Three decades ago, the church that houses our offices had extensive fire damage. There is a dramatic picture of the burned-out sanctuary with a Bible sitting virtually untouched on the altar.
That came to mind when I read a similar story, which made me wonder, “How frequently does this happen?” Apparently, pretty often.
A little searching came up with recent stories of Bibles that escaped home fires in Tyler, Texas, and Bon Secour, Ala.; a truck fire in Vinita, Okla.; two dozen Bibles that survived a church fire in Daniels, W.Va.; and a 150-year-old Bible in Plover, Wis., that has survived not one, but two church fires.
Apparently, not only is the word of God sharper than any two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12), but pretty fireproof as well. But they do wear out.
When a Bible gets worn, torn, outgrown or replaced, what do you do with it? In Judaism, damaged Torah scrolls are required to be buried in a Jewish cemetery, but there are no such rules for Bibles. On average, American homes have four Bibles, reports the Institute for Bible Reading, while Christian homes own a whopping 11 copies. So, here are questions to ask when it comes time to get rid of a Bible:
Can it be repaired? While Bibles can be taken to a bookbinder or restored, the sentimental value may not be worth it.
Can it benefit someone else? When a cover is loose or pages are missing (i.e., if you wouldn’t want someone to give it to you), don’t burden someone else with it. If there is mold or mildew, get rid of it — it is a danger to other books and your own health.
Can it be donated? Churches, libraries, used bookstores, shelters and prisons may accept them, but check with them first. The Helping Hands Project (servingpersecuted.com/requesting-prayer.php) has a list of Bible collection centers throughout the United States. Other sites include Bible Senders in Palm Harbor, Fla. (biblesenders.org/ donate-a-bible); and the Bible Foundation (bf.org).
In the Midwest, Bibles are being collected by Equip the Nations at several locations in the Kansas City area, including Moyer & Moyer Insurance, 600 S.W. Jefferson, Suite 102, Lees Summit (see the entire list of locations at tinyurl.com/WW-ETN) ; Love Packages, 220 Union St., Decatur, IL. (lovepackages. org); Crystal Copy Center, 522 Bailey Road, Crystal City, MO; and Feed the Children, 29 N McCormick, Oklahoma City, OK.
Could it contain treasures? Finally, do a check for genealogies, documents, notes or other papers before parting with your Bible.
Ken Satterfield is a former media specialist and current marketing coordinator for Word&Way.
The Proper Way to Dispose of an Old Bible (ThoughtCo.)
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Bible Rebinding (Bible Design Blog)
The Best Things Found Between the Pages of Old Books (Atlas Obscura)