There’s something special about putting a Bible into the hands of someone who doesn’t have a copy of their own, says Scott Whitehead.
It’s Whitehead’s desire to share God’s Word with others that inspired him to start a ministry called “Bible Oasis” that provides free Bibles at some of the Christian-owned businesses in the Charlotte area.
“If you can give someone a Bible, you can really make a difference to them,” said Whitehead, a member of Hartis Grove Baptist Church in Indian Trail, N.C.
The ministry consists of about 30 “Bible Oasis” displays set up at Christian-owned businesses – stores, doctor’s offices, homeless shelters and mechanic shops. Each display is made up of a couple bookends, several Bibles and a sign that invites people to take a Bible if they don’t own one or leave one if they have a spare copy.
Since beginning the ministry last year, hundreds of Bibles have been given away.
“What [Bible Oasis is] doing is … making [scripture] available to the people who would not normally have any interest,” Whitehead said. “Hopefully the Holy Spirit can work on them.”
A spiritual journey
For Whitehead, a former atheist, the path to starting the Bible Oasis ministry has been a “spiritual journey of growth.”
About two years ago, Whitehead’s life seemed to be unraveling.
He was unable to find full-time employment. He was going through a divorce. He lost his home. His 6-year-old daughter was unable to stay with him because he didn’t have a place to live.
To top it off, he suffered a traumatic brain injury when a canoe fell on his head while lifting it off a rack at his part-time job in a sporting goods store.
The accident caused Whitehead months of severe headaches, nausea and short-term memory loss before therapy and prayer helped him recover.
“It’s like ‘OK, what else is going to go wrong?’” he said.
Scott Whitehead, once homeless, started a ministry called “Bible Oasis,” where Christian business owners set aside space for a Bible oasis, a place to give or receive a Bible.
For a couple months, Whitehead ended up living out of his car. The cold winter weather and sleepless nights eventually led him to a homeless shelter in Monroe.
But it was during that difficult season in his life that Whitehead prayed “No matter what, Lord, I am just going to put you first,” he said.
It was that prayer that Whitehead believes helped him begin to turn his life around.
“But I’m just here to tell you … I’m not complaining about anything because of the peace and joy in my life,” he said. “God is so awesome.”
While staying at the homeless shelter in Monroe, Whitehead met a man with a pick-up truck full of books from the local library. The man asked Whitehead and others at the shelter to take what they wanted, and he would throw away the rest. Among the stack of books, Whitehead found two Bibles.
“As a Christian I couldn’t let those be dumped,” he said. “I had to give these away.”
Whitehead decided to give them to two women sitting at the back of the shelter, and both of them accepted the Bibles.
“Within a few days, one of them … comes up and gives me a great big hug,” Whitehead said. “She almost kind of lunged at me. She said, ‘Scott, I just want to thank you for that Bible. … I take it and put my granddaughter’s picture in it. I read it at night and put it under the pillow and I sleep on it.’”
After that encounter, Whitehead started collecting Bibles wherever he could find them and give them away. He’d occasionally purchase one or two with the little money he had through his part-time job at the sporting goods store.
“Whenever I’d buy these [Bibles], I’d always find that the Lord would provide a place for them to go,” he said.
One day while waiting on his car at a mechanic shop, he noticed a small bookcase full of paperback books. On top of the bookcase was a note with the words “Leave one. Take one.”
“The Holy Spirit started working on me there,” Whitehead said. “I went and got [some Bibles] and I came back … I could just see the excitement and the sparkle in these people’s eyes that work there. Within a few days of that the Lord took that concept and turned it into a ministry.”
Since then, many have offered to help Whitehead collect Bibles.
Hartis Grove Baptist Church donated 100 Bibles and one woman contributed about 600 New Testaments. And the Lord was blessing Whitehead in other ways, too.
Around Christmas 2011, Hartis Grove Baptist Church invited Whitehead to stay in the church parsonage so he and his daughter could spend more time together. Eventually, Whitehead befriended Joel Lickliter, who co-owns a business in the area and is a member of Indian Trail Baptist Church’s east campus. In addition to helping support the Bible Oasis ministry, Lickliter and his business partner hired Whitehead to distribute flyers for their business. They also helped him transition from the parsonage to an affordable place to live.
“We’re committed to Scott, making sure that he gets on his feet,” Lickliter said. “Whatever God has in store we’re completely happy with supporting Scott through it.”
“[Scott is] one of these guys who literally lives on the promise of ‘My grace is sufficient,’” he said.
“No matter where he is at, no matter what he does, he’s living in the complete reliance on God. There’s very few people [who] live like that. And that’s what makes Scott unique.”
Both Whitehead and Lickliter said their main desire for the Bible Oasis ministry is that other churches will start similar projects through their communities.
“We don’t want donations,” Lickliter said. “We want churches to do it themselves.
“It’s a matter of can we get a hundred counties in North Carolina to put out five stations … and really get it growing. That would be awesome.”
Whitehead still marvels at how the Lord has blessed his life and ministry.
“It’s just amazing how the God of this world … would take some guy, who with a brain not working well and not two cents to his name, … to see his Word shared with somebody else. … I can’t tell you how much peace and joy that brings to my life.”