Half of America's 50 states have been reached so far by an effort to create the first NIV Bible handwritten by 31,173 people across the nation.
Since its launch on Sept. 30, the "Bible Across America" tour has traveled more than 8,200 miles to 40 cities in 25 states, gathering more than 7,000 handwritten verses from people from all ages and walks of life. On Thursday, following two days in Oklahoma City, the team of four reported having completed the books of Numbers and Deuteronomy in a single day.
"We thought Numbers might hang in there until we got to Proverbs or something, so we were not too sad to see it go," the team reported in their blog Thursday.
"We are currently working through the books of Judges, Ruth and the Samuels. Ruth is especially popular and will be finished soon because it is only 4 chapters," they added.
To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the bestselling NIV Bible, Christian publishing giant Zondervan had launched the Bible Across America tour with plans to travel some 15,000 miles to 90 cities in 44 states.
"The Bible Across America is a symbol of Zondervan's commitment to make the Word of God more accessible and more relevant to more people," explained Moe Girkins, president and CEO of Zondervan, in a statement released after the tour's launch.
"We couldn't think of a better way to commemorate the 30th Anniversary of the NIV Bible than by inviting Americans to join us on this monumental tour and open more hearts to the Word of God," she added.
According to Zondervan, which publishes the NIV Bible, more people use an NIV Bible than any other English-language translation and there are more than 300 million copies in print worldwide. Aside from being one of the most popular modern translations made in the twentieth century, it is arguably the most widely accepted contemporary Bible translation today among Christian leaders.
"The fact that thousands of people have come out to wait in line and contribute a verse, in some cases driving hundreds of miles to see us, is evidence of the impact the NIV Bible has had on their lives," commented Girkins, based on reports from the four-person team.
Until Feb. 12, when the tour concludes at the National Pastors Convention in San Diego, the traveling team will continue for about 7,000 more miles, reaching 50 more cities in a 42-foot RV donated by Michigan-based Spartan Motors.
After the tour's conclusion, the collection of handwritten verses – each written by 31,173 contributors on actual thin-stock Bible paper – will be published as a complete America's NIV Bible and sold in stores nationwide next year.
While most verses will be written by the average American, Zondervan hopes to collect a few from President Bush, the Rev. Billy Graham and others, according to The Associated Press.
The Grand Rapids, Mich.-based publisher plans to create two original editions, one of which will be offered to the Smithsonian Institution. The other edition will be auctioned off to benefit the International Bible Society, which owns the copyright to the NIV.
For the next month and a half, the tour will hit cities throughout the Bible belt before heading to the West.