Marianna Forde brought 20 boxes of books to the St. Anthony Park, Minn., post office on a Thursday last May—all theological texts bound for a Malaysian seminary at the ship-by-sea surface mail rate of $1.05 per pound. It was a typical mailing for the coordinator of the Lutheran International Library Assistance Program housed at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minn. In 2006, 11,623 books were sent to institutions training clergy and Bible teachers in 20 developing countries at a cost of $9,329.
But on the way out, Forde said, “our friendly clerk told me, ‘Oh, by the way, on Monday there will be no more surface mail.’ ” The airmail rate is $3.95 per pound. “We couldn’t possibly pay that,” Forde said. According to the U.S. Postal Service, the ship-by-sea rate was eliminated because of low demand—just 2.7 percent of international mail in 2006.
Forde hurried back to campus to corral students for marathon packing that resulted in four more 20-box shipments on Friday. Since then she’s mapped out several strategies for getting books to the schools—from piggybacking onto a Global Health Ministries container bound for Liberia to working with the Theological Book Network, a Michigan group that uses commercial shipping companies.
The library assistance project began in the 1970s, as retiring professors donated books to missionaries. Now it’s a formal clearinghouse—accepting 20,000 books annually and distributing about half on request from institutions. “When people ask for books, we’ll discover a way to send them to that country,” Forde said.
For guidelines for book donation, visit the Lutheran International Library Assistance Web site. To contribute to shipping costs, send checks to: LILAP, Luther Seminary Library, 2481 Como Ave., St. Paul, MN 55108.
© 2014 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers