Million Book Effort ramps up as June target approaches

Children, specialized ministries also involved

By Jessica Connor

When Henry Hughes, 6, first learned his church was tasked to buy new books for kids, he didn t bat an eyelash. The kindergartner pulled out a Barnes & Noble gift card he had just received for his birthday and, in addition to getting two books for himself, bought two books for a child in need.

The next week at the school book fair, he did the same thing ”got one for him, one for a child in need.

Henry loves to read, that s kind of this ˜thing, so he really latched onto this, said his mom, Ginny Hughes, a member of Advent United Methodist Church, Simpsonville. He has an Amazon gift card too, and he already has plans to use that.

I would love to give 22 books, Henry said, telling the Advocate the idea a child might not own a book makes him feel really sad. It s really bad to have no books, because reading is fun. We re going to give more and more.

Henry is just one of the many across the S.C. Conference of the UMC who is already doing his part for the Million Book Effort, a God-sized conference-wide initiative to collect one million brand-new elementary and preschool books. The effort is seen as a way to combat illiteracy and, in the long-term, poverty.

One million books translates to 83,500 books collected in each of the conference s 12 districts, or roughly 1,000 per church. The books will be dropped off at one of four distribution sites throughout S.C., with the culmination being a massive book-packing on day three of Annual Conference, June 3. That Tuesday, volunteers will come together to receive, sort, package and place bookplates in each book to prepare them for distribution. District Connectional Ministries representatives are coordinating with schools and other literacy agencies to identify locations that will get the books in the hands of the children who need them.

The Million Book Effort may still be recent news to many of us, but God is already revealing the power of our Connection in amazing ways, said the Rev. Ricky Howell, who is organizing the effort. I receive new emails and phone calls daily from United Methodists who are excited about the project, many of them describing creative plans to engage their churches and communities in positively impacting the children of our state. There are even individuals and groups from other conferences that want to join the effort! Thank you for all you ve already done and for all you will do as together we live into this God-sized vision.

Specialized ministries in the conference are also joining in the effort with an emphasis on their mission.

Tracy Pender, convener for the Native American Committee, has issued a challenge to all Native American Committee members, all Native American representatives at each of their churches and anyone supporting the NAC to purchase one elementary Native American culturally appropriate book for the Million Book Effort.

It is an opportunity to ensure there is at least one accurate book per school district, and hopefully more, Pender said.

Pender said the Rocky Swamp congregation, which has limited means, has already purchased one book and is trying for more. He has also contacted Native American chiefs and requested they, too, issue a challenge to each of the tribes of the state of South Carolina to purchase at least one Native American book.

As June approaches, United Methodists across S.C. are urged to start collecting books now and prepare to join the effort as a volunteer June 3. Million Book Effort organizers are also asking for prayers, and encourage people to contact their district offices or DCMs for details on what the event will look like in their respective districts.

For their part, Henry and the Hughes family will keep giving books toward the Million Book Effort ”and Henry encourages other United Methodists to do their part.

I think they should buy books, too, Henry said. I think other kids would have fun reading and have fun learning to read.

For more information, contact Howell at [email protected] or 803-327-5640.

Share your book collection story

Do you have a heartwarming or unique story about how someone or some group in your area is gathering books for the Million Book Effort? The Advocate wants to know! Email Editor Jessica Connor at [email protected] by April 10.

One church s neat idea: matching gifts for mission

The Rev. Randy Madsen, pastor at Grace Community UMC, Fort Mill, has chartered the Million Books challenge to a team from his Connectional Ministries group, including lay members. They will widen the team, including children and teachers to be the faces and voices of the appeal. Their plan of action will challenge the congregation to top 1,000 books, which the Missions Committee will match with $1 per book to go to Beams for Panama. (This money will help the Rock Hill UMVIM (including Grace Community missioners) to complete the church they started in Panama three years ago, and couldn t quite complete a month ago.) They have a vision for stacking (safety first!) their 1,000+ books in the worship room and watching it grow ”the Tower of Babel, or maybe Jack and the Beanstalk. Plans also include a road trip to Florence on Book Workday June 3, just as they did for Stop Hunger Now.

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