Amidst cheers and applause, volunteers completed assembling 15,888 New Testaments Wednesday evening. Most of them will be taken to a village in Mexico this summer as part of a mission trip, and 1,000 will be taken to Cuba.
The Richmond City Hall gym hosted over 300 volunteers from different cities and churches in the fourth annual Richmond Bible Conference. With tables set up to support the various “Bible-building” phases, the gym was churning with activity.
The conference started at noon on Sunday, April 26, and concluded after the 7 p.m. worship service there on Wednesday, April 29.
“Fifteen to 20 churches were represented from Ray County, Independence and other places,” said Farrell Hockemeier of Richmond. “We meet many new people each year. We got the idea from the Kansas City Baptist Temple, where they do it all (Bible assemblying) in the one big church. This is the only place that opens it up to all of the churches.”
The Bible Publishing Team from the Kansas City Baptist Temple was over the event and donated the use of their equipment. Brian and Wendy Shank of Richmond performed musical numbers. A youth group, Silent Energy, from Vibbard Christian Union Church performed a hand drama. Hockemeier described it as being performed in the dark with the performers wearing white gloves and doing various choreography.
Four local ministers led evening worship. On Sunday, the group heard from Brad Chandler of Richmond First Baptist Church. Mike Falgout of Richmond Nazarene Church spoke on Monday evening, Tim Zielinski of Mt. Calvary Baptist Church on Tuesday and Ralph Morris of Vibbard Christian Union Church presented the final conference message.
Hockemeier said all aspects of the project were performed by volunteers. “People take their vacations to do this,” he said.
Terry Ogle, of The Bible Publishing Team, explained the Bible-building process. “The printing is done in Ohio. It comes to us in sections with so many pages per section. Volunteers pick up one of each section until they have all six sections.”
That is the end of step one. Next, the sections go to ‘rolling,’ where wooden dowels are run up and down the folded edge to eliminate any air pockets and provides for a more consistent bind.
From there, the six-section issue goes to ‘checking,’ where a volunteer makes sure the page numbers are correct and the pages are facing in the correct direction. Next, the issue goes to ‘binding,’ where it is handed to a volunteer that places it vertically in a tray that sweeps it over the hot glue, a volunteer slips the cover on and another catches it and applies pressure to the glued binding.
At this point, the issue is now a ‘Bible’ that needs trimmed. From the folder, it goes to the cutting maching, where a volunteer stacks 12 issues in two stacks and pushes them under the cutter. When they pull them back out, there are perfectly lined up edges on the pages and cover. Now they are ready to box and prepare for transport.
“Even a four or five-year-old can help,” said Ogle. “Senior citizens too. Look at them, they work and fellowship. Everyone chips in. Sure, you could do more, and do them faster on bigger machinery, but that eliminates people and that’s what this is all about. These kids and these volunteers will be able to say, ‘We made Bibles and sent them to Mexico.’ It’s about spending time with people.”
Ogle’s family participates in the event every year and has done this for 22 years. The Bible Publishing Team has done Bibles in many languages, such as Romanian, Portuguese, a South African language ‘Tsonga,’ English, French and now Spanish. His wife and children enjoy doing this too.
In 2008, approximately 200 volunteers assembled 15,954 New Testaments written in French for people in Haiti. This year, the issues are in Spanish, and the Bibles will go to a village where not everyone has books or several Bibles, like Americans are so used to having.
“The First Baptist Church of Richmond is heading up the team to take the Bibles to the mission and will leave in August,” said Hockemeier. “The missionaries are Harold and Priscilla Meeks. The group will spend a week there and help build an Awana’s building for children. They’ll also do some street preaching and hand out the Bibles. Over 30 are planning to go so far, but that number may grow.”
Ogle and Hockemeier commented on the planning and care that goes into each mission trip. They “do their homework” to ensure mission-goers’ safety. They are keeping a watchful eye on the swine flu and violence situation and how that relates to their destination.
Volunteers from area churches show their handiwork after completing the Bibles that will be sent to Mexico. (Photo by Farrell Hockemeier)