It didn’t matter to George Hamlin that he didn’t have an audience listening while he read aloud the first few chapters of Genesis.
He stood behind a large wooden lectern under a tent and spoke into the microphone.
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth,” he began.
Hamlin, a minister at Seymour Harvest Church, read each of the words printed in his well-worn and heavily annotated Bible with a strong voice. It was as if he were delivering the word to the masses.
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And in a sense, he was, because he knew the message would make an impact, in some way, somehow, he said.
“That is what God tells us,” he said.
Hamlin was one of hundreds of volunteers from area churches taking part in a 72-hour Bible reading and prayer marathon that began at 6 p.m. Monday at One Chamber Square in downtown Seymour. It is scheduled to end at 6 p.m. today as part of the observance of National Day of Prayer.
“It’s exciting to be able to read the word of God publicly so that others can hear and be a witness to it,” Hamlin said. “It’s a good feeling deep down on the inside to do this because the community needs it.”
The event is conducted every other year and is coordinated by Tim Toborg, a Seymour police officer and Pastor Gary Dyer with Seymour Harvest Church. Dyer also serves as chaplain of American Legion Post 89 in Seymour.
During the three-day event, the Bible is read aloud nonstop in its entirety from Genesis to Revelation.
“There are several places in the Bible that state we are to devote ourselves to public reading of the word,” Toborg said. “And the Bible says when the word of God goes out it does not come back void. We don’t know what it accomplishes, but we know God uses us in that way.”
‘More active obedience’
There are more than 20 local churches involved, and it takes 360 readers to complete. After each volunteer reads for 12 minutes, they then spend 12 minutes praying. Some pray for loved ones, some for the community, and others for people who submitted prayer requests.
Sometimes finding readers to show up late at night or in the early hours of the morning is difficult, Toborg said. But he said he believes it’s a small sacrifice to make.
“This is more active obedience,” Toborg said. “You do it because you want to do it.”
Pastor Larry Robbins of Seymour Harvest Church served as a team captain, recruiting volunteers, such as Hamlin, to read. He also said he would be reading in place of his wife, who was ill, and would fill in for shifts they couldn’t fill.
Robbins has been participating in the event since it began.
“It’s something to do out of the ordinary, above and beyond what I normally do as a Christian,” he said. “Every opportunity I get I try to do more, because Christians are supposed to do more to set the example, work harder and longer for the Lord.”
He said he is amazed by the number of people in Seymour who have never read the Bible.
It’s something people take for granted, he added.
“I’ve been in a lot of different nations, where they don’t have doctors or a bank that will give them a loan,” Robbins said. “The only thing they got is God. You give them a Bible, and they will read it over and over again. In America, we have doctors and lawyers, and we don’t have to depend on God. We take the Bible and the word for granted.”
Robbins said he feels society is drowning in the blessings of God.
“It’s a sad thing, when Americans won’t give up 12 minutes of their time to read Scripture,” he said.
Hamlin said he has volunteered nearly every year since the event started but sometimes must miss because of his work schedule. He recommends people get involved to be an example and to help others find solace in God’s word.
“They never know at that appointed time when they are to read, there might be someone close to them, family or friend, that will see them and witness this going on,” he said. “It might be something that will help draw them to the kingdom of God, because they feel like if you can do this publicly then you must be really serious about what you’re doing.”
He also said it’s important for people to get involved with positive activities in the community, such as the Bible reading and a recent Cross Walk that took place during Holy Week last month.
“There’s not a whole lot of positive influence in our community,” he said.
Hamlin jokingly said he would have preferred to read from the New Testament because the names of people and places are simpler to pronounce. But that shouldn’t be an excuse to keep people from reading the Bible, he added.
“I’ve got news for you; even the people you think know how to pronounce all the words, don’t know them as well as they think,” he said. “And that’s not the point anyway. You can come close enough, and everybody still gets the meaning. They know the main reason you are doing it. No one is going to hold it against you.”
Hamlin said he has never read the Bible straight through. He jumps around because of subject matter, he said.
There are many books and verses that he loves, he said, but his favorite is Proverbs 4:20-22.
“My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart. For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh.”