NASHVILLE (BP) -- Throughout November, customers at LifeWay Christian Stores can help send Bibles to individuals thousands of miles away.

In a joint venture called The Thomas Project, LifeWay stores, B&H Publishing and the International Mission Board are aiming to print and distribute at least 100,000 Bibles to people in South Asia, many of whom do not have Scripture in their own Hindi language.

Named for the disciple believed to have been the first Christian missionary to the region, the initiative invites customers at LifeWay's 186 stores to purchase a Bible for $5 to send to South Asia.

The Thomas Project is akin to the small collection boxes that have been placed at LifeStore store registers for world hunger relief and other mission causes over the years.

B&H, LifeWay's trade books division, worked out the details of printing Bibles near the distribution location in South Asia, with LifeWay's retail stores providing the avenue to reach individuals in the U.S. with the opportunity.

Bob Fuller, a retail store district director, said the project is "a wonderful example of how all the diversity of LifeWay can come together in perfect alignment to advance the cause of the Gospel."

Based on donations so far, Fuller is confident they will far exceed the goal, "once again demonstrating that God is able to do far above and beyond all that we ask or think."

William McGregor, also a retail store district director, shared a story of a customer in Colorado buying $1,000 worth of Bibles for a prison ministry. Turning in his LifeWay Rewards card saved him $300 on his purchase. After he was asked about donating a Bible to The Thomas Project, the customer said, "I liked the first total better, why don't we make up the difference with that project you were talking about?"

"I thought he had to be joking," McGregor said about the $300 donation, "but he really ended up buying 60 Thomas Project Bibles."

Fuller told of a customer who purchased three Bibles for The Thomas Project on a Monday. While working in her garden the following Friday morning, she felt led by God to return to the LifeWay store, still with dirt on her hands, to buy 100 more.

"I can only imagine that God used her time digging in the dirt that day to make her realize she had the opportunity to plant more eternally significant seeds and prompted her to return," Fuller said.

LifeWay stores not only are selling the Bibles, but retail employees will be part of a spring mission trip to South Asia to help deliver them.

One of the seven teams organized by LifeWay in 2014 will be connected with The Thomas Project. Because of the unique nature of the trip to South Asia, most of the 16 team members will be from the retail division and B&H, with four from four different retail stores -- Texas, Utah, South Carolina and Virginia.

Fuller will be leading the team and said his previous experience in South Asia led him to quickly agree to be a part of the trip, calling it a "tremendous blessing."

"I've seen firsthand both the deep need for and genuine acceptance of the Gospel in that fascinating part of the world," he said. "In spite of the multitude of world religions that dominate throughout that region, there is a wonderful openness and responsiveness to the Gospel."

The team will visit locations strategically selected by the IMB and work with local church leaders and believers to distribute the Bibles. Additionally, they will be involved in direct evangelism and training.

Fuller said LifeWay store customers who aid the trip through The Thomas Project will make "an eternal difference in the life of whomever eventually receives the Bible they purchased."

Individuals interested in helping with The Thomas Project can go to any LifeWay Christian Store or visit LifeWay.com/ThomasProject.

Aaron Earls is a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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