‘Serve the Lord with gladness’, Ps. 100. 2.
I count it an honour to share with you something of the Lord’s work of sowing the good seed of the word of God in the marketplaces and shows of Australia. I do so humbly, emphasizing that all the glory belongs to Him who loved us and gave Himself for us.
It was my late father, Donald Chapman of the Cooroy Assembly, who was instrumental in inspiring me to move into and share in this ministry. My father took on this work when my brother Paul went to Colombia/Venezuela to serve the Lord there. Don used left-over calendars from Trinitarian Bible Society and Bible Truth Publishers. Cutting the picture with the scripture verse off, he would then laminate and glue them to boards that he prepared, cut especially to size, routed and with a painted border to make a nice edge. Strings were then attached to the back for wall hanging, or a small stand glued to smaller ones for a desk-top or sideboard display.
Don also went into another area of making place mats and coaster sets. Heather, his wife, was also involved with this as she would cut out pictures and verses from various old calendars and set them up as a ‘master copy’. They would then copy as many as needed on a colour printer purchased for the work. They developed many different picture groups, such as animals, birds, horses, cats, dogs, etc., plus scenes, flowers and many more. For these a 3mm board was used, cut to size, corners rounded, edges painted and then cork was glued to the back side of the mat. In those early days, Don would go to the local Agricultural Show and distribute these texts and place mats with coasters free of charge, along with Bibles, tracts and a good variety of booklets.
For almost twenty years I lived approximately six hours’ drive north of Cooroy at Rockhampton in Central Queensland. In 1997, along with another brother, John Shields of the Kent Street Assembly in Rockhampton, I commenced a work at our local Agricultural Show, which was a three-day show commencing at 9am and going through to 10.30pm each day. My father, Don, would make the six-hour drive north to be with us in the work and also provide most of the supply of texts for the show. These he would prepare throughout the year to have enough stock. At that time, I was still in full-time employment in the motor industry. This work carried on until 2007, when I moved with my young family to the far north of Queensland, where we continue unto this day by the will of God.
The local brethren at Innisfail had already been doing the local show each year, and from that it was recognized that the local market held each month was another more regular opportunity to reach out with the word of God to the community and within the local witness area of the assembly. After this, I researched the number of markets within a reasonable distance of home and discovered that there were markets happening each Saturday and Sunday, and some also on a Friday evening. Each of these was on a set rota, meaning that they were always on the same weekend each month, so that our local market is always the third Saturday of the month, providing an opportunity to establish a regular witness for Christ in each public place.
Serving the Lord was not a new desire for us, and was demonstrated to us by our parents as an essential part of the Christian pathway. I also believed the Lord had called me to serve Him and this was always in our thoughts, my wife at the time (now with the Lord) had also been serving in Bethlehem at the time we were married. God graciously provided another help-meet in Coralie, who had served in Zambia for five years prior to our marriage; so together we served the Lord. In 2011, we were commended to this work, in particular in the far north of Queensland, to sow the good seed of the word of God throughout the various marketplaces and also at some shows.
Being a motor mechanic by trade and having learned many life skills, I have been able to channel this into the work of manufacturing scripture texts for the glory of God. With modern technology, we are able to use quality photography as a base, then adding a variety of scripture texts to them. There is a brother and his wife at Gosford, New South Wales, Noel and Jenny Kerslake, whose daughter, being a graphic designer, designs the picture, then Noel gets them printed at a printing works after which he distributes to a number of the Lord’s servants throughout Australia, who then use them as I do for the production of scripture texts.
Brother John Shields of Rockhampton purchased a high quality printer and does prints for this work also. From these two brethren I am well supplied in prints for the work, apart from doing a small variety myself.
The preparation of the texts today is by using a 6mm MDF board which we cut on a large table saw such as cabinet makers use. These are cut to suit A4 and A5 size prints and routed on the edge to give a nice appearance. The edges are primed, sanded and then painted with a gloss top coat to give a well presented wall or desk plaque with scripture text. Once the paint preparation is complete, we glue the print onto the board and leave them stacked with heavy weights to press them while the glue dries. This ensures no air bubbles are left and edges stay nice and flat. Once this part is done we cut strings and staple them onto the back of the A4 plaque for wall hanging, and a small stand is applied to the back of the A5 plaques suitable for a desk-top display.
At the markets, first we used a small gazebo, set up tables and carried everything in containers, loading them in and out of the vehicle each time. After a few years of this, I felt it would be good to set up a trailer as a permanent display and the Lord provided in a remarkable way. The exact cost of all the materials was given and I was able to do all the work of building the trailer myself.
Through the years there has been much to encourage. Although it is very much the kind of work that we may not see the full result of until we get to glory. There have been some we have witnessed to coming to know the Saviour. There is also encouragement in knowing that many souls are made aware of God, and their accountability to Him, which, in turn, often causes a response, whether good or bad. It has been a wonderful opportunity to encourage other Christians; some have expressed how refreshing it is to see a witness for Christ in a world that is fast departing from God and the acknowledgement of Him.
The nearest market I attend is just fifteen minutes away, so very handy in the home town of the assembly. The most distant is a two-hour drive, so, on that morning, I am up at 3.30am to leave by 4am to set up by 7am. At the local market at Innisfail, a local brother usually helps, but all the others I go to alone, except for occasional help. As I have four children, aged twelve years down to four years, Coralie is busy looking after the children.
Finally, may I encourage the Lord’s people. If you have an exercise to serve Him, may you consider this wonderful way of reaching souls on a personal level and seek to bring them to Christ through the living word. Everything is given away free. That provides the first opportunity to speak to people, because that generates the question, ‘Why is it free’? From that first opportunity, we go on to tell of the free gift of God!
Then, the question of cost follows. This, again, gives opportunity to tell of the great cost to our Lord Jesus Christ to be able to provide the free gift of eternal life to all who will believe!