The Gospel According to 31,173 Americans
Nearly nine months after it hit the road, Zondervan's hand-written Bible Across America came home Wednesday bearing Scripture verses inscribed by 31,173 people.
Among them: a little girl who guided her blind sister's hand; a father who flew from Baltimore to Los Angeles to write in it with his son; and Antoinette and Jim Barry, a couple from Palos Heights, Ill., where church leaders 44 years ago conceived of the New International Version Bible.
The Barrys' daughter, Maureen "Moe" Girkins, is president of Zondervan, the mega Christian publishing house. Last year, she inscribed the first verse ("In the beginning ...") from Genesis 1:1, and on Wednesday penned the final verse from Revelation 22:21: "The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God's people. Amen."
"It was just really impactful to them to know their daughter was involved in something like this, and they got to participate," Girkins said afterward, wiping away tears.
It was one of many powerful moments along the Bible's 22,000-mile journey to mark the 30th anniversary of the NIV, the most popular modern-English Bible translation.
Girkins was one of about a dozen people who wrote the Bible's final verses in a ceremony at Zondervan headquarters. They included nine members of the Committee on Bible Translation, the original translators and continuing caretakers of the NIV.
"It is encouraging to see so many readers and users of the NIV scattered through the whole country," said Ken Barker, a committee member since 1971. "It's also an awesome privilege to be able to write a verse in it myself."
The cross-country trek began on Sept. 30 and traveled 22,000 miles across 124 cities in 40 states.
Writers included authors, NASCAR fans, farmers and soldiers who wrote verses on the Bible's cross-country tour. Volunteers drove a motorhome and set up tents from Manhattan to the Rocky Mountains.
As the RV pulled out on the first night, a homeless man ran up and asked to write a verse, Girkins said. "It became evident to us that all across this great country, people love the Bible," she said.
Two original copies will be produced, one to be offered to the Smithsonian Institution and the second auctioned to benefit the International Bible Society, which holds the copyright to the NIV. A retail version will go on sale in October.