As the Bible with a bullet in it heads off to Gallipoli, an exhibition is about to be launched in Sydney and Melbourne honouring the memory of ten brave men and their Bibles.
Their Sacrifice is a national touring exhibition and the flagship event of Bible Society’s year-long campaign, which also includes a book and a documentary.
The documentary, The Bullet in the Bible, is about a small New Testament that saved the life of World War I digger Elvas Jenkins at Gallipoli.
Bible Society’s Dr John Harris this week gave the special Bible to Regimental Sergeant Major Paul Richardson, who is taking it back to Gallipoli to be part of ceremonies commemorating the centenary of Anzac Day on April 25.
This little Bible was carried in Jenkins’ breast pocket and saved him from a bullet at Gallipoli. Richardson will liaise with ADF chaplains to work out exactly where Jenkins was when he was shot in the Bible and they will hold a little ceremony there which will most likely be filmed by several television channels.
Among those watching from Australia will be Geoff Cannings, who made a special box for the Bible at the request of his friend, Dr Harris.
“I said ‘Yes, I can make a box’,” recalls Cannings, who works with wood as a hobby. “But I didn’t know it was going to be bigger than Ben-Hur, what with a film crew and using Lone Pine wood.”
Dr Harris knew that a storm had struck off a branch of the tree at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra which was grown from a sapling from pine cone from the Lone Pine tree at Gallipoli. So he asked to have it for the Jenkins Bible.
“There was barely enough for the box, so I couldn’t afford to make a mistake,” says Cannings. Knowing he only had one shot at it, Cannings first made a concept box and then three prototypes before cutting the real thing.
He cut the lid during the shooting of a documentary made for Bible Society’s Their Sacrifice campaign, called The Bullet in the Bible. “I was nervous. There was the double pressure of getting the cut right, and doing it correctly on camera.”
After the shoot Canning had the satisfaction of seeing the Bible placed in its new home for the first time. He says he was thinking, “I hope it fits” but his pleasure was clear to see. “I wanted to do a good job because of the scope of the story.”
“Certainly, it’s a story that captures the imagination,” says Dr Harris. “… this young Christian going to war, and giving his all. His whole story underlines for us that he made the final sacrifice, and his life in the ultimate sense is preserved in the hands of God. That’s why we feel so able to tell the story, because we know that Elvas Jenkins believed absolutely the words of the Bible, and we know that what it said was more important to him than the physical volume.”
Throughout 2015, Their Sacrifice is sharing stories of the brave who served Australia in war and of the Bibles that sustained them during the darkest times. The exhibition is being launched in Sydney and Melbourne on April 20. The Bible with a bullet in it will be on show with the other Bibles after its return from Gallipoli on April 28. The Bibles are then being taken a road tour as part of the exhibition. For more details, visit theirsacrifice.com/tours