“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord God,
“When I will send a famine on the land,
Not a famine for bread or a thirst for water,
But rather for hearing the words of the Lord.”
Back in January while on a treadmill I was thinking about the power that is in the Word of God. Hebrews 4:12 tells us “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” I was wondering how long would it take our staff to read through the Bible aloud? I thought about spending our lunch hours together to read. I asked Donna how long it would take and she googled it. She found that it could be done somewhere between 72 hours and 90 hours. I then thought maybe we should challenge the teams that come in the summer to a 72 hour Bible Challenge. The only one problem with offering the challenge, though, was we had first complete the challenge ourselves. If our staff of 13 people could accomplish this reading day and night, with pregnant moms, preschoolers, and old guys, all keeping up with daily life and households, we could be confident that teams of teenagers could do this!
When we scheduled our challenge we assumed we could do it in 72 hours if we stayed focused. We chose to start on Thursday morning so that we would finish on Sunday morning and celebrate the Resurrection! It was not lost on us that Jesus spent those same three days and three nights in the tomb 2000 years ago. We expected that late March would be warmer than it was. Our first night the temperature dipped down to 26 degrees! We had frost on one of the Bibles. Fortunately it got warmer over the 3 days. We ended up shaving 5 ½ hours off the schedule as well.
Here are some of our stats:
13 readers (with 1 year old and 4 year old present)
13 to 59 years old
7 different translations
25 to 65 F degree range
0 drops of rain (it started POURING about 20 minutes after we finished!)
8 am Thursday start time
2:37 am Resurrection Sunday finish time
66 hrs and 37 minutes total time
On average we each read aloud 5+ hours in those three days and three nights but we spent much more time listening and supporting each other. This means we each heard 20-30 hours of scripture over the three day period. The time at the site went by quickly, even the midnight to 4 am shifts. Supernatural energy and concentration allowed us to listen to as much as 6 or more hours of Scripture at a time. Books that are almost never read aloud complete in one sitting come alive, such as the Gospels and the longer letters of Paul. Job is a beautiful book to hear straight through! There were times of distractions but our readers for the most part seemed unfazed by them. There were moments of wonder and questions as we read parts that get ignored most of the time. Then there were those moments of amusement. There are many genealogies in the bible and they include names that are very difficult to pronounce. There are places and characters that were equally challenging. There were times when we misunderstood what was read such as when Paul read “and his armies numbered 30,000” I heard “and the zombies numbered 30,000.” Big difference, very funny.
We wanted to do the reading in a public place yet not so much that it would hinder the reading. We decided to hold it at Martha Moore Riverfront Park in Downtown Welch. Martha was our former mayor who really supported the work of the mission. It was Martha who cleared the way for us to acquire the old Welch Middle School. Reading in the park dedicated in her memory was very meaningful to us. We had many people in the community sit and listen for extended periods of time.
I will be honest with you. A week before the challenge I was not “feeling it.” As the day was getting closer I sensed we were under serious attack – one that could have divided us and even caused us to give up. Collectively, we became more energized and determined as the moment arrived. From the opening prayer, the first verse to the final verse we lived every moment feeling the Spirit of God in that place. God blessed us through the reading of His Word. We had a unity beyond our own understanding. I think we had a moment at the end when we could almost feel what God must have felt in Genesis when looked at what He created and said “it was good.” Let me testify and say that reading His Word for 66 ½ straight hours in the public square leading up to Easter… “IT WAS GOOD, it was very good. Amen!”
We are hoping some of our summer ministry teams will take the challenge. We provided some tips based on our experience for anyone interested in doing this.
“So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth;
It will not return to Me empty,
Without accomplishing what I desire,
And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”