In 1970, I was nine years old, and my dad came to me and said, “I’ll pay you seven cents if you’ll glue these frames together.” Two years later, in 1972, Dad decided to open a little store called, “Hobby Lobby,” an arts and crafts store. And we finally got enough money saved up so we could buy some inventory. My mom had to run the business; my dad kept his job. And then in 1975, my dad finally had enough tenacity to quit his job, cut his salary in half, to see if he could make a go of Hobby Lobby. And so for us it was just a little business that started in our home, gluing frames as a way to honor the Lord by not having to work on Sundays.
That’s how it started and now we’re opening 60 stores this year. We’ll scare 800 stores here 47 years later. Our family mission statement is to love God intimately, and live extravagant generosity.
The last five years I thought, “How do I get intimate with the Lord?” And there’s probably eight or ten different ways, number one on my list though is Scripture, or what I call “Bible Absorption.” As I absorb God’s Word, I get closer to Him. And so I realized if that’s my goal for my family, I want everybody to have an intimate relationship with God. I don’t understand how you can have the most intimate relationship without God’s Word.
I’ve never been Deaf; I can only imagine what that would be like. I can’t imagine not only being Deaf, but not even having God’s Word. For us to be able to come alongside and partner with those who understand, who understand how to make sign language, who understands that most people who are Deaf don’t read, I assume they read, so that was my ignorance again. So to realize that many people won’t read so it needs to be in video.
But I learned early on there’s 6,000 languages, 7,000 languages on the planet Earth. I thought…I couldn’t believe it, you know. So as I learned more and more I thought, “where are these languages at?” And all that, so for many years I started grappling with that. How are we going to get translation done and work on all that? Then, I found out not only that, but there’s Sign Language. Ok, yep, yep, there’s Sign Language, there’s one of those. No, no, no, no, no, there’s not one sign language, there’s actually 400! Oh, you gotta be kidding me! “Well, how many of them have Bibles?” “Uh, well, we got one New Testament, no full Bibles, and we have partials in several other translations. So, it was like, “Wow, they are part of the group.”
The coalition is called, “Every Tribe Every Nation,” so we’re talking about “every,” of course we would. So then all of a sudden you have to go in this pursuit, well, who knows about this? Who knows about sign language? How do I find out more? Well that didn’t take too long that it led us to Deaf Bible Society and J.R. and to hear his passion and for what they’re doing for Deaf people. And so we said, “Ok, here’s a great partner.” Someone who understands Deaf, I don’t understand Deaf; that’s not my world. I don’t have context for it. So it’s been thrilling to see Deaf Bible Society come alongside Every Tribe Every Nation with all the other publishers who are doing the text and even different audios. For Every Tribe Every Nation our mission statement is partnering, to provide God’s Word in everyone’s heart language in a format they can engage with so their lives may be transformed.
The very first word is the most important one, that’s “partnering.” I believe there’s several ways to partner. One is financially, but we actually ask business people to give more than just their finances. Can you give your time? Can you give your talents? Some can, some can’t. Not everybody can. Everybody can pray. So that’s what’s been so exciting to see happen in the Bible translation space, both for the Hearing, as well as for the Deaf. We’ve all come together and said, “Together, we can eradicate Bible poverty if we partner.” So we have all the ministry partners lined up and that’s been exciting for me, because now I’ve been able to go back to my family, as well as other families, and challenge them. “Hey, come partner with us; be a part, because if you’ll do this, these guys have already agreed to partner, there’s no duplication, we’re not going to do those those kind of efforts, but now it’s time for the resource partners to come together to partner.” So I love challenging people. Come be a partner with us. Be a part of this, because together, in our lifetime, we can eradicate Bible poverty on our watch.