- - Monday, January 16, 2017

If you were inside the Iowa Capitol in Des Moines during the first week in January, you would have heard citizens reading from the Bible.

Which book of the Bible? Which chapter? All of them.

For a second consecutive year, Iowa citizens signed up and came out and read a portion of the Bible, from Genesis through Revelation — 1,189 chapters. The reading took place from Tuesday through Friday of that week.

But what is even more fascinating is that all 99 counties in Iowa have also experienced the same event at their own county courthouses. Christians throughout the state organized the rallies in their own counties, putting the event on the calendar and opening it up for volunteers. And they didn’t have to beg, as hundreds of people would sign up to take part in the events, each reading several chapters at an appointed time. One county at a time, every Iowa county had the entire Bible proclaimed in the public square. Literally.

The idea sprang forth from the mind of Ginny Caligiuri, the leader of the Iowa Prayer Caucus. When Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad signed a proclamation, with Caligiuri at his side, encouraging Iowans to take part in the public Bible readings, civil liberties groups discussed litigating the matter. The Governor scoffed at the idea that there was anything improper about citizens—even Christians!—staging rallies on public property.

Caligiuri told the Iowa Family Leader:

“I believe it will set captives free, break bondages, and bring healing to our state and nation,” said Caligiuri. “That is what the Word does! It changes the atmosphere, and miracles happen!”

“We are praying that as the Word is read, it will stir the hearts of God’s people to once again fall deeply in love with Him and His Word,” she continued. “We want families and individuals to be encouraged to read the Bible out loud in their homes, hear what it says, and do what it says. I don’t think we really do what it says or we wouldn’t be where we are today as a state or nation. It is about going into our own heart and allowing the Lord to reveal what is wrong so we can repent and then stand in the gap for our families, our cities, counties, states, and nation.”

Q&A with Karen Campbell

In order to get a picture of what one of these county-level Bible reading events was like, I had the opportunity to talk to Karen Campbell, a leader in the effort within Cerro Gordo, a northern Iowa county about two hours south of Minneapolis.

You may not recognize the name of this county, but Cerro Gordo is the place of “the day the music died,” when Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. Richardson died after playing a concert there on a cold day in February 1959.

Nearly sixty years later and in the heat of the summer, residents of Cerro Gordo gathered at their county’s courthouse in Mason City and read the Bible from cover to cover.  Here is an edited account of my interview with Campbell.

Campbell: I was asked to help lead our county. My pastor and I jumped on board right away as soon as we heard about it. We began to organize it really not knowing what we were doing at first. We had to get permission at the courthouse. Everybody we talked to was totally on board with it.

We began the reading on Monday morning, the week of the Fourth of July. We started with the city administrator, the sheriff, the fire chief, three police officers, the man who oversees our county supervisors, and our county auditor. They started our first two-hour segment. It was powerful.

Lamb: How did the logistics work for getting people signed up?

Campbell: We had people sign up for 15-minute segments. I never signed up to read because I thought, “I’m going to have to fill in a lot of gaps.” But I never once had to call one person in 86 hours of reading and find out where they were, why they didn’t show up—I never had to orchestrate anything. I didn’t plan on staying, but I couldn’t leave. I was there almost the whole time. It was so powerful.

We provided water. We had a tent. They weren’t out in the sun, but it was a screened-in tent. People could see what we were doing. It was reading the Word of God out into the atmosphere—but it wasn’t amplified with loud-speakers. It did draw people in to watch, but it wasn’t a show of any kind. We had signs saying what we were doing, and it was fascinating to see.

All told, the reading took 86 hours. We had 21 churches who jumped on board and over 300 readers.

Lamb: Did you get any feedback or media attention?

Campbell: We never had one person say anything negative to us. The newspaper wrote a most beautiful article. The news media came and gave us a great review. It was on the news.

People asked, “Why are you doing this?” I’d tell them that when you read the word, it goes out. The words defeats demonic forces. The power is in the Word. It’s just been amazing.

Lamb: What were the ages of readers?

Campbell: We had our children from our church read, so I think our youngest was probably five. We had a whole two-hour segment of kids reading, and they did read out of a child-friendly Bible. Then, as far as participation, our oldest was a lady who is blind, in her late 80s. She lives in a nursing home and would walk over every day and sit with us. Although she couldn’t read, she was there every day. Another person, 85, was probably our oldest reader. So a wide range in the age of participants—and a mix of teens, adults, men, and women.

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