I could hear the speakers begin inside the main hall, teaching nearly 6,000 men and women who had gathered for TGC’s 2015 National Conference. Though I was deeply edified by the speakers inside the conference hall, there was no place I would have rather been than standing just outside because of conversations like the one I had with a young man from South America.
I remembered seeing him pass by a few times during the Spanish pre-conference. He lingered now for a while, flipping through the pages of one of the six titles of the Spanish Pastor’s Book Set for which we were hoping to raise funds. Finally, he picked up a completed bundle and quietly asked in Spanish, “How much is this?” It was a great feeling to simply say back to him, “Thanks to the generosity of the people here, they are free if you will carry them for us overseas.” As my words were in English, he hesitated to believe he had heard me correctly. I called over one of our volunteers who spoke fluent Spanish and asked him to help. By the end of that exchange, this brother in Christ had a heart filled with encouragement and hands filled with books. But more importantly, he was doing for us what we couldn’t do; he was delivering hope to pastors, deacons, and missionaries in Central America, just days after the conference. He was one of the first to say what many others echoed: these six books would double the theological library of many of these workers.
Famine of Solid Books
That’s why it has been my joy to join so many others in volunteering for the past three years with TGC’s International Outreach efforts. TGC IO is trying to do the very thing we long to as my family travels to Eastern Europe and Peru each year. We don’t go to teach fellow believers there as much as to learn how we can best encourage them and strengthen their local churches so they can spread the hope of Christ. One of the ways that can happen is putting print resources into their hands.
In the United States, our post-conference luggage is weighed down with bookstore deals. Our shelves are filled with titles we mean to get around to reading. It can be easy to forget that for pastors in many parts of the world, this simply isn’t the case. A pastor I met in Nigeria was overwhelmed to receive the Bible we brought even though it was in English, his fourth language. It was far better than the few pages of Ephesians he’d been preaching from for the last couple of years. He had no training, but he preached with boldness and confidence that what he read in these few thousand words is the truth of God. The only problem, he said, was that there were things spoken of in those pages he didn’t understand, words for which he had no context, and there was no one with training from whom he could seek help.
Though our friends in Eastern Europe typically have much more training than that brother, good resources in their own language are seldom readily available. And even if they are, resources right now in that war-torn region are tight as the money has been devalued and goods have grown more expensive. The idea of purchasing a case of books for leaders to study is beyond them.
Gift to You
That’s where TGC’s International Outreach program comes in. IO raises funds to translate and print these books on the front end. At the 2015 conference, more than $20,000 was given by attendees over two and a half days so 12,000 Spanish titles can be given away, packed in a suitcase, and carried to those who need it most. Thanks to the generosity of others, I was able to walk out with six bundles of those books to give to friends who will take them to Peru. More than 14,000 Spanish resources have been distributed in 25 countries over the past 12 months.
The cost to me that day was nothing, and the cost of the case of books I’m ordering for our summer trip is only to offset shipping to our house. From there, all I have to do is throw them in the suitcases and hand them out as I go. Sometimes, it’s even easier and cheaper as IO is establishing more and more relationships with publishers overseas who can print and store the books to be delivered in-country. I wish more people could see the gratitude they have when we tell recipients, “No, these aren’t from us. People back in the United States paid for them. They want you to know that they pray for you and want to help you as you pastor here. It is their gift to you.” In a land where tears don’t fall easily, their choked silence and small nods demonstrate how they feel about the gift.
How Can I Help?
You can help. Go to the International Outreach webpage, and on the left, you’ll see one or two of the titles currently being funded. Click the “All Projects” button to see other titles needing financial help. Choose to give any amount, or as our family did with the Russian translation of The Gospel as Center, choose a project to fundraise yourself so it can be ready as quickly as possible for you to pack and give away.
Once it’s funded, it will go to publication and then be ready for carrying overseas. Those titles are on the right side of the IO site. Click the bottom of that list where it says “All Available Resources.” Scroll through the more than 40 possible books and book. Clicking “Take It Now!” will give you the title, its weight and shipping costs to you or the country you’ll be visiting. You may also read there about the scholarships that have been funded to cover shipping for those who can’t afford it. The last thing TGC IO wants is warehouses full of books, so get the word out to those you know who coordinate trips overseas, and those who are planning to travel.
As the time draws near to gather supplies for short-term summer trips, consider not only packing what you need, but perhaps pack hope for them in the form of a book written in their language, written for their encouragement, that they might not grow weary and lose heart. Help TGC give them good books, even as you return home to your own shelves filled with books.