Freely received, freely given
Have you purchased a book lately, a real, hold-it-in your hands, page-turning paper book? They’re expensive. So, imagine visiting the website of a book purveyor and under every book by your favorite author you see the price of $0.00. Is it a loss leader? A misprint? A website under construction? Visit the website of FirstLove Publications (www.fi rstlovemissions.com) and that is precisely what you will find, a collection of some of the finest Christian literature ever written available to you at no cost. The FirstLove Publications Warehouse and Order Processing Center were recently relocated to Navarre.
In the summer of 2019, pastor Austin Huggins and the congregation of Christ Evangel Fellowship Navarre took delivery of FirstLove’s inventory. “The whole church came together to unload and unwrap pallets from a semi-truck sent from Kentucky,” Huggins said. “We organized and inventoried all the publications, installed shelving units in the large, emptied garage of one our members, then stocked the shelves.” Over the next couple of months, church members were trained in order processing and fulfi llment. A new website and webstore were launched with operations commencing in December 2019.
FirstLove Publications was started in 2006 when pastor Joe Jacowitz published a book by missionary, Cliff Hellar, entitled “The New Testament Missionary.” The burgeoning organization adopted as their mission statement, “to distribute free biblical literature for the salvation of souls, to deepen the knowledge of Christ, to preserve the Church’s fi rst love, for the glory of God.”
Huggins said he learned of FirstLove a few years ago. “The idea of freely distributing good teaching material to Christians without charging them for it fell in line with my understanding and desire to be ministry driven rather than profit driven. Buying and selling hinders dissemination of truth. Christ said, ‘freely you have received, freely give.’” Setting up the warehouse in Navarre initially took a sizable commitment. “We sweated it out in the 96-degree Florida heat counting out boxes, bundles, stacks and individual copies of many different books.” The Durst family, in whose garage the inventory sits, eventually took over the day to day fulfi llment of book orders. Huggins adds, “I have overseen the operations, the database, the inventory and the quality control since December. Weekly the church gathers to help assist and catch up on any remaining orders or warehouse related items.”
Huggins is now the acting director of FirstLove Publications. “I help oversee and manage all areas of FirstLove Publications’ communication, relations, ministry operations and management.” Even still, he personally takes the fulfi lled orders to the post offi ce each week and mails the books to wherever they are going. Keep in mind that Huggins also bears the responsibilities of pastoring Christ Evangel Christian Fellowship. “If not for the Durst family’s daily dedication, and the church’s weekly support,” Huggins admits, “it would easily present a measurable challenge.” Church members volunteer their time and even contribute funds to cover the cost of shipping the book orders. Other “sister churches” provide support as they can, including pastor Jacowitz’s church in California. Huggins reports that book orders dropped 60% in the first month of the COVID-19 virus scare. “My assumption is that people did not want foreign material physically coming into their home, which would be understandable. We are now seeing the orders begin to climb again.”
Perhaps a question has been nagging your thinking as your read this: Why? Why give away books and even shoulder the shipping costs? Huggins’ answer is profound and biblically motivated, “Our prayer is that The Lord will continue to keep the doors open, and the resources moving freely that we might be a help to the body of Christ with an eye to our Lord’s decree that “the earth shall be fi lled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.”
To order a book, or to learn more about FirstLove Publications, visit www.firstlovemissions.com. For more information about Christ Evangel Christian Fellowship visit www.christevangel.org
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