, news editor, Adventist Review
The pope was just the beginning.
The people who distributed a record 1 million GLOW tracts in Philadelphia during a historic visit by Pope Francis to the United States in September plan to repeat the feat in Los Angeles in January and at the Super Bowl football championships in February.
The pocket-sized missionary tracts with titles such as “Why I Go to Church on Saturday” and “Secrets of Mental Health” are spreading across North America and other parts of the world like wildfire, reaching a total of 57 million copies in October.
That’s impressive for a small evangelistic ministry launched by the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s Central California Conference eight years ago. GLOW, an acronym for Giving Light to Our World, just celebrated the publication of 45 million copies in 48 languages last February.
Since mid-2014, an average of 1 million tracts are distributed every month, said Nelson Ernst, director of the GLOW ministry, which is now part of the church’s Pacific Union Conference.
“Church members across the United States are becoming more and more interested in using simple tracts to share the message of our church,” Ernst told the Adventist Review.
He praised the high U.S. demand as welcome news for Europe and other wealthy societies where the Adventist Church has struggled to share its message of Jesus’ return among increasingly materialistic and secularized people.
“This shows that if we can distribute literature in a more affluent society, it can likely be done in much larger amounts once the GLOW leadership infrastructure is more fully put in place in other countries,” he said.
While tracts usually are shared by church groups and individuals, Ernst led a team of about 40 volunteers on a 10-day trip to Philadelphia to distribute an unprecedented 1 million tracts during the papal visit in late September. He said the tracts made a significant impact on both the people who received them and those who passed them out, a result that his organization documented in a new 55-minute YouTube video.
Watch the 55-minute GLOW video about how volunteers distributed 1 million tracts during the pope’s visit to Philadelphia.
“The momentum built by the Philadelphia mission trip to distribute 1 million tracts has continued to grow,” Ernst said. “During and after the trip people all over North America contacted us to express interest in carrying out similar outreach both small and large in scale.”
He said the example of Philadelphia, where a team of Adventists seized an opportunity to reach a large group of people — appeared to be gaining traction.
The Southern California Conference is seeking 60 volunteers to distribute 1 million tracts throughout Los Angeles — “in schools, malls, homes, businesses, parking lots, churches, everywhere” — over the four-day weekend of Jan. 15 to 18, 2016, it said on a website where volunteers can sign up.
“Jesus is coming soon and there are over 10 million people in the Los Angeles area who need to know,” it said. “We will reach them, 1 million tracts at a time.”
Ernst said he and other leaders from the GLOW trip to Philadelphia were so impressed with how God moved during that initiative that they are now putting together a mission trip to distribute 1 million tracts in San Francisco and the larger Bay Area when the Super Bowl comes to Santa Clara on Sunday, Feb. 7.
“Online estimates suggest that about 1 million people will attend the events surrounding the Super Bowl weekend,” Ernst said.
He said the Super Bowl outreach would have a more international impact than Philadelphia because volunteers will distribute literature in multiple languages.
“GLOW already has tracts translated into many languages, making it one of the best tools to reach the large Asian population that currently comprises more than a third of San Francisco alone,” he said.
GLOW, meanwhile, recently placed its largest order ever for 4 million tracts from the Adventist-owned Pacific Press publishing house in Nampa, Idaho. The order aimed to fill requests from 11 church conferences across North America.
“We hope to see more and more church members realize how powerful a small tract can be in the lives of the receivers,” Ernst said.
Volunteers interested in signing up for the Super Bowl mission trip can contact GLOW director Nelson Ernst directly at [email protected].
Click here for the signup website for the Southern California Conference initiative.