By Aaron Earls
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Last fall, Lifeway Christian Store set a goal of donating 100,000 Hindi language Bibles across South Asia, but customers gave enough for twice that many.
“Lifeway has proven once again it is an organization with a heart for the world,” said Tom Elliff, president of the International Mission Board. “Never in our wildest dreams did we imagine The Thomas Project would be such an overwhelming success.”
Named for the disciple believed to have been the first Christian missionary to the region, The Thomas Project invited customers at Lifeway’s 186 stores to purchase a Bible for $5 to send to South Asia.
Considering similar initiatives in the past sold considerably less, the original goal was a significant one for The Thomas Project, a joint venture with Lifeway Christian Stores, B&H Publishing and the IMB.
This time, however, customers resonated with the project, giving enough for 200,000 Bible. Churches continued to donate even after the initiative ended in November, with one church donating enough to print 1,200 Bibles last month.
“We are indeed grateful for the opportunity to partner in ministry with our customers and the IMB through The Thomas Project,” said Thom S. Rainer, president and CEO of Lifeway Christian Resources. “The response has been amazing, thanks to the Lord’s blessings and the tremendous generosity of our customers who truly have a compassion for the lost and confidence in the Word of God.”
But not only did Lifeway stores sell the Bibles, retail employees will be part of a spring trip to deliver them.
A Lifeway employee mission team will go to South Asia this spring to help IMB workers distribute the Bibles.
“It is especially gratifying that some of our own Lifeway employees will be joining workers in the field to help distribute the Bibles that are so desperately needed,” said Tim Vineyard, vice president of Lifeway Christian Stores. “Our prayer will be that each Bible donated will have a life changing impact on the individuals who receive them.”
The mission 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.
Elliff expects the results of The Thomas Project in South Asia to continue defying expectations.
“God has honored the heart desire of both Lifeway and IMB to see the Gospel penetrate the unengaged unreached people groups (UUPG) in South Asia.” Elliff said.
According to the IMB president, there were 413 UUPGs in South Asia last year and 20 of those groups had a population over one million. “Today, the UUPGs with a population of more than one million has dropped to nine,” said Elliff. “We can only dream what will happen as these Hindi Bibles are distributed to the new believers and the lost, as well.”