Local churches recycle Biblical literature
BELGREEN – After a 22-year career as a minister, Edwin Hodges was praying about retirement when he received a daunting directive from God.
Hodges, who co-founded the nonprofit Edwin L. Hodges Ministry in Decatur with his wife in 1994, was instructed to start a ministry in every country in the world.
"He asked Him, 'Do you mean start a ministry in every county?'" said Mary Conway, an 80-year-old member of Belgreen Baptist Church and a regular volunteer at the ELHM shipping warehouse. "But God meant for him to start one in every country."
The purpose of the nondenominational ministry is to send used Christian literature from the U.S. and ship 11-pound boxes of categorized Bibles, books, magazines, tracts and tapes overseas to colleges, seminaries, missionaries, individuals and churches at no charge.
The ministry has shipped Christian literature, which is often used to teach English in schools without textbooks, to 139 countries on six continents and spends 98 percent of its donation-funded budget on program services.
The Franklin County Baptist Association formerly handled collections from local churches, but Belgreen Baptist now collects and transports materials to the 11,000-square foot warehouse that opened six years ago.
"Belgreen Baptist collects the material now and carries it over to Decatur," said Larry Dover, FCBA director of missions. "We used to do that at our association several years ago, but it became so successful we couldn't keep doing it."
Billy Entrekin, a deacon at Belgreen Baptist who coordinates the church's ELHM project, said the Hodges Ministry relies heavily on literature donations and volunteers. A group of 8-10 Belgreen Baptist members spend at least one Saturday morning per month sorting and packing boxes for shipping at the warehouse.
"People come in from all over the country and work at the ministry, and we go and work, too, even if every time we don't always have something to take," Entrekin said. "All of the workers at the warehouse, except for three or four full-time workers, are volunteer workers that sort, box and ship the materials.
"Right now the biggest needs they have are for volunteers and money for shipping costs, which have tripled and have prevented them from shipping materials that are ready to send overseas."
Belgreen Baptist, which has less than 60 members, participates in several ongoing community projects, including snack baskets for the Russellville Hospital ICU, holiday meals for shut-ins, Operation Christmas Child, an annual summer mission trip and the adoption of a local family for Christmas.
"Almost every family participates in some way or another in a volunteer project here," said Conway. "I've been a member of a church with 800 to 900 members, a medium-sized church in Birmingham and a small church as this, and the participation was not at as much as what we have.
"When you stand up for the God, He stands up for you."
Entrekin said he believes there's a simple reason to stay active in volunteer missions.
"I think the Bible teaches us to give back, and the Lord calls us to do that."
To donate materials, contact Entrekin at 332-4141. For more information about ELHM, visit www.elhm.org or call (256) 350-3502.