Sowing the Seed: A Bible Stall in Open Air Markets
In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they shall both be alike good (Ecclesiastes 11:5).
My wife Margaret and I have been running Bible stalls in open-air markets since 1999, with a very small start in two local market towns. Since 2000, we have concentrated on high immigrant areas, for which we now stock the Bible in more than 60 languages. We have had weekly stalls in Southall, West London, since 2000, monthly during March-October in Watford for 1999-2013, and weekly in High Wycombe, our local town, since 2002. We have had stalls at the annual Widecombe Fair in the middle of Dartmoor in Devon since 2000, and in more recent years in Barnstaple pannier market, on the north coast of Devon. One of our customers in High Wycombe has had his own stall in Aylesbury for three years and is expecting to start in Thame soon.
Besides Bibles, from vinyl-covered hardback to good-quality leather-bound Bibles in text and reference format, the stock includes evangelistic tracts and booklets, a few commentaries on the Bible and books of the Bible, but with an emphasis on Bible study aids, concordances, Bible dictionaries, scriptures in Hebrew and Greek and helps to use them. Some doctrinal books and booklets, biographies and Church histories have featured from the beginning. Words of scripture publications in large print are very popular. Electronic Bibles, scriptures, and traditional hymns on audio CD, and wall and pocket calendars in many languages add to the range. Most material is sourced from publishers and distributors in the UK, supplemented, mainly for Southall, by imports of Indian language Scriptures from India.
The stalls are non-denominational and non-profit making, with the aim of taking the gospel of Jesus Christ to people where they are, and to provide encouragement and sound teaching for Christians. We use the name ‘The Bible Stall’ with no mention of any affiliation. Specially made felt-lined wooden boxes provide protection for storage, transport and display. To man the stall one needs two at most.
We intend the scriptures and literature to carry their own message, but we have also had many conversations over the years. We have a tract called How the lost sheep was found. Several times, people have read the title and said, ‘That’s me,’ before buying it. On another occasion a lady in Watford spent a long time perusing the display and bought ‘A Scriptural testimony to the Deity of Christ and The Atoning Death of the Son of God. After she had gone, a regular customer, standing by, said that this lady was a Jehovah’s Witness, so her choice was perfect. At Southall a rough-looking man asked for an evangelistic tract to give to the murderer of his ex-wife, because he had forgiven him. One learns never to judge by appearances. At Watford a man spent about 10-15 minutes looking at the display and at the end said, ‘What a treasure’: he was a Coptic Orthodox surgeon who said he always prayed before he gave an epidural injection, and had never had one fail.
Sometimes apparently innocent questions from someone seeking to know more about Christianity lead to a series of attacks against the gospel. In one such case when the man was shouting loud1y, nearby stall holders, a Hindu and Moslem, told him to go, and asked why we did not shout back at him.
It is encouraging to know how many are doing something for the Lord. Many buy tracts to distribute in the streets, or for door-to-door visiting, and some buy a few booklets before visiting a friend or residential home. Others buy foreign language Scriptures and evangelistic literature to take on holiday. The text on our business card is: Thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus, 2 Timothy 3:15.
Has this article sown an encouraging seed in the mind and heart of anyone who has read it?
Taken with permission from Cheering Words, November 2015.
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