Wednesday, February 19, 2014

When You Take a Bible to Africa

A few years ago I wrote Damaging the Cambridge ESV: 2 Days Inside a Backpack with Over Five Inches of Rain, which detailed the result of an unwise choice to bring my Goatskin leather wide-margin on a backpacking adventure with urban youth. The post was picked up by Bible Design Blog and quickly became the most popular post I had ever written. Though older and wiser, I am still just as committed to bringing my Bible on adventures. This time it wasn't a rainy backpacking adventure, but a two week trip to Uganda, where I stayed in the bush of Wanenga with a team of 14. Much to my delight, I ended up preaching twice a day, twice to a crowd of over 2000 people. My trip was truly a transforming experience and I have a journal full of miraculous stories. Over 200 people made decisions to give their lives to Jesus Christ and well over 1000 people reported miraculous healing. I will be publishing several reports about the trip as well as audio and video soon, but this early post will focus on the Bible I brought on the trip, how I studied, and how it fared.

You can see my setup above. I brought two journals and the ESV Single Column Journaling Bible from Crossway. I had rolled all of my clothes tightly and wrapped them in rubber bands for packing. These rubber bands were later used to secure my books together and hold my pens: two ballpoints and a black 005 Pigma Micron for those ever important minuscule, archival quality, waterproof Bible notes.

The Bible itself fared well. It did not have to endure any rain; instead it was subjected to my grubby hands. We were staying in the rural villages where there was no running water and red dust invades everything. My hands, and really my whole body, were always dirty. The camera didn't pick it up, but the pages were smudged with dirty fingerprints and dust, and the letters on the binding were nearly rubbed off. In addition to this, the Bible was tread upon by a number of cockroaches, though I avoided smashing any on the cover.

The cream colored hue of the paper in the Bible helped mask some of the dirt, and I am not at all disappointed with the character that has been added to this Bible. I'm glad I brought a hardback, rather than a more expensive Bible, though several times I opted to preach out of a cheap urethane covered Bible a friend brought, so I could fold the Bible in half (scandalous, I know).

The journal I brought along specifically for chronicling the trip fared somewhat worse than the Bible. This is a hardcover sketchbook I picked up from Walmart. I like the textured hardcover, the price, and the thick, blank pages. The rougher texture of the paper gives my pen more traction and I like the cream color. The texture of both the cover and the paper attracted a lot more dust and grime. The cover was roughed up quite a bit and there is at least one very unfortunate stain as, in the heat of the moment, I smashed a cockroach with it. See the whiteish stain next to the binding below.

This journal contained some quickly formed sermon outlines which were often only half used. Most days I would wake up at 5:30am or so and have a scripture or a story on my mind, which would become the text for whatever crowd I was addressing that day.

If you look carefully at the inside of the Bible, you will see my tiny scrawl in the margins. I have been using the ESV Single Column Journaling Bible since the beginning of the year. I have a specific project in progress, which I will be detailing in the future, and I continued working on it during the trip, reading ten or more chapters of the gospels each day in conjunction with some hurried sermon preparation. I may have missed a few days here and there, but I am immensely glad I brought this Bible and my current Bible reading project on the trip. No serious damage was sustained, but a lot of memories and character were added to the Bible. More about my trip to Uganda is forthcoming at


  1. I just found your post... where is the leather journal on top from?

    1. That journal is from Barnes and Noble, and it's still available. I saw one there a few weeks ago. It's a bit of an odd journal. I don't know if I'd get another one myself, but it is leather, and it was fun.