Making Bibles delights Missouri Baptists
RICHMOND – In the dim and chilly disused gymnasium that once housed the Richmond High School Spartan basketball team, 150 or more people quietly bustle around rows of tables piled high with more than seven million sheets of paper. Suddenly they stand up and cheer as a tall, thin man holds up a book that none of them can read. The name of the book is “La Sainte Bible.”
The First Baptist Churches of Henrietta and Orrick, along with five other non-Baptist churches in the Richmond area, gathered together last month for a Bible Conference. It was a time of reading the Bible, studying the Bible, discussing the Bible, sharing the Bible and – quite literally – making the Bible: In French.
That’s right. They assembled the 66 books, the 1189 chapters and some 785,000 words that make up God’s Holy Word by hand.
The 5,000 copies they produced are likely to be distributed in Haiti, said Mike Hibbard, pastor of First Baptist, Henrietta, and one of the organizers of the weekend.
“This is Kingdom business,” he said. “All of these uniting in a Kingdom effort to send God’s Word across the globe? It’s incredible.”
Hibbard estimated that about 400 people from the area will spend some time on the Bible assembly line designed and supervised by volunteers from the Kansas City Baptist Temple (KCBT). How do you make a Bible by hand?
Four simultaneous assembly lines are set up, each working on one quarter of the Bible. The pages come shipped from the printer in Ohio in 33 bundles of 50 or so pages. Each of these bundles is called a “signature” and each one is gets a certain color mark, depending on which of the four assembly lines it is to go through.
“Every little piece, no matter how mundane, falls into place,” Terry Ogle from KCBT said. “It looks complex but it’s not that difficult.”
Indeed, there are children as young as four or five working to assemble the Word of God.
Next comes the collating. Workers bring the seven or eight signatures of a certain color together and roll the edges with a small round peg. By rolling and flattening the spine of the glued pages, they remove excess air. From there, the ever-thickening bundles are grouped into a complete quarter of the Bible before volunteers thumb through and inspect it to verify it’s all in order and all the pages are present. Then parts 1 through 4 are finally brought together to form a complete (if still loose) manuscript of the Bible.
After a quick turn in a “shaker” to insure all the pages are flush, the Bible runs spine-down over a glue roller then gets wrapped in a cover. As soon as the binding glue cools, the Bible – still with ragged pages – goes to a cutter that trims the three sides of the Bible to make the pages even. Of course, it takes a massive blade to slice through the entire Bible, some 1,700 pages. This particular blade is so sharp the manufacturer claims it will stick a half inch into a concrete floor if dropped from a height just four feet. It goes without saying volunteers watch their fingers and toes.
It sounds complicated, but in just 15 minutes, voila: a hand-made Bible, lovingly made by the hands of Missouri Baptists.
“There are cheaper, easier and quicker ways to do this, but not as many people can put their hands on it and put in that effort,” Ogle said. “I can’t personally afford to go on the mission field but this part of my work is going.”
“There is something for everyone,” Hibbard said. “If you don’t want to stand and collate you can sit and roll.”
Kansas City Baptist Temple owns the gluing and cutting machines as part of their publication ministry. Last year they decided to take the show on the road to involve more churches and they came to Richmond. They, along with the local churches, produced 11,000 Spanish New Testaments.
One organizer, who preferred to not have his name in print to ensure all the glory went to the Lord, said he hopes this type of mission opportunity will be repeated across the state and country.
“It’s a collaboration of churches here in Richmond but it could be any group or even just one church,” he said. “Anyone can do this. You don’t need any special skills or talent.”
He said it also fits well with a church’s current missions program.
“If you have a missionary you are working with or have a partnership overseas, you can actually make the Bibles at home and take them with you instead of going through the big publishing houses. There’s nothing wrong with buying them through a publisher – they do a great job – but you don’t get this kind of hands-on involvement. It’s relatively easy to give money to this or that, but it’s another thing to actually do the work while you’re fellowshipping with other believers. This is better than a potluck!”