When the New York Bible Society (now known as Biblica) was organized in 1809, the founders had as their purpose providing “the Holy Scriptures” to all who needed them. Their desire was to point a “lost and ruined race” to “the way of salvation.” That meant taking the Bible to immigrants, hospitals, prisons… wherever there were people in need of the gospel message.
It’s no surprise then that just three years after being established, the Society was actively sharing God’s Word with members of the military.
When war broke out in 1812, the Society took action. With General Andrew Jackson providing safe passage, NYBS “missionaries” made their way to New Orleans to support troops with the hope found in the Bible.
“Always on the cutting edge of evangelism,” writes historian Richard Kevin Barnard, “the leaders of the Bible Society realized early on that the military provided both a challenge and an opportunity for pointing others to faith in Christ.”
What followed was a consistent ministry to members of all branches of military service in both war and peacetime.
During the Civil War, for instance, when bloody conflict threatened to tear the nation apart, the Society provided Scriptures to many of the 600,000 troops that passed through New York.
A Union chaplain noted: “While at Antietam, I saw quite a large number of wounded rebels, with Testaments bearing the labels New York City, as well as other Bible societies, and when I asked where they obtained them, they would reply by naming some battlefield, in which our forces had been obliged to retreat.”
The Society also visited military hospitals during this deadly engagement.
One wounded soldier told the Society: “While on guard duty at the Park Barracks, you urged me to give my heart to Christ, and by the grace of God I have so done.”
When World War I began, the Society was strategically positioned to provide the thousands of troops deploying through New York with New Testaments. “Not content merely to distribute these Scriptures,” writes Barnard, “the missionaries [from the Society] also explained the Gospel message.”
At the outbreak of World War II, the Society vowed to “grant every request for Scripture from any serviceman.”
In the 21st century, Biblica has been producing New Testaments and Bibles designed specifically for members of the military and their families. In 2015, in partnership with military chaplains, more than 15,000 of these Scriptures were placed in the hands of soldiers, airmen, sailors, and marines.
After over 200 years of ministry, Biblica’s commitment to serving the American military continues.
On this Veterans Day, we would like to thank the brave men and women who serve our country with their time and talents, and who risk their lives to protect our freedom.