In the Spotlight | Through the eyes of a child | Local pastor’s pen book; illustrated by a woman from the Township of Richland | In the spotlight

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JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — Josh Knipple wants to see churches filled with children again.

And it’s his hope that his new book, “Eli Goes to Church,” will help young people develop a better understanding of church, faith, and living like Jesus as seen through the eyes of a child.

Knipple, who is a pastor and outreach coordinator for Crucified Ministries, said the book took five years to write. The main character is named after his son Eli.

“I wrote it when Eli was 1, and my wife (Lindsey) and I were praying to raise him in the church and what it would be like,” the 39-year-old Richland Township resident said.

“We know kids ask all kinds of questions, so I thought the best way to reach our own kids was to write a story for them.”

“Faith as a Child”

The story follows Eli, who wakes up on Sunday morning and his parents tell him it’s time to go to church.

“He starts by asking why they go to church,” Knipple said.

“In church, he asks who the people are, why they sing and why they pray. It’s a conversation between Eli and his parents, and they answer questions in a simple way a child can understand.

At the end of the church, the pastor tells the congregation to go be the light, and Eli wonders what that means.

“It then shows that Eli is in school the next day and shows how he treats other people,” Knipple said.

“It ends with Eli coming home at the end of the day and being excited because he has to be the light. You have mom and dad saying it’s that simple – faith as a child.

“Focused on the Story”

But it was not Knipple’s original intention to see the story turned into a book.

“I was just going to write a story for Eli and share it with him,” he said. “It was something he could look through and cherish.”

It wasn’t until he showed the story to his friend and illustrator Thyra Jacobs that the idea came to fruition.

“She started putting pictures in there, and when she started doing that, it started to become a reality,” he said.

“Thyra also grew up in church. Her dad is a pastor and my dad is a pastor, so she used visual ideas of both concepts of what we grew up with in church and what it looked like to us. We wanted it to be something the kids could react to and have artwork to keep them focused on the story.

Jacobs, a resident of Richland Township, said creating the artwork was a long process.

“There were a lot of idea posts, doing a lot of sketching and talking about the style we wanted for the book,” she said.

“I work primarily in pen and watercolor illustration and Josh loved it.”

For her designs, Jacobs said she drew inspiration from Eli, as well as people she knew at church.

“I based the pastor on my father’s appearance and dress, and on one of the pages I drew an old lady from the church and she is the spitting image of my grandmother, who was the epitome of the lady of the church,” Jacobs said.

“It was a lot of self-reflection on my own childhood church experiences and really putting that into the illustrations.”

Jacobs said she enjoyed helping create the book.

“There was kind of a balancing act between the professional stress of wanting to do the best artwork and the highest quality product possible, but it was also really nostalgic for me,” she said. “It was also the fulfillment of a childhood dream I had of being a children’s book illustrator, as this is the first book I have illustrated.”

“It blew me away”

The book, which is aimed at children ages 4 to 11, was published by Christian Faith Publishing and released in May.

It is available for purchase in bookstores and online at Amazon, the Apple iTunes store, and Barnes and Noble.

Knipple said the feedback was positive.

“It blew my mind,” he said.

“A person contacted me and said that his grandchildren wanted to go to church with them for the first time in a long time after reading it. A father told me that it had opened up questions for talk about faith in their home. There’s a church in South Carolina that wants to order 50 copies, and people across the country are getting it, so that’s something I didn’t expect.

Along with 6-year-old Eli, Knipple is father to 4-year-old Silas and 20-month-old twins Elliston and Evans.

Next stop: The beach

He said more pounds are likely.

“Our 4-year-old asks when his book is coming out,” he said.

“I started the basics with a book called ‘Silas Goes to the Beach.’ One of the greatest lessons I ever learned about faith was at the beach and sitting there at night with my dad, and telling him about the waves and the ocean and the images of God’s love through the waves, so that’s where my mind goes next.

For more information on “Eli Goes To Church” or to purchase it, email Knipple at [email protected]

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