Packing free bibles and a bit of a sense of humor about Christian doctrine, Alan Summerhill of Vancouver spent Feb. 9 parked on State Street in Hood River.
Summerhill, a retired air traffic controller, visits towns under his non-profit Bibles For Free and he does just that: Hands out bibles at no charge, standing next to his truck with a “Free Bibles” sign while wearing a cap with the same message.
By mid-afternoon, he had given out five for the day, which is about average, said Summerhill, who started Bibles For Free in 2017 as his personal mission as a Christian, mostly in Vancouver and Portland, including giving out bibles and leading church at Lownsdale Square in Portland, where protests have happened since mid-2020.
He’s handed out bibles in the capitals of all the western states and felt called to visit all 75 county seats in Oregon and Washington, and has visited “about a third so far.”
With family and friends, Summerhill runs Bibles For Free, listing himself as director of the 501c3. “I don’t have a donate button here,” he said; however, he does post on Facebook. His family started giving out bibles 20 years ago by mail, and Summerhill decided four years ago, “I wanted to do it face-to-face. I knew when I retired I wanted to street witness.”
He’s on the county-seat tour, parking at or near each county building and offering bibles. He was in The Dalles on Feb. 8 and Goldendale on Feb. 10. Summerhill describes himself as “an Evangelical Christian” but identifies currently with no particular denomination, having attended Lutheran as well as Methodist churches. He now hosts a home church. Summerhill wears a mask while doing “Free Bibles,” but said his home church sessions are mask-optional.
The bibles he gives out alternate between the King James and New American Standard versions.
Summerhill said, “I want something modern, something kind-of ... accurate. Unless you read Hebrew or Aramaic, nothing’s going to be truly accurate, right?”
He said he has had few problems with people over his street mission, and “a lot of good conversations.”
He feels motivated by Genesis 1:1: “‘In the beginning God created the heavens and earth,’ which means God is sovereign, we are not. Since he is sovereign he gets to set the rules, like Milton Bradley. You play Monopoly and you’re going to have to play by his rules. God is Milton Bradley.”