The Vacation Story I Haven’t Told Yet

Usually when we travel up to New England, we stop off in Pennsylvania as a halfway point. It makes it a more pleasant trip for everyone if the 14-hour drive is broken into an 8-hour day and a 6-hour day. So we usually bunk near my alma mater in Mechanicsburg, PA.

And on one leg of the trip or the other, we dart down the road to Carlisle to visit two little bookstore gems: Cumberland Valley Bible Book Service and the US headquarters of Banner of Truth.

Because if you know us at all, you know we are bibliophiles.

This time, we went to Cumberland Valley first, and I think escaped for under $100. They have a great collection at wonderful prices, as well as some unique selections for children.

Then we walked down the block and around the corner to the Banner of Truth office (that’s a picture of it above).

And there…

from out of the drab wood-paneled surroundings…

smiling from its green and white covers and dripping with theological and practical wisdom…

beckoned to my husband…

The Complete Works of John Owen.

He gasped quietly and politely asked how much it would be. Everything housed on their shelves in Carlisle is 50% off list price, but the total would still be over $200. With great self-control, he said thanks, but no thanks.

A few minutes later, a woman who had been working there emerged from behind her desk and asked, “Sir? Are you interested in the Owen set? I have a reason for asking this, by the way.”

David said, essentially, yes, but he wasn’t looking to spend that much today.

The woman then reported that a benevolent man in Florida had authorized Banner of Truth to give away six complete Owen sets each year, courtesy of him. She added that every time she saw someone go weak in the knees over the sets on their shelves, she knew that she had found the proper recipient for one of the six sets.

So about a half-hour later, we were on our way to Charlotte with a box in the back containing…


Now, I entertain a fantasy that I know who this generous man is (we got his name and have sent him a gushing thank-you note, by the way).

On one visit to the Cumberland Valley store, I overheard a conversation happening between David and a clerk there. David was in the middle of Overcoming Sin and Temptation by Owen at the time, and he was asking for recommendations on which of Owen’s works to dive into next. The clerk was tossing around some ideas, and his coworkers were offering their own suggestions.

Also overhearing this conversation was an unimposing white-haired man with glasses, standing near the shelf laden with ESV Bibles. As the talk about Owen drifted to a close, he looked at the men, and said in a soft Scottish accent, “Just…read…Owen.” It was almost a whisper. I don’t know if they even heard him, but I did, and it felt like I’d been visited by an angel (Scottish accents can do that to me).

So maybe it was that man or maybe it wasn’t. But somewhere in Florida there is a man with a love for theology made practical through the pen of John Owen, and he demonstrates that love by passing it on to others.

7 Responses to “The Vacation Story I Haven’t Told Yet”

  1. Rebecca

    Wow. That is such a cool reminder of the amazing ways that He cares for every little part of us! How cool.And hey, next time you’re passing through PA, give us a shout out, we’d love to meet up with you even for just a few hours!

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  2. Kelly

    Tom, so sorry you had to play the “high-low game”. :-\Sounds like a plan, Guppy 😉

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  3. Anonymous

    Hi Kelly – I just discovered your blog and I really enjoy it!! Blessings to you all!Leah Boutell

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  4. Rachel

    That’s great. We love Banner of Truth. What a great story, isn’t God’s providence amazing.

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  5. Josh and Dana

    This SO reminds me of a scene out of movie like “Dead Poets Society” or the move where Sean Connery’s character is a literary genius and is teaching the boy how to write. You know, a quaint, dusty bookstore, an unsuspecting older gentleman who is a treasure of knowledge, wisdom and generosity, who takes a chance on a younger, eager-to-learn pupil (David), who’s life is then changed forever because of his influence and the influence of his heros. Sigh…

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