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Spreading the word

Rick Jones (seated) gets help publishing his Christian newspaper from his coworkers, Leah Gulbrandson, Melissa Jacobson, Marlys Botzet, Stuart Schmidt and Jill Erickson.

Rick Jones knew that somebody had to do it - he just didn't think it would be him.

God thought otherwise. So Jones listened and added a title to his life resume he never thought possible - newspaper publisher.

"I would have never dreamed that I would be doing this," he said. "If somebody would have told me I would, I would have laughed."

Throughout his travels with his job at Alexandria Extrusion, Jones would occasionally discover local Christian newspapers and thought that was a great idea for Alexandria. He brought the idea to a friend and told her that "somebody" should create a similar publication in Alexandria - thinking that maybe it would be her.

"It was more God's plan that I would do it, because I couldn't find anyone else who would," Jones said. "He kept telling me in my prayers that it needed to be done."

Jones said a lot of prayers and did a lot of thinking about the idea. He felt the need to publish this Christian paper to provide information and knowledge about Christ to the Alexandria community. He also wanted to offer people the opportunity to get involved in Christian activities. Most of all, he wanted to glorify God.

Having never written anything more than technical training manuals, and with no knowledge about publishing a newspaper, he was skeptical of his ability to pull it off.

"What it finally came down to, God said, 'You are going to do this.' I guess if you are willing, God will teach you what he wants you to do," Jones said.

Jones enlisted the aid of some co-workers who helped with computer issues, editing and layout ideas and got to work.

The result was Our Town - God's Town, a monthly Christian newspaper that made its debut in December 2008. The newspaper is published in conjunction with the Faith at Work luncheon, which is the third Friday of each month.

Each issue has a certain focus, such as Easter, prayer, etc. and features a local Christian ministry, such as LifeRight or The Salvation Army.

All the articles are contributed, with a regular 16-year-old columnist and a woman co-worker who writes the "ministry of the month" article. Jones also includes Christian devotional material that he gets permission to reprint.

"The majority is locally written," he said. "Anything locally written will get first shot at going in."

In each issue, the next month's focus is printed, encouraging people to contribute articles for the next issue (see fact box for contact information). The newspaper also promotes any local Christian events taking place in Alexandria.

But there is one thing that Jones does not seek to publish - anything involving the political side of religion.

"I want it to be good news," he said. "We are not going to be judgmental of anyone. Everything is going to be uplifting of Christianity."

Jones has a steadily growing base of Christian advertisers that support Our Town - God's Town, but his intention for the paper isn't to make a profit.

"I don't want anyone to think I'm going to make a dime off of this," he stressed. "I'm not in this to make money. If there ever is anything left over, we want to give it to a scholarship."

This month will mark Our Town - God's Town's 17th issue. Since its initial printing of 1,000 copies per month, Jones has increased the circulation to 1,500. The papers are distributed at the Faith at Work luncheon, and are also available at about 25 locations in Alexandria, including restaurants and hotels, manufacturing companies, Knute Nelson, Bethany Community, Someplace Safe and a variety of others.

In March, only 30 copies were left over, a good sign, according to Jones.

"The feedback has been extremely good," he said. "I get a lot of thank yous. It's been very gratifying. It's become something I am downright proud of."

But praise for himself isn't what Jones is searching for - it's praise to God. He wants nothing more than to spread the word and give people the opportunity to have a voice for their Christian lives. He also hopes Our Town - God's Town gets more powerful as far as what it does for people and the message it conveys.

"I want to glorify God. That's really it," he concluded. "If it changes somebody and they accept Christ, what a blessing."