Rodney Davis doesn’t throw away the junk mail delivered to his home in Las Vegas, Nevada.
He sorts through it for credit-card applications and other solicitations with postage-paid return envelopes. When he finds such an envelope, he slips a tract called A Love Letter From Jesus inside and returns it to the sender.
“It costs you nothing more than a little bit of saliva to lick the envelope, and that’s it,” Davis said. “You never know where it’s going to go and what’s going to happen.”
Those tracts have been going places: from a Bible study group of Sunday-keeping Christians to a Super Bowl stadium filled with fans.
Davis and his wife, Lyleen Henderson, were among dozens of exhibitors working booths at the annual ASI convention that wrapped up in Phoenix, Arizona, last weekend. The booth, leased by the couple together with a few members of their local church, contained little more than a table stacked with copies of A Love Letter From Jesus, which is a Pocket Signs of the Times tract, and a large banner featuring its cover.
Davis is convinced that the tract is a powerful witnessing tool, and he said his group came to the ASI convention to introduce it to others.
The fold-out tract reads like a letter from Jesus, beginning with the words: “I love you very much. You are precious and valuable to Me. I think about you all the time and have wonderful plans for you. The thoughts and plans that I have for you are to give you a future and a hope that is beyond what you could ask for or even think.”
Each statement is followed by supporting biblical passages. The texts for the first paragraph are John 1:1-4, 14; John 3:16-17; Jeremiah 29:11; Psalm 103:1-18; Ephesians 3:20; and Isaiah 55:8, 9.
Davis’ group distributes the 10-page Love Letter From Jesus by the hundreds of thousands on the street, in supermarkets, at Pathfinder camporees, and by mail, said Davis, a retired aircraft mechanic, pilot, and flight instructor, with an easy smile and ready chuckle.
He eagerly held out a tract to a passing Adventist Review reporter in the sprawling ASI exhibition hall, and then aroused his curiosity by declaring, “You can share this for free through junk mail.”
Davis, who described himself as naturally shy, latched onto the idea of using postage-paid return envelopes when someone suggested it during a church discussion about how to distribute religious literature at no cost. Davis estimated that he has fired off 50 to 100 tracts in postage-paid envelopes over the past two years. He also places the tracts into regular envelopes when paying bills.
“When I check my mail, I always keep a stack of these around,” he said, holding up several tracts. “I just stick it in the envelope and let it go. Who knows who’s opening and who’s reading.”
Those who do read A Love Letter From Jesus can call a Washington state telephone number printed on the back or visit the compellinglove.org website for a set of Bible studies.
A call to the phone number on Monday was answered by a recording of a male voice who identified himself as pastor Clinton Meharry and invited the caller to leave a phone number.
Scott Cady, director of Signs of the Times Ministries at Adventist-owned Pacific Press Publishing Association, explained that the tract is a joint venture between Pacific Press and Clinton Meharry, pastor of Moses Lake Seventh-day Adventist Church in Washington state, who wrote the text.
“We printed it for our use in ABCs, but its large-scale distribution has been led by Clinton,” Cady said. “He wrote the piece and continues to work with private donors to share it nationwide.”
A total of 9.4 million copies have been published since 2011, including 5.3 million in English, 3.3 million in Spanish, and 128,000 in Korean, Cady said.
A French version is also in the works, Meharry said.
“The Love Letter From Jesus has been a blessing to share,” he said. “People have appreciated it.”
Meharry told of a teenage girl from an Adventist family who stormed out of her home after a quarrel with her mother. After walking some distance, the girl sat down on a bridge and found a copy of A Love Letter From Jesus in her coat pocket.
“There she is sitting on the bridge and it dawns on her how much Jesus loves her,” Meharry said by phone. “It impressed her for the first time, and she went back home. Now she enjoys sharing Love Letters with others.”
One of the more remarkable stories involving the tract occurred during the Super Bowl football championship in New Orleans in 2013. Buster White, an Adventist believer baptized in the past decade, managed to get into the Superdome stadium with a few suitcases of Love Letters From Jesus and similar religious literature, but nobody would take a tract, Meharry said. So he prayed for help.
At that moment, the lights went out in what the news media later described as “Blackout Sunday.” The biggest U.S. game of the year was put on hold for long 34 minutes. Suddenly spectators were eager to accept tracts from White and his friends, Meharry said.
“They got rid of all their tracts and then the light came back on,” he said.
The authorities later blamed a faulty electric relay device for the disruption.
Back in the ASI exhibition hall, Davis said he did not know what impact his mailings might have had on recipients. But he and his wife draw inspiration from the story of an Adventist woman in Oklahoma City who stuck A Love Letter From Jesus in the envelope with her bill. The recipient read it with interest at work and then took it home to use for a Bible study group of 50 people that she led in her home, Henderson said. Later the group followed the online Bible studies advertised on the back of the tract.
“They began to study, and they all became Sabbath-keepers,” Henderson said.
Her husband prays that those who receive his tracts via junk mail will experience a similar transformation of heart.
“You have no idea where God is going to put this what the end result is,” Davis said. “So just get it out there.”