by Debbie Moore
How many Bibles are just sitting around in your house, on the back seat of your car, or church?
Emily Filipi of Wetumpka, Alabama, 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, Kentucky, 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.
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.
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. It is advisable to call (606-379-2140) before sending boxes to check on what materials currently are most urgently needed. (Note: Book-Link does not currently have a site on the Internet.)
But don't just clean out your closets, said Geneva Faw, interim director of Book-Link. Among the items not to send are the following:
Highly damaged books.
Novels (secular and Christian).
Sunday school and Vacation Bible School materials that are written in.
Since each Book-Link shipment is packaged to fill a specific request from a student or pastor, some of the most needed items include: Bibles; Bible dictionaries, commentaries, atlases, concordances, and encyclopedias; English dictionaries; books concerning theology, ethics, discipleship, stewardship, evangelism, prayer, and church administration; Vacation Bible School and Sunday school literature; hymnals; and sermon cassette tapes.