By Aaron Earls
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Until the end of November, customers can walk away from a Lifeway store with a Bible of their own and, for an added donation, ensure an individual thousands of miles away has one as well.
The Thomas Project is a joint venture with Lifeway Christian Stores, B&H Publishing and the International Mission Board to print and distribute at least 100,000 Bibles to the people of South Asia, many of whom do not have Scripture in their own language.
Named for the disciple believed to have been the first Christian missionary to the region, the initiative invites customers at Lifeway’s 186 stores if they would like to purchase a Bible for $5 to send to South Asia.
“For a number of years, Lifeway stores have had small collection boxes at the registers for world hunger relief and other mission causes,” said Bob Fuller, a retail store district director. But the IMB asked if a similar initiative could be done to help print Bibles.
B&H worked out the details of printing Bibles near the distribution location, with the retail stores providing the avenue to reach individuals with the opportunity. “This project is a wonderful example of how all the diversity of Lifeway can come together in perfect alignment to advance the cause of the Gospel,” Fuller said.
Based on donations so far, Fuller is confident they will far exceed the goal, “once again demonstrating that God is able to do far above and beyond all that we ask or think.”
William McGregor, also a retail store district director, shared a story of a customer in Colorado buying $1,000 worth of Bibles for a prison ministry. Turning in his Lifeway Rewards card saved him $300 on his purchase. After he was asked about donating a Bible to The Thomas Project, the customer said, “I liked the first total better, why don’t we make up the difference with that project you were talking about?”
“I thought he had to be joking,” said McGregor, “but he really ended up buying 60 Thomas Project Bibles.”
Fuller relayed how a customer purchased three Bibles for the Thomas Project on Monday, and felt led by God to come back Friday and buy 100 more. “She had been working in her garden that morning and still had dirt on her hands when she came in,” said the store manager Matt Scheffer.
“I can only imagine that God used her time digging in the dirt that day to make her realize she had the opportunity to plant more eternally significant seeds and prompted her to return,” Fuller said.
But not only are Lifeway stores selling the Bibles, retail employees will be part of a Spring trip to deliver them.
One of the seven mission teams organized by Lifeway in 2014 will be connected with The Thomas Project. Because of the unique nature of the trip to South Asia, the majority of the 16-member team is from the retail division and B&H. Four of them will be from four different retail stores – Texas, Utah, South Carolina and Virginia.
Fuller will be leading the team and said his previous experience in South Asia led him to quickly agree to be a part of the trip, calling it a “tremendous blessing.”
“I’ve seen first hand both the deep need for and genuine acceptance of the Gospel in that fascinating part of the world,” he said. “In spite of the multitude of world religions that dominate throughout that region, there is a wonderful openness and responsiveness to the Gospel.”
The team will visit locations strategically selected by the IMB and work through local church leaders and believers to distribute the Bibles. Additionally, they will be involved in direct evangelism and training.
Fuller said those who aid the trip through buying The Thomas Project Bibles from Lifeway will make “an eternal difference in the life of whomever eventually receives the Bible they purchased.”
Those interested in helping with The Thomas Project can go to any local Lifeway Christian Store or visit LifeWay.com/ThomasProject.