Missouri teenager publishes magazine for Christian girls
By Bill Stough
LABADIE, Mo.--Amity Doss says she "felt motivated" to begin producing a magazine for Christians girls back in March 1999 when she was 15.
"I had been thinking and praying about it for four months, but I didn't feel God's blessing to begin one until a day in March 1999. That morning I had been praying about it and felt that God was telling me to go ahead and start one. So I prayed that, if I was understanding correctly and I was supposed to start a magazine, then I would ask my mom for permission and, if her response was affirmative, then I would. She said yes."
The result was the start-up of Silver Threads magazine, published four times a year.
Miss Doss, now 17, has published eight issues so far, each about 16 pages of her own articles as well as letters from readers and essays about Christian teenage behavior submitted by readers.
It also includes interviews with teen girls, original poetry, recipes and inspirational stories.
The subscription list stands at about 130. Readers reside all over the United States and in Canada, Brazil, Germany, the West Indies and Uganda.
Donations pay for about 60 percent of production costs. Miss Doss makes up the difference herself.
"Silver Threads is a free magazine that is printed with the intent of encouraging young ladies through their walk on the straight and narrow," declares an advertising flyer. "Our goal is to print wholesome and edifying reading material that may be both a challenge and enjoyment for you to read.
"Some of the things you will see in Silver Threads are testimonies, interviews with other Christian girls, encouraging articles, original stories and poems, pen-pal ads, and other things. Silver Threads is printed seasonally, our Lord willing, by a 17-year-old homeschooled girl."
The Doss family lived in St. Charles, Mo., 25 miles northwest of St. Louis, when Miss Doss came up with the idea.
Each month when the electric bill from Cuivre River Electric Cooperative arrived at the Doss residence, the bill included a newsletter with announcements. One said that co-op customers could send in for a pen-pal list.
Miss Doss selected teenage girls from the list who said they wanted to correspond with other girls. One of the girls who wrote back to Miss Doss included a flyer for a little magazine called Nutmeg Notes, published by a Christian teenager.
Miss Doss learned that other girls were also publishing magazines, so she subscribed to several of them. Reading the others inspired her to do something similar.
She advertised her new magazine in the other publications. Responses from those ads comprise the majority of her mailing list.
Miss Doss does not plan to make writing her career, but she likes to write.
"At age 9 I started writing short stories and have continued ever since," she told The Journal. "When I started Silver Threads, however, I wrote on a regular basis, and my writing skills improved greatly."
She types only 25 words per minute, so she composes in longhand and then keys the text into her computer. She prays before she sits down to write.
"It just comes," she says.
She likes to write articles, poems and stories.
Silver Threads is printed at the local Office Max store. Then Miss Doss assembles and staples copies of the magazine at home before mailing them.
Schooled at home
Amity's parents are John and Shirley Doss, Ambassador College graduates. Each has a degree from another college as well.
The Dosses have three children besides Amity: Angie, 19, Andrea, 14, and Adam, 10.
Mr. and Mrs. Doss were Worldwide Church of God members until 1983. The family attends a congregation in St. Louis called Church of God Fellowship, an independent Sabbath-keeping group with an average attendance of about 50. They also sometimes attend another congregation on Friday night. The brethren there usually follow a participative Bible-study format.
The children used to attend public schools, but the Dosses decided to begin homeschooling when a relative decided to homeschool her daughter and asked Mrs. Doss to consider homeschooling too.
When Amity expressed a serious interest in homeschooling, her parents discussed it and decided to teach Amity and Andrea at home as an experiment. The other two Doss children continued in public school for two years. Angie, now 19, graduated from public school, and Adam began homeschooling after two years.
Amity Doss is an enthusiastic advocate for homeschools.
"There are all kinds of advantages," she said. "One is the atmosphere. When you go to public school you sit in class with a bunch of other people and listen to the teacher. In homeschooling you kind of teach yourself, although your teachers, your parents, are there anytime you need them to help you with something.
"You and your parents are your motivators instead of a teacher in school, so it makes you want to do better at what you're trying to do.
"That's worked for me, anyway, and I think that's true for a lot of people."
Amity likes not having to live by the clock at home as she would at a public school.
"I can be doing home school at 9 o'clock at night or whenever I need to, and during the day I can go to other events if necessary. I like the flexibility."
Does Miss Doss think she gets a better education this way?
"Oh, yeah, because I can choose a little more of the things I study about. I pick things that I like, although, of course, there are other things that are required."
Peer pressure--or rather the lack of it--is another advantage for homeschoolers, said Miss Doss.
"In truth it affects almost every teenager in public schools, even if only in small ways. Those who already have problems are pressured by those who have more problems, and they likewise pressure those who have fewer problems than they do."
Besides obvious peer pressure, a subtler form of it is bound to affect young people, she said.
"When you're constantly around others who are less moral than yourself, and you see and hear them day after day after day and they mock you and make fun of you for being the way you are, over time it is probable that you will start to compromise a little here and a little there. I've seen it so many times.
"In home school, however, peer pressure is not really a problem."
Critics of home school point to the relative isolation of students compared with the perhaps hundreds of other students they would associate with every day in a public school. Doesn't being isolated mean homeschoolers are ill prepared for the real world? When they go out to make their way in society, how will they know what to do?
"Socialization is not a problem with our family," Miss Doss said. "I have regular weekly activities, including two churches we go to, that allow me to interact with all age-groups."
Who follows Christ?
Miss Doss talked about her definition of a Christian.
"A Christian is someone who is saved and is trying to do his best to please the God that he loves," she replied.
What does one do to be saved?
"It is all the basic things taught on salvation. You have to recognize that you're a sinner, and then you have to repent, and repent means not only saying you're sorry for your sins, but you're genuinely sorry and you want to quit sinning.
"Then you ask for forgiveness and acknowledge that you cannot save yourself and that God is your Savior. You desire to serve and follow Him with all your heart, mind and soul, and you are baptized."
Miss Doss was baptized last year at age 16.
"If a person is sincere, he should be baptized when he is a teenager," she said. "My family, along with three other families that are long-time friends of ours, were there [at the baptism]. My dad baptized me in a stream."
How does a Christian teenager differ from other adolescents?
"People who are in the world, if they're not Christian, do whatever pleases themselves," she said. "They live a self-centered life that cannot satisfy, and deep within they're not happy. Christian teenagers are motivated to serve God and are trying to do what God wants them to do, thus reaping a happier life. The difference is the attitude of their heart."
Most of the readers of Silver Threads are not Sabbath-keepers. Can they be followers of Christ?
"There are things that people come to realize, and the Sabbath is one such thing. Other people know things I don't know about being a Christian. I do what I know, and they do what they know, and we each try to serve God. Some people know about the Sabbath; other people don't. But it's the knowledge they have at that point. I don't have every doctrine correct, and neither do they."
Praying is talking
The regular columns in Silver Threads mention prayer a lot. Why is that?
Prayer is "of utmost importance," said Miss Doss. "Prayer is your relationship with God. Praying is talking to Him. If you don't pray, then how can your relationship with God get much better?"
Sometimes Miss Doss "feels answers" as she prays.
"There are times when I'm making a request in prayer and I feel a yes, that that's the right way to go. At other times I feel hardness, like, no, that's not the answer."
Miss Doss doesn't know what the future holds for Silver Threads, since "I'm unsure of what I'm going to do after I graduate in a year and a half. I might continue it, or I might not, depending on what else I do then."
She doesn't think anyone else could publish it because "it would be a completely different magazine if someone else were doing it.
"However, anyone could start a magazine of their own."
For a sample copy or a subscription to Silver Threads, write Amity Doss, 806 Elizabeth Anne Ln., Labadie, Mo. 63055, U.S.A., or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
© The Journal: News of the Churches of God