It was early in the history of WORLD magazine that a wise man from the publishing industry warned me: “Joel,” he said, “if you don’t have a crisp and clear mental picture of your ideal subscriber—the person you most want to pick up WORLD and then devour every issue you produce—I’m telling you that without such a focus, you are certain to fail.”
It was a scary warning. It was especially scary because I didn’t have such a mental image. But I trusted this man, so I went to work on his assignment. Here’s what I concluded in the days after our conversation.
The personification of WORLD’s target was a 28-year-old woman, mother of two, standing at her kitchen sink at 5:30 in the evening. Her husband’s due home from work, but just called to say he’d be an hour late—and her plans for dinner, already embarrassingly thin, evaporated with his phone call.
This woman is intelligent on half a dozen fronts, a college graduate, and typically, for her whole life, looked to for leadership. But now she feels out of it. She doesn’t know where Mali is in Africa, or what the issues are there; she hasn’t read that latest novel that others at church are talking about; and she wishes she could tell you how the so-called “education bubble” might affect her family some day. Instead, she’s had to learn a lot on the internet about children’s viruses, which she’s done between visits to the pediatrician.
In short, she wants to keep up on what’s happening in this complex world—not from some condescending expert, but from someone who knows what it means to be overwhelmed.
For the last 20 years, that woman has been my target. I figured if we captured her interest, we’d gain that of a whole lot of other folks as well.
So guess who I got introduced to last week? I haven’t yet met him face-to-face—although I hope to soon. If WORLD has an older, more devoted reader, I’ll put that person as well on my “must meet” list for sometime in 2013. For now, listen to this.
Amos Yoder will be 97 on his next birthday, which is Nov. 26. He is a long-time member of what’s called the Beachy-Amish church in central Minnesota. In keeping with that church’s custom, Amos and his wife Sara, who is 92, have no radio, no TV, and no computer. They don’t need such distractions because their small 5-acre farm, where they still live alone, offers plenty to keep them busy. Twice a day, even when it’s 20 degrees below zero, he walks 50 yards across to the barn, where he faithfully feeds his goats, his guineas, a chicken or two, and nine cats.
But the faithful diligence that really sets Amos apart comes between those two trips to the barn. That’s when Amos sits down with his latest issue of WORLD because, as his daughter Dorcas reports, “he loves to know what’s going on in the world.” But it’s not just curiosity on Amos’ part. He wants to know what’s going on because he wants to pray—and he wants to pray specifically for those he’s just read about.
As Dorcas reported after one recent visit: “He prayed for Hurricane Sandy victims, for the relief efforts, for refugees around the world, for the persecuted church in Africa, for missionaries around the world, for their local church, for his grandchildren, for CAM [an Amish Mennonite relief group], for President Obama [in his pronunciation, Obama rhymes with Alabama], for his cabinet, and for the Justice Department.” All between trips to the barn.
Amos and Sara do let a cleaning lady come once a week. But if it has snowed that morning, Sara is alert to get out early and sweep the front walk so the cleaning lady won’t slip and fall.
I don’t have a clue how to bring these two pictures together—the one of the 28-year-old mom with two little kids tugging at her knees, and the one of Amos. For now, I’m asking Amos if he’ll take on the task of praying often for all the 28-year-old moms who read WORLD magazine. In this disheveled world, God knows how much those moms need a faithful old man’s prayers.