EUBANK, Ky. (BP) — Olin Williams read the letter from a teacher in Nigeria. “If you cannot send me a New Testament, please tear a few pages out of a New Testament and send these pages to me,” the man wrote, desperate for even a portion of God’s Word.
[QUOTE@left@180=“Please tear a few pages out of a New Testament and send these pages to me.” — Nigerian teacher]The letter underscored a need for sending Bibles and Christian books to countries where they are not easily accessible.
Williams, a retired schoolteacher, directs Book-Link, a ministry that began in the back of a Ford Ranger truck two decades ago and now impacts the world from a two-story warehouse in rural Kentucky. The building was constructed on Williams’ farm by more than 25 volunteer groups.
Book-Link emerged from a ministry called Books for the World, which began in 1988 as a project by the late Owen Cooper, a former Southern Baptist Convention president.
Long shelves of books as well as tables, chairs, dollies, boxes and packing materials fill the Book-Link warehouse in Eubank, about halfway between Lexington and the Tennessee state line.
One recipient of a box of books in Africa responded, “Take out the packing material and send more books instead,” Williams recounted.
Volumes of used books and other Christian literature are repaired, processed, packed and wrapped in boxes weighing about 45 pounds each.
Through the efforts of many volunteers, the faith-based organization has shipped more than 2 million books, journals, tracts, Christian music CDs and cassette tapes to 5,000-plus recipients in more than 80 countries at no cost to those who open the boxes.
Volunteers typically bring books with them when they travel to Eubank to help pack, and some even bring sleeping bags to stay overnight in the warehouse while they work.
“It costs about $4,500 to ship a 20-foot container filled with 747 boxes of books to Nigeria and India and approximately $11,000 to ship a similar container of materials to Zimbabwe and Zambia,” Williams said.
“Presently, Book-Link ships two 20-foot containers overseas yearly but has the capacity to ship three containers a year if more materials were available,” he added.
A few years ago, Williams taught at the Baptist Seminary in Kaduna, Nigeria, and told the students about Book-Link. While he was there, a 60-pound box of materials that Book-Link had shipped two or three years earlier finally arrived. The students could not believe the timing.
Requests received by Book-Link range from one in Africa asking for 50,000 Bibles to another from a Baptist seminary in Zambia asking for materials to establish a small library of 15 to 20 books for new pastors who venture into remote areas.
Some of the most popular resources are Bibles, theological books, atlases, concordances, hymnals, study course books, Sunday School literature, dictionaries, CDs and cassette tapes.
Book-Link receives many thank you letters from pastors worldwide such as one who wrote, “God bless Book-Link. Praise be to God for the blessings of books through Book-Link. The people of Pakwach Baptist Church of Uganda will benefit greatly from the books. We never expected to receive books like these. Now it has happened and it is wonderful. May God bless Book-Link again and again.”
The coordinator of North European Mission in Latvia wrote, “The box of books arrived…. The seminary president and a young professor who had studied in the U.S. were very happy to get them. I am sure they will put the books to good use and they will certainly be of use to the students who use them for years to come. Thank you again for your contribution to the Latvian Baptist Seminary.”
Another letter, from the director of the Nicaraguan Christian Academy, stated, “Thank you so much for sending the books that you had promised. They arrived much faster than we had expected. Our new English-speaking church will use the hymnals and the students at our [missionary kids] school are already using the dictionaries, Bibles and commentaries.”
Now that eReaders and widespread Internet access are available in the United States, pastors here tend to set aside traditional books and other printed materials in favor of electronic versions. Williams noted that receiving such unused resources could be a dream come true for a Third World pastor struggling to teach his congregation how to know and follow Jesus.
Book-Link relies on donations and volunteer labor. To join in the work of the ministry, call 606-379-1734; email [email protected]; or write to Book-Link International, 100 Book-Link Way, Eubank, KY 42567.
Jan Hill is an emeritus Southern Baptist missionary and a freelance writer.