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Planting a seed

William Day holds a group of his Gideon Bibles
William Day of Woodstock holds a group of his Gideon Bibles that he gives away at his family's Creekside Campground in Edinburg. Day, 72, sells Mennonite jelly and uses the profits to buy the Bibles. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

Man's jelly sales help spread Scripture

By Preston Knight -- pknight@nvdaily.com

EDINBURG -- The Lord called William Day through a jar of rhubarb jelly.

At the Creekside Campground, owned by the Day family, the sight of jelly is as prominent as that of campers. Strawberry, blueberry, peach -- even a hot pepper jelly is present at times -- available for $5 a pint.

What comes after that transaction matters most to Day. The son and grandson of Brethren ministers with a combined 100 years of preaching, he has made his own ministry not so much by word but by jelly -- every penny he has earned from selling the various products in the last six years has gone toward the purchase of Bibles, which he hands out to visitors when he feels called to do so.

"The main reason I do it is I plant a seed and the Lord has to water it and bring in the increase," said Day, 72. "And he does."

Day and his son bought the campground in 1997, a year after it flooded and the owner at the time chose to sell it instead of piece it back together. About six years ago, jelly started camping out there.

Day, a lifelong Woodstock area resident, visited the Columbia Furnace Union Church one day and heard the speaker challenge the congregation about what its members could do for $20 for the Lord. He wasn't sure how to answer. Then he went to a yard sale in West Virginia and found one.

There, Day, a big rhubarb fan, bought a jar of rhubarb jelly from Grandma's Jam House, operated by a Mennonite woman in Bittinger, Md. His mind clicked -- he could try to sell the jelly to, in turn, buy Bibles for tourists. Day called an 800-number on the jar and was later sent two cases of jelly.

"We're just tickled as far as having it put to use like that," Grandma's owner Urie Kanagy said of Day's ministry.

His mother-in-law, Mattie Yoder, is "Grandma," and she started the business with Kanagy in 1995, he said. The company, which includes Kanagy's four sons, ships its products as far away as England.

Day originally traveled to Maryland to get his jam, making a weekend out of it. Grandma's now delivers cases to the campground once per year, and the jelly's impact goes far beyond soothing the taste buds.

Day said just three weeks ago a couple coming through en route to Nevada to visit their dying son arrived late looking for a spot to stay. He had no room, but someone canceled while the couple was there.

"I felt bad for them," Day said. "I took a Bible down. They both wept. They took the Bible and I prayed with them, and the next morning they was on their way. It's a good feeling to help people."

He wants no credit or reward for what he does. Day simply believes he has found his calling.

"I plant a seed," he said. "That's my job."

It's not an entirely new concept to him, as he has been handing out Bibles as a member of Gideons International for 42 years. Day donates any leftover jelly money to the Gideons.

His campground ministry, though, is independent from Gideons, and it stands out for how far-reaching it is. Day typically orders 500 Bibles, but bought 600 this year. People from around the country, and some outside of it, have been recipients.

"I don't push them on nobody," Day said. "I've never had one that didn't accept it."

Creekside often has campfires as early as 6 a.m. Visitors like to talk then, Day said, and it's during those times in particular he gives out a lot of Scripture. He talks. They listen. There's jelly, too.

"The economy's down but the Bibles is up," Day said, "and I hope when I'm gone they continue on doing it."


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