Choice Gleanings

A Calendar with a difference

This morning, as believers around the globe lift up their hearts to God to begin their day, a familiar component of that process will be the Choice Gleanings calendar. The history of this much loved day-by-day devotional calendar is an interesting one and a testimony to the faithfulness of the Lord. It began in 1922, when the Lord burdened young William J. Pell of Grand Rapids, Michigan, to begin a ministry of printing quality Christian literature. He started in his mother’s parlour with a John 3. 16 verse card, but soon moved to the basement of the building next door, printing gospel tracts and Sunday School curriculum. He called the print shop Gospel Folio Press, assuming it would only ever produce a little folio of four pages.

Gospel Folio Press had been functioning for almost twenty years when William became exercised about producing a daily devotional calendar. In the home of his parents hung a believers’ calendar printed in the Netherlands by the Voorhowven brothers. For many years William’s mother, who emigrated from the Netherlands at age eleven, made sure such a calendar was sent to her. Seeing the effects that the devotional calendar had on his mother gave William a strong desire to compile one of his own for the Lord’s people.

In spite of discouraging remarks from some who said it wasn’t feasible in North America, the calendar (initially named The Remembrancer but soon changed to Choice Gleanings) was launched in 1940. It was decided to print 800 the first year, as William figured he had that many friends to give them to if the sales did not go well. He need not have worried, as the calendar was an immediate success. Within a few years, the workers at Gospel Folio Press found themselves with the mammoth undertaking of producing 40,000 calendars annually.

The process of production did not vary for many years. Selecting the devotionals and finding coordinating poetry was the first step. The next job was planning which meditations would be used on which date. This ‘distribution’ of the devotionals throughout the calendar involved much thought and prayer as the goal was to ensure that the readers would receive a balance of comfort, challenge, doctrine, and encouragement throughout the year. Once placed in the calendar, the meditations were edited and then after several rounds of proofreading, came the typesetting, printing and assembly.

Originally material for the calendars was gleaned from books, but as time went by Mr. Pell began asking more brethren to contribute short devotionals and eventually the calendar included more original writing than ‘gleanings’. Today, almost sixty writers from around the world contribute meditations to the Choice Gleanings calendar.

When William went home to heaven in 1970, his sister Grace stepped into the role of editor. Grace carried the responsibility for about ten years with the help of her sisters and Jabe Nicholson. Since he was a teen Jabe had been helping at Gospel Folio Press and under his leadership the calendar continued through the 1980’s.

During the 1990’s, he worked closely with Sandy McEachern, not only selecting, arranging, and editing the devotions but passing on the vision and passion for the work that Jabe had learned first from William and later from the Pell sisters. By the end of the decade, the Choice Gleanings legacy was passed into Sandy McEachern’s care.

In 2001, Gospel Folio Press moved to Port Colborne, Ontario. The production of the calendar has evolved from mountains of paper to hundreds of electronic files exchanged via cyberspace. Contributors email their documents, which are maintained in a database throughout the year and arranged in a desktop publishing program. From here, the calendar is edited, proofread, and corrections entered. The workers rarely see each other face to face, but are bound by a shared dedication to this work for the Lord.

The calendars are also now produced in the Afrikaans language for South Africa and discussions are under way about producing translations into Spanish and Manadarin.

The 2005 Choice Gleanings was printed in China for the first time and were shipped back to Canada, and from there the calendar will be mailed worldwide so that as each morning dawns around the globe, thousands of people will once again begin their day with the Choice Gleanings calendar. As has so often been done over the last sixty-five years, the prayer for the 2005 calendar is that once again, the Lord will use just the right verse and just the right thought, for just the right circumstance to be a comfort and encouragement to someone in a way that only He can do.

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