EUBANK, Ky. (BP)–How many Bibles are just sitting around in your house, on the back seat of your car, or on dusty shelves at your church?
Emily Filipi of Wetumpka, Ala., was amazed to discover she had 18 Bibles in a variety of translations in her home. She never intended to collect Bibles; several were gifts, including “a lovely, leather Ryrie Study Bible that I never used,” she said. In fact, when she stopped to think about it, she realized she actually used only three of those 18 Bibles.
Meanwhile, over in a small village in Nigeria, a pastor writes a letter on the back of an already-used piece of paper, for someone in America to: “Please send me a Bible, but if you can’t send a Bible, then please send me a New Testament, and if you can’t send a New Testament, then please send me just a few pages from a Bible.”
And over at a seminary in the Philippines, a graduating student uses every spare minute she has between classes and her work to write down passages from one of the Bibles in the library and from some basic Christian resources. This way she’ll have at least something on hand after she leaves the seminary in a few months to use as reference materials for the Bible study classes she’ll be teaching. Even if she did have the money to buy books, there’s no Christian bookstore anywhere near where she lives.
These situations, and many more like them, are why an organization called Book-Link, begun nearly 15 years ago, faithfully gathers unused Christian resources and ships them around the world at no cost to the recipient. Book-Link, a nonprofit and totally volunteer-operated Christian organization now based in Eubank, Ky., sends out everything upon request, when received with the recommendation from a Southern Baptist missionary, helping to insure that nothing is wasted.
Since the first shipment in January 1988 through December 1998, Book-Link sent out a total of 331,693 items to 68 countries and five U.S. states where in many cases Christian students and pastors previously had little or nothing in the way of study materials.
“Once people find out about Book-Link, they start to feel guilty when they look at their own shelves and see that they have much more than they really need,” said Filipi, now a Book-Link volunteer, who along with a few others regularly takes off a week at a time to drive up to Book-Link headquarters to prepare books for international shipment.
“We Christians in America have so many books, and we hold on to them even when we don’t use them,” Filipi said. “I think it is our Christian obligation to share out of our abundance.”
In Eubank, a picturesque, rural town in central Kentucky, Filipi and a handful of other volunteers work out of the home and two, two-car garages of Olin Williams, executive director of Book-Link since 1993. Williams currently is in Zimbabwe on a one-year assignment with the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board, teaching in a seminary and assisting to set up a network of small regional libraries for Christian workers throughout that country, libraries which “desperately need books that you might have,” Williams wrote for a Book-Link advertising flyer.
Filipi said she will never forget the conviction she felt the first time she heard Williams speak about Book-Link:
“No Southern Baptist in America deserves two Bibles until everyone in the world has one Bible,” Filipi recalled Williams saying during a meeting, and later read in his annual Book-Link report. “He said he really needed Bibles” to fill the numerous requests he had received from all over the world and from parts of the United States, she remembered. After she located the 18 Bibles in her own home, she immediately boxed up all but the three translations she regularly referred to, “and taped the box shut before I could change my mind,” she said. Filipi called Williams the next day to tell him about the box of Bibles that was headed his way. Of that lovely, leather Bible, he said, “I have just the right pastor to send that to.”
Filipi now “lives and breathes Book-Link,” said Geneva Faw, who with her husband, Wiley, volunteers to manage the day-to-day operations of Book-Link during Williams’ absence.
The Faws, who spent 33 years as missionaries in Nigeria before their recent retirement, make nearly daily trips to their small, rural post office to pick up boxes of books that have been sent to them from people and churches all over the United States. The Faws don’t mind the work. They remember like it was yesterday those boxes of books they received from Book-Link when they were many thousands of miles from home. They received Book-Link’s first shipment, in fact.
In Williams’ house and garages, the Faws, Filipi and other volunteers sort through the boxes shipped to them and find specific items to fill each request, then they carefully pack the materials and send them out to pastors and students who many times live in isolated areas around the world.
Two of the main reasons for the shortage of materials in some places are the scarcity of Christian publishers outside the United States and many students’ lack of funds to buy a book even if it were available.
“We pray as we box the books that what we send will be right for those people,” Filipi said.
She fondly remembers a thank-you letter from a Christian woman in Nigeria, who wrote, “I have taught Sunday school for seven years, and this is the first time I’ve ever had any literature to use.”
“I am a recycler,” Filipi said. “This is the best way to recycle things, to get books off of the shelves of people who don’t use them and into the hands of people who want and need them so desperately.”
Another volunteer, Eddie Henson of Huntington, W.Va., also makes the trek to Eubank, Ky., as often as he can. A retired director of missions and church starter, Henson first thinned out his own library, then started roaming West Virginia for more, contacting:
— Christian bookstores, to pick up things such as books, tracts and Vacation Bible School materials that didn’t sell;
— churches, to get Sunday school literature that ended up being extra, as well as unclaimed Bibles and old hymn books; and
— church libraries, to get books that were duplicates or pulled from the collection as librarians make room for new releases.
“It is extremely poor stewardship and maybe even a sin to have Christian materials sitting around, not being used, while other Christians around the world have nothing and would treasure these items if they had them,” Henson said to explain why he goes to such trouble when he could be taking it easy now.
Anyone interested in cleaning off their shelves and helping Book-Link fill more requests may send donations of Christian materials — pre-paid, not C.O.D. — to Book-Link, 4155 Highway 328 West, Eubank, KY 42567. With funds so tight just for shipping the books overseas, no money is available to pay for books to arrive in Eubank. To talk to the Faws (and to Williams, when he returns to the States in February 2000) for more details, call them (606) 379-2140. The Faws advise calling before sending boxes to check on what materials currently are most urgently needed.
Monetary donations, meanwhile, can be sent to the Book-Link Foundation, c/o Mississippi Baptist Foundation, P.O. Box 530, Jackson, MS 39205-0530. All donations are used strictly to pay postal costs and to purchase shipping materials, and all donations are tax-deductible. No one associated with Book-Link receives any type of salary. For more information, call the Mississippi Baptist Foundation at (601) 968-3800.
NOTE: Book-Link (properly spelled as a hyphenated word) is a separate entity from the several websites on the Internet with similarly spelled titles. Book-Link does not have a site on the Internet.