GASTONIA, N.C. (WBTV) - Twenty-four stolen bibles intended for inmates have reportedly been found.
A man discovered the box of bibles, but says he wasn’t aware they were stolen until he saw the story air on WBTV News at 7 p.m. Thursday. The stolen bibles were apparently found in an interesting place.
WBTV’s Maureen O’Boyle is meeting with Pastor Jeff Williams and his wife Liz on Friday to gather more details on the finding.
“I hope that whoever took the bibles keeps one and sends us 23 back,” Williams, of West Franklin Baptist Church in Gastonia, said Wednesday.
On Monday, Williams came home to a delivery from FedEx. The problem was there was only one package on his front porch.
Williams and his wife were excited about the delivery of 24 study bibles. They were to be sent out before Christmas through their non-profit Inspiration for Inmates. Each bible had been requested by a person serving time in federal prison.
"It’s the story of our Lord and Savior. It saves lives! So, maybe, just maybe, if that person would just open the page and not discard it, and read a few sentences out of God’s word, it’s very likely God will speak to them and maybe return the rest or maybe transform their own lives,” Williams said with a bible in his hand.
In his seven years of preaching, Williams has seen that kind of transformation up close and very personal.
“Our daughter is two years in to a 4-5 year sentence,” he said.
Williams’ daughter got involved in drugs a few years ago and faced federal drug charges. As her father, and as a man of deep faith, Williams gave her a bible when she started serving her sentence.
“About a week later, she wrote a letter and she said, ‘Dad, I’m reading the bible but my bunk mate here at prison is interested. Could you send her one? So, her mom and I we sent another bible. It exploded from there,” he remembers.
That explosion was the beginning of Inspiration for Inmates.
“As of two years ago, we sent over 600 of these bibles to inmates all over the United States in all kind of penal institutions. So yes, this ministry was birthed out of a bad situation. But it is truly a gift giving hope and changing lives,” Williams explained.
Those 24 bibles stolen from his front porch were printed in several different languages. The requests come from women and men. Williams says the message in those bibles is having an impact on inmates who read them.
“We’re getting testimonies that people are coming off drugs and staying out of prison through the ministry. I have a box knee high of letters thanking us for the bibles. And so many requesting bibles,” he said.
‘My heart was broken for the inmates that will have to wait to get their copy of God’s word.’
Williams believes the there’s a good chance the thief who stole those two packages was hoping for something to sell for drugs. He’s hoping we help addicts find new ways to heal their addictions.
“I would ask for society to consider just consider even if you’re not a believer to look at the stats and consider maybe an alternative, which our alternative is Christ. We've seen that Lord Jesus Christ and belief in Him is changing lives,” he told me.
I asked if the bibles might send a message to the package thief.
“Absolutely! There’s no way that something can’t go through their mind. When they opened the box and seen God’s word it probably spoke for itself,” he responded.
Inspiration for Inmates is a non-profit of non-judgement, Williams says. That is what motivates Pastor Williams and his wife Liz.
“We’re all human beings. We all fall short and I don’t know anybody that wouldn’t like to have a second chance,” he said.
While heartbroken for the inmates, Williams had this to say about God’s work in this: “I also know God owns the printing press! He owns the paper factory! And he’ll send the bibles back,” he said.
Well, it looks like the bibles were returned.
This is a a developing story that will be updated with more details on how the bibles were discovered.
On Thursday, we learned that the publisher of the bibles, Son Life Broadcasting, was planning to replace all 24 that had been stolen, free of charge.
While he firmly believes God will intervene, you can also help Pastor Williams purchase these study bibles and get them to inmates requesting them.