me a lot about ministry without knowing he was doing it,” Ellis said.

“It’s a book about faith. I’m not sure who got saved the most there — him or me.”

Local authors

Mark Tabb’s writing career spans more than 30 years and more than 30 books for which he’s been author or collaborator. His 2003 work, “Out of the Whirlwind,” was a nominee for a Gold Medallion Book Award from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association. He recently released “Not Forgotten,” the story of missionary Kenneth Bae’s imprisonment in North Korea.

Donald Charles Lacy was a longtime United Methodist pastor; one of his early appointments was at Philadelphia United Methodist Church in the late 1950s. He worked for interfaith dialogue, particularly between Protestants and Catholics, and was openly devoted to the Virgin Mary. He wrote 17 books, releasing “Collected Works of Donald Charles Lacy” in 2001. He died in 2012.

Elise Erikson Barrett is a New Palestine High School graduate and former pastor. Her writing is featured in the 2014 volume “Words that Give Life: For All Seasons.” She also released “What Was Lost: A Christian Journey Through Miscarriage” in 2010.

Emily Smith of Greenfield released “Where’s the Nearest Day Spa? Renewing the Anxious Heart” in 2012.

Jai Haulk will celebrate the release of “Stronger” at a book launch party the afternoon of July 17 at Serendipity in The Shops at Perry Crossing (formerly Metropolis) in Plainfield. After embarking on a healthier lifestyle about two years (and 60-70 pounds) ago, the student pastor of Fortville Christian Church said he found lessons that extended beyond the fitness realm. Chapters in the book deal with emotions, relationships, finances and other areas.

Russel Jarvis, team leader for pastoral care at Hancock Regional Hospital, released the novel, “The Power of the Promise,” in 2001. It’s now available as an ebook titled “PromiseLand,” along with another ebook, “Wavelength.”

Steve Ellis, pastor of Curry’s Chapel United Methodist Church, is publishing “Albert’s Song,” based on an unlikely friendship he struck up years ago with a man who had been a drug abuser and pimp but was quadriplegic when Ellis met him. Ellis previously wrote “The Darkest Knight” and a book about scuba diving; he was once an instructor. 

Tracy McCarty, who attends Wilkinson Church of Christ, has written a book on women of the Bible.  She has also written a children’s book.

Author photo
Anne Smith is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at