Suppose you wanted to ship some theological books to Mumbai, India to strengthen indigenous pastors and leaders there. If you hadn’t shipped anything overseas before, you’d probably think, No big deal. A few bucks should get it there.
If you sent 15 pounds of books from California to New York, it might cost you about $30. But prepare to open your wallet wide to ship those same books to Mumbai. You’ll pay at least $160.
Now imagine you’re working in Mumbai—or New Delhi or Nairobi—to train pastors who desperately need doctrinally-solid Christian books for their own study. How can you possibly afford to import even a few books from the United States?
You might pray for God to send someone like Steve Bauman, a veteran pilot with a major airline, who in the last five years has personally delivered thousands of books to Christians around the globe as part of TGC International Outreach’s “Packing Hope” program. To date, he has carried Christian literature to China, Nigeria, Thailand, the Netherlands, England, Kenya, Singapore, India, Senegal and Italy.
More Than Half a Ton Delivered
In his capacity as an international pilot, Steve has many opportunities to “pack hope”, but they’re not always easy to fulfill. He says, “Some are more difficult than others because I have to carry the books myself when I am working. So I can only carry as much as my muscles will allow me, and as much as I can personally store in the flight deck or other bins in the cabin.”
Airline policies allow him to check up to two 50-pound bags free—more if his wife Ruth and son James accompany him. “We often pack personal things in roll-on cases and use our baggage allowance for Packing Hope books,” Steve says. “Overall I would guess we’ve transported about 1,200 pounds of resources!”
TGC International Outreach (TGCIO) began Packing Hope around 2008 as an initiative for theological famine relief for pastors and church leaders in countries where Bible-based resources are scarce—particularly Gospel-centered books with a reformed bent. TGCIO Director Bill Walsh estimates that hundreds of volunteers have carried tons of books to more than 60 countries through this initiative.
And the Packing Hope effort promises to become even more effective as TGC’s International Outreach accelerates its linguistic-translation emphasis, which aims to provide books such as Mark Dever’s What Is a Healthy Church?, and D.A. Carson’s The God Who Is There—in Albanian, Spanish, Khmer and other languages.
Steve Bauman says, “As much as possible we check in with TGC before we travel anywhere internationally, on vacation or for work, and see if they have contacts that need books in the places we are going. Recently we traveled to England and were able to take 200 pounds of books to a ministry partner who then distributes them to pastors in African countries.”
Establishing Eternal Friendships
Steve said it was extremely humbling to hear about that missionary’s ministry and life while they fellowshipped over tea and biscuits in a restaurant at Heathrow Airport. That short time of sharing demonstrates another great benefit of participating in Packing Hope—working alongside other Christians from all over the globe.
On a trip to Amsterdam, Steve met a missionary couple with a radio ministry serving Southern Europe and North Africa.
“They send programming into some closed countries in North Africa, and this brother is able to carry books in Arabic and French into those countries to encourage and teach members of Christ’s body there,” Steve says. “I often meet them at my hotel and am able to spend a mealtime with them and their growing family, or visit them at their house on longer layovers. It’s been a great joy to count them as friends.”
“I can’t emphasize enough what a privilege it is for me to meet these brothers and sisters all over the world, learn about their lives and be encouraged by their strong, self-sacrificing, enthusiastic faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. I felt it such a privilege to glimpse their lives and know the shared love of Christ across oceans and cultures.”
Whether you’re traveling for missions, business, or even vacation, you can help serve the global church by bringing along theological resources for those in need, particularly in Africa, Asia, and South America—ideally for your own missions partners working in the field.
Dennis Roberts is a former religion writer for The Modesto Bee newspaper and has contributed to a variety of Christian and secular publications. He produces Pursuing Christ, the radio ministry of Elk Grove (CA) Bible Church. He and his wife, Elizabeth, live in Valley Springs, California.