Two Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) churches have found new uses for their former Sunday School and other Bible study materials, while also supporting international mission activities.
New Florence Baptist in eastern Missouri sends volunteers each year to Love Packages.
“We’ve been going there for 8 years,” Pastor Brian Larkin says, “and I have never heard an adult or a youth say they would never go back there again. Even though the work can be physically demanding (our folks)…are always up to the challenge and greatly blessed by the experience.”
Love Packages – a non-denominational, evangelistic ministry in Butler, Ill. – accepts Sunday School materials, Bibles, tracts, Christian CDs and DVDs, and Scripture teaching resources from churches, individuals, and publishers. Lifeway, the Southern Baptist publishing arm, sends some of its overstock Bible study literature and books to Love Packages.
The materials are sent overseas to mission organizations that often can’t afford to purchase new materials. One of the biggest needs is new or used Bibles.
Love Packages also takes in volunteer groups for one-day or multi-day mission projects. Groups sort, pack, and prep Bible materials for shipping.
New Florence took a group of adults and youth to Love Packages this past summer for a multi-day trip. There “are rooms upstairs and downstairs with multiple bunk beds,” Larkin says. “They have a kitchen on site that you can use to cook and prepare meals.”
Larkin says working with Love Packages has been a good way to directly involve his youth in international missions.
Over lunch, he says, staff “share stories about how God has used the ministry and the material around the world to impact and changes not only individual lives but the lives of entire villages. Those stories make the hard work you are doing take on real meaning.”
Lee Sanders, minister to senior adults at First Baptist Church of O’Fallon (FBCO) took a work group to Love Packages in October. The trip was “a one-day mission opportunity for senior adults,” he says.
“Our team of seniors served for a few hours in the morning, shared a lunch meal with the Love Packages staff, and then served a few more hours in the afternoon.”
Opal Hoss, a senior on the FBCO trip, says that after the trip, “I was exhausted and I slept in the next morning,” says Ms. Hoss. “But, I’d do it all over again. I learned so much” (about how overseas missions is performed).
Steve Schmidt founded Love Packages in 1975 after coming to Christ. He says when he had used Bible study materials sitting on a kitchen counter the Lord convicted him the materials wouldn’t be used and would eventually be thrown away. He shipped them to an overseas acquaintance. When friends found out they asked him to send materials for them.
“My poor wife. We had stuff everywhere. We’re still married,” Schmidt says with a laugh.
Love Packages kept growing from his kitchen and now has a four-person full-time staff working in its Butler, Ill., warehouse, with a second warehouse and similar sized staff in Decatur, Ala. In 2020 the organization shipped 1,780 tons of materials overseas.
Schmidt says the importance of reusing evangelistic materials is underscored by statistics that say each piece will be read, on average, by 20 people.
Visiting volunteers get a quick tour of the ministry’s facilities, and are then assigned to stations to sort boxes of donated materials. Volunteers can be of any age, ability, or skill level.
Volunteers band materials for shipping, box them, mark cartons for easy identification of materials on the receiving end, and fill shipping containers for transportation.
Anything that can be used to evangelize or teach – Bibles, study materials, maps, flannel story boards, pamphlets, devotionals, tracts, recorded media – is kept and sorted into appropriate categories. Schmidt says Love Packages will re-use anything that can lead a person to Christ or disciple them.
At the end of each day, the Love Packages staff and volunteers gather to pray over the completed work, praying the materials will lead people into closer relationships with Christ.
For more information about the group, visit www.lovepackages.org.