Ever wondered how the Bible remains such a universal, and well-read text? It’s not because everyone in the world is buying a Bible on Amazon or from Barnes & Noble, rather the Holy book is given to people across the globe in nearly every language thanks to the dedicated efforts of people like Pastor Mark Summers and his group of volunteers at Faith Baptist Church in Blackshear.
Hands of Faith, the church’s Bible publishing ministry, is currently not working due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but under normal circumstances faithful volunteers meet several times a week to assemble, bind and box Bibles or Scripture portions in several languages. They load those Bibles onto a shipping container and send them all over the world.
“Our main ministry is getting the Word of God around the world,” Summers says. “We feel God’s word is the answer. That’s what’s going to change everything.”
Their very first order of Bibles was sent to a missionary in a Muslim country and they’ve received reports of conversions as a direct result of the Bibles they assembled right here in Blackshear.
“Knowing that our DNA is on those Bibles and they’re going to be in somebody’s hand who’s probably going to get saved by it ... It’s us having an impact where we can’t go. It extends our mission outreach exponentially,” Summers says passionately.
Since Summers started the ministry six years ago, Hands of Faith has assembled approximately 300,000 Bibles in 15-20 different languages.
Right now, the group is working on an order of 23,000 Spanish Bibles that will go to Honduras in the next few months. When they finish that order, they’ll start on an order of French Bibles.
Hands of Faith receive the Bibles in sections from the Bible and Literature Missionary Foundation (BLMF) based in Shelbyville, TN. The volunteers man two assembly lines as they compile the sections before each one is bound and cut to size. Each Bible is triple checked for correct order, Summers says.
Another volunteer operates a Heidelburg binder that binds the cover to the Bible with hot glue. After the Bibles cool, they’re run through one of two cutters and trimmed to size. The cutter breaks lose all of the pages.
“We have a whole Bible factory here,” Summers says.
Hands of Faith Bibles go all over the world to missionaries who then distribute them to those they’re trying to convert to Christianity.
Hands of Faith volunteer their time to assemble Bibles and perform maintenance on the binder and cutters, but that’s not to say the Bible making process is cheap. Significant fundraising efforts go into producing each order of Bibles.
Money has to be raised prior to printing and binding the Bibles to cover the cost of paper and ink and again once they’re published to cover shipping costs overseas.
Summers and Hands of Faith help raise funds for the production of the Bibles — one roll of paper which will make 400-550 Bibles costs $795, and it’s typically purchased 35 rolls at a time. Ink isn’t cheap either and BLMF employees have to be paid as well.
Missionaries requesting the Bibles work with their sponsor churches and mission boards to raise funds for shipping the Bibles, another significant cost. A shipping container of Bibles sent to Africa can run $7,000 - $15,000 per container, Summers says.
Faith Baptist also absorbs the cost of maintaining their binder and cutters. Glue costs $100 for a 30 pound box and will bind 2,500 Bibles. Blades for the cutters have to be sharpened routinely and eventually replaced.
Hands of Faith volunteers don’t blink twice at the cost though – they would say every sacrifice is worth the end result.
“It’s a ministry and we don’t begrudge any of that. We don’t make a penny and don’t charge for what we do,” Summers says.
Through it all, they’ve never wanted for anything. Anytime something needs to be purchased or replaced, the need has been provided for.
“God has taken care of it,” Summers says.
When two plastic screws in the binding machine broke and had to be replaced — to the tune of $200 each — the Lord provided, Summers says.
The Bible’s message of salvation may unite people across the globe with a common belief system, making them part of the Christian family, but the Hands of Faith project has also united members of Faith Baptist in a special way. Assembling Bibles has become their purpose and their passion.
“That’s the thrust of our whole church,” Summers says. “It’s a uniting ministry.”
And, anyone can be involved — no matter their age or physical ability, he adds.
“That’s one of the beauties of this thing. Anybody can do it,” Summers says. “It’s a ministry that all people can do.”
Faith Baptist Church is interested in partnering with other churches or organizations who wish to volunteer at Hands of Faith. Anyone interested in volunteering can call Pastor Summers at (912) 449-3216.