Novel Way to Share Adventist Books Winning Hearts in Germany
A high school teacher liked “The Great Controversy” so much that he asked for nine extra copies to share with students.
Discouraged about people slamming the door in your face?
Worried that the book sent in a mass mailing will end up in the trash?
University student Samuel Naumann has a unique way of sharing Seventh-day Adventist literature in Germany — and it appears to be winning hearts.
Samuel, together with his father and grandfather, sets up a mobile book booth in city centers and at annual festivals. Then a family member stands a short distance away and hands out gift cards to passersby. Those who accept a gift card are directed to the booth to choose a free book.
The result: the family can provide a personal touch, and the book-taker may be more likely to read the book.
“We have received reactions from people who attend festivals,” said Samuel, a 25-year-old Slavonian studies student at the University of Leipzig. “Some come back and say, ‘I took a book last year. It was good, and I want another one. What do you recommend?’”
The gift card idea took a circular route to Germany, where the Adventist Church’s 35,000 members have struggled to make inroads in a highly secularized country of nearly 83 million people. Samuel’s older brother saw a similar book project during an Adventist summer camp in Poland, and the Poles, in turn, had borrowed the idea from Ukraine.
In any case, the Naumann family loved the idea and started making the rounds after securing a trailer to serve as the book booth in 2012.
A Typical Conversation
Visitors to the booth are asked about their interests as they scan dozens of titles such as Ellen White’s “The Desire of Ages” and “The Great Controversy,” and health books like “Health ad Wellness: Secrets That Will Change Your Life” by Mark Finley and Peter Landless.
The conversations provide a witnessing opportunity, especially when visitor choose a book and inevitably ask whether it really is free, Samuel said.
Samuel likes to reply, “You can take the book. It’s already been paid for.”
“Why?” the visitor often asks.
“It’s like the cross,” Samuel says. “Jesus paid the price. You just have to accept. The only thing it will cost is your time to read. That’s price you have to pay.”
Sometimes, visitors acknowledge that they haven’t read the book that they received the previous year. To them, Samuel says, “You can still read it! The book is more relevant than it was last year.”
Reaction to the books has been largely positive, he said.
“Many Christians come to our booth and say, ‘This is exactly what we think! We thought we were the last Christians who believe in the simple word of the Bible,’” he said, speaking at a book booth during an Adventist Theological Society youth convocation near Hanover, Germany, in October 2017.
His father, Steffen, recalled a high school teacher who liked “The Great Controversy” so much that he asked for nine extra copies to share with students in his history class.
Another time, the father said, a European Union politician took a copy of “The Great Controversy” and read the thick volume in a single night. He returned the next day to ask for a copy to give his son, who works as a reporter.
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God Provides the Book
The book booth is part of a grassroots effort that now includes several Adventist families in Germany. All books are warehoused by the Naumann family and obtained at a discount or for free.
“God provides for these books,” Samuel said.
For example, his family received several hundred free copies of “The Desire of Ages” that were left over from a giveaway offer to Bible study students. In another case, a publisher printed the cover of a children’s book in the wrong color and gratefully unloaded those copies to his family at a steep discount.
In 2017, the family participated in festivals in seven German states and distributed 200 to 800 books at each three-day event.
“For me, it isn’t important how many books,” Samuel said. “It’s the conversions. I want people to read and go to the Bible.”
The book booth also was set up in a number of pedestrian-heavy shopping districts in city centers.
Samuel was unaware of any baptisms, but he wasn’t worried.
“I consider this ministry to be the sowing of seeds, and someone else will harvest,” he said.