By Ashley Perham
Contributing writer, B&R
MOUNT JULIET — At the end of every quarter, Fred and Linda Berry of First Baptist Church, Mount Juliet, would drop their Sunday School material in the collection bins at church, not thinking that one day those collection bins would turn into their ministry.
First Baptist donated the material to a ministry called Love Packages that collects used Bibles and Christian literature and ships it all over the world to missionaries and pastors who need it.
After Fred and Linda both retired in 2012, they decided to tour Love Packages’s facility in Decatur, Ala., on the way home from a trip.
As they were touring the facility, one of the workers mentioned that people could volunteer as “transporters” to bring donated materials to the packing facilities in Alabama and Illinois. At the time, there were not any transporters in Tennessee. Greatly touched by the ministry, Fred and Linda immediately volunteered.
“We kind of went from not knowing anything about them overnight to being a transporter,” Fred said.
Although the Berrys only had a few calls when they started as transporters, the word spread.
Now, they average around one trip to Decatur per quarter whenever their 5 by 10 cargo trailer is filled with donations.
“We’ve done it so many times the car kind of knows its own way,” said Fred.
When the material gets to Love Packages, either through the mail or through transporters, it is sorted and shipped overseas in containers holding 40,000 pounds of literature. On average, they ship around a million pieces of material in each container.
Fred noted that studies have shown that, on the average, 20 hands touch every piece of material that is received overseas. “That means 20 million people potentially read that one container that goes overseas,” he said.
The couple said there are many different ways churches can help Love Packages. The most obvious way is by donating material. The material can be used and even written in.
“They say that even the notes are treasured by people reading them. They can be of benefit, so it’s fine if they’re used,” said Linda.
Once churches have collected material, they can call Fred and Linda who will come pick it up. Some associations (Riverside, William Carey and Wilson County) will also store material until the couple can go and pick the material up.
Some retired pastors and missionaries have donated their whole libraries of study and reference material. Other individual church members have donated whatever little bit they can save.
“We get as much as a two-pound box up to 8,000 pounds and everything in between, so it’s kind of like Christmas all the time for us. We just wait for a text or an email or phone call,” said Fred.
Every container Love Packages ships overseas costs around $4,000. Churches can also donate to help offset those costs.
Fred and Linda also encouraged churches to send volunteer teams to the packing facilities as they rely heavily on volunteer work. The seniors at FBC, Mount Juliet, take a three-day volunteer trip every year.
“It’s a super easy job. There’s no conveyor belt. You work at your own pace. It’s perfect for a youth pastor to take his group or for seniors to take,” said Fred.
The last way churches can help is through Bible drives. After Fred and Linda got home from their first tour of Love Packages, they decided to see how many Bibles they were not using that they could donate. “I’m embarrassed to say we had 11,” said Fred. “So on our next trip, we carried 11 Bibles to Love Packages.”
Fred speculated that many homes might have three or four Bibles they are not using, enabling even a small church to gather a big donation.
Fred and Linda said their favorite part of the ministry is hearing the testimonies about the impact of Love Packages.
“People walk miles and miles and miles to tear out a page of the Bible, take it home, read it, bring it back and exchange it for another page of the Bible,” said Linda. “That’s how short supplied Bibles are in these areas.”
Fred also pointed out that Christian universities and pastor training schools can use the sermons, commentaries and reference materials as many of the countries that receive material are impoverished and do not have internet access.
Churches interested in donating to Love Packages or working with the couple can call Fred at 615-881-3207 or e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“All you’ve got to do is take the used material and call us,” Fred said. B&R