The messages are handed out in American prisons, African markets and Filipino villages. The words are English or Arabic or Tagalog, but the subject is always the same: Jesus.
For 58 years, a nonprofit company in Bloomington has preached the gospel with a flood of pamphlets. Bible Tracts Inc. gives the pamphlets to missionaries across the world and believers here in the United States.
The company - just four full-time workers and a handful of part-timers - says it has printed 472 million tracts in 99 languages since its 1938 founding.
The work has a simple purpose: converting people to Christianity. The philosophy is built around the Bible's command to "Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature."
"We take that very literally, and we're trying to do that," said Ralph Blake, who runs the organization now that its founder is in poor health.
"It's a way of sharing the good news," Blake said. "Maybe you don't have time to stop and give a sermon, so you give people a little something they can take home and read at their convenience."
A brochure for people ordering tracts suggests mailing them to newlyweds or people in jail. Or they can be left with tips at restaurants or on buses and airplanes. Many are simply handed out on the street to passers-by.
But Blake says the tracts may be most useful to missionaries working overseas.
"Overseas, people are more eager for literature. They're not inundated with junk mail like we are," he said.
Jerrold Myers agrees. He is leaving soon for missionary work in Uganda and Rwanda, and Bible Tracts is giving him 625,000 tracts to take along.
He said people snap them up when they are given out in markets or along the road. People even approach him to ask for tracts …