The publishers of a quiet international best-seller are anticipating a sales spike with the English-language release of a graphic novel version of the book, despite an ongoing campaign to discredit its subject.
YUN: The Graphic Version is due out this spring from Monarch Books in England. Monarch editorial director Tony Collins said he expected the edition "to reach a lot of people, especially young people who are daunted by the length of the existing book. Graphic novels are a big market."
More than 600,000 copies have been sold worldwide of the original book, The Heavenly Man, in the last three years. Written by Paul Hattaway, a New Zealand missionary to Asia, the book tells the dramatic life story and persecution of a Chinese house-church leader known as Brother Yun.
Distributed by Kregel Publications in the U.S. , where it has sold around 150,000 copies, The Heavenly Man has also seen strong interest in Korea, the Philippines and Australia. It has been translated into 30 languages, including Arabic, Turkish and Mongolian.
The title won the U.K. Christian Book Award in 2004, and recently prompted one reader to launch a Web site collecting testimonies from others whose lives have been impacted by the story.
Although internationally renowned German evangelist Reinhard Bonnke has endorsed the book, it has been criticized at a Web site that claims Yun's story is false. Some house-church leaders in China have issued a statement denouncing Yun, who now lives in Germany and travels widely to speak in churches, as a fraud.
One congregation in Wisconsin that bought 1,000 copies of the book for its members sent them back to the publisher after being told that Yun's story—including remarkable answers to prayer and a supernatural escape from prison—was untrue, Hattaway said in an open letter at his Web site that dismisses the allegations of falsehood.
Other Chinese house-church leaders who have investigated the charges against Yun have issued a statement saying they believe his story, Hattaway said.
"Christians like Brother Yun would consider it a great honor to be shot dead by a Muslim or speared by a tribesman while they are preaching the gospel in some far-flung corner of the earth," he wrote.
"But to come under fire from fellow Christians, who are meant to be fighting on your side, is a miserable and terrible thing to have to cope with."
Collins said a few stores and churches refused to stock the book, "but the level of resistance has been very low. As far as I can tell, the attacks have not slowed the book's sales at all."
Collins said Monarch was approached with the book: "We checked the story out with sources who could vouch for Yun's character and veracity and it rang true. So we decided to take a chance."