An interview with Thomas Dittrich
Why did you start Zivot Viry in 1990?
Since 1948, communism had interrupted all free Christian publishing in the former Czechoslovakia. A single interdenominational monthly didn‘t exist during communist rule.
When communism fell, the Christian Mission Society (Krestanska misijni spolecnost) wanted to encourage the various Christian denominations and churches to collaborate. It was decided that a magazine would help the churches do that.
They asked me to start the magazine. I prayerfully accepted even though, as a trained architect, I had no experience in this area. I felt God leading me to do it and I knew the impact of certain magazines throughout Czech history. I dreamed about the day Christian voices would be heard.
How did you start it? Did you have models to follow?
There were no models to follow. I simply started collecting articles and putting the magazine together. We published articles and sometimes we transcribed speeches—once even unedited. I look back, and I must say that our early editions were far from professional. I was working alone without any training and that was all I could do.
How did you hear about MTI?
An MTI training was held in Ustron, Poland, in 1994, and two of my colleagues and I registered. In the end, I was not able to go because my wife was admitted to the hospital. But the staff who went learned a lot at the conference and it was helpful for me. The first training I attended was the next year. The training taught us to be more systematic in our publishing process. We also learned business principles that helped us.
Roy Coffman from Christianity Today, who visited us later in Prague said, “Zivot Viry magazine is the Czech Christianity Today.” It was an encouragement for me that although he did not know Czech, he was able to comprehend the importance of our monthly for the Czech Christians.
What has been the impact of MTI’s training on your magazine?
The training at every MTI conference we have attended has been very practical for us, starting with the editing and finishing with graphic design. They have been a type of feast or party. We have enjoyed the fellowship with other magazine publishers and the opportunity to learn from publishing professionals. We received encouragement to continue the work. We continue to use the website and the online workshops.
In a way, MTI represents the collaboration among believers that our magazine has been promoting these 30 years. In a specific moment of history when we, the church in Czech Republic, needed help, members of the church in the West came to share their knowledge and skills to help us reestablish Christian publishing in our region.