The Pocket Testament League began in 1893, led by a 12-year old girl. One night, at a meeting, she gave her life to Jesus. She was so excited she went to school and told her best friend that she, last night, had become a Christian!
Her best friend said, “I’m a Christian, I go to church.” Helen is said to have responded, “I don’t think going to church makes you a Christian.” She must have said it with kindness. The next day Helen brought her Bible to school, and the two of them read it. Helen’s friend read a little more at home and prayed to receive Jesus.
The two of them set out to invite everyone in their school to read the Bible with them. 80 students accepted Jesus into their hearts.
Shown above is the original membership card used by Helen Cadbury and her friends as a symbol of their commitment to Read, Carry and Share the Word of God.
That Helen, our Helen, was Helen Cadbury, daughter of the president of Cadbury Chocolates. She was so excited about how powerful God’s Word was that she organized a group of girls who sewed pockets onto their dresses to carry the small New Testaments her father had provided. The girls called their group “The Pocket Testament League.” Using small membership cards, they pledged to read a portion of the Bible every day, pray, and to share their faith as God provided opportunity.
That same vision still drives the ministry today. Through its many years, the ministry has enjoyed tremendous moments of victory in reaching people for Christ.
The Early 1900s
In 1904, Helen married evangelist Charles Alexander, who officially organized The League with Dr. J. Wilbur Chapman in Philadelphia, PA in March 1908. Alexander had been associated with the prominent evangelist Dwight L. Moody. His experience in worldwide evangelism gave huge impetus to The League.
In 1914, The Pocket Testament League opened an office in London, and began sharing Gospels as part of its WWI outreach. In October of that year, an evangelism campaign gave out 400,000 New Testaments to soldiers on Salisbury Plain.
Throughout the roaring twenties, Members of The Pocket Testament League formed teams of ministry workers in factories and offices, sharing Christ with their co-workers by handing out Gospels and organizing Bible Studies. During the bleak period of the 1930’s known as the Great Depression, Members of The League shared Gospels through the Civilian Conservation Corps in the South and throughout New England. The Corps was a government-organized effort to put jobless men to work on public projects.
Growth through the war years
As WW2 roared across Europe, its impact was felt by The League. On December 29, 1941 The League’s International Headquarters in Birmingham, England was destroyed by bombs. Throughout the war, League teams visited military camps around the US sharing special editions of the New Testament.
From humble beginnings, The League has brought the truth of God’s Word to millions for more than 100 years.
As the war came to a close, The League extended its reach overseas. After a year of careful planning and prayer, an overseas Scripture sharing effort was launched in China using a special Chinese edition of the Gospel of John. A few years later, The League began providing Gospels and New Testaments to Formosa and Japan. General MacArthur asked The League for 10 million copies of God’s Word. Members of The Pocket Testament League actually contributed a stunning 11 million Gospels to the nation of Japan through gracious giving and prayer. This is especially remarkable because Gospels in those days were considerably more expensive than they are today, and Members paid for them.
As a result of these Gospels shared in Japan, Captain Mitsuo Fuchida, who had once led the attack on Pearl Harbor, accepted Christ as his Savior. He even worked for The League! Scriptures were also shared in South Korea after the Korean War. Syngman Rhee, president of the Republic of Korea, said “realizing the power of the inspired Word of God as I do, I eagerly welcome the plan of The Pocket Testament League to distribute millions of copies of the Holy Scriptures in our country.”
President Dwight D. Eisenhower knew the importance of sharing God’s Word. He said “In the highest sense the Bible is…the ultimate and indispensable source of inspiration for America’s life in freedom.” He publicly acknowledged the efforts of The League, saying that “The Pocket Testament League, and all others engaged in distributing the Bible, have dedicated themselves to a noble work.”
The Cold War and Vietnam years
During the 1950’s, The League’s foreign secretary, a man named Glenn Wagner, traveled extensively to encourage leaders to bring their people back to the Bible. Through his influence, many initiatives were developed around the world, and many people came to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ by reading God’s Word. In Africa alone, more than 5 million Gospels were shared in a number of languages during the 1950’s. In 1962, at the height of the Cold War, a youth outreach initiative shared the Gospel in communist areas through 18,000 young people from 137 countries. By the time the cold war ended in 1988, The League had managed to get 100,000 Gospels of John and 15,000 Russian-language Bibles into the Soviet Union.
A radio show called “News in a Different Dimension” featuring Victor Beattie aired in 1963, bringing awareness of The League through 200 radio stations reaching 39 states and 15 foreign countries. Reporting news of “spiritual significance,” Beattie would often deliver on-the-scene action accounts of League activities.
Billy Graham was a great encouragement to The League, commenting that “I am completely sold on the work of The Pocket Testament League, and continue to pray for those associated with it.”
During the Vietnam War, two and a half million Gospels were shared with servicemen and Vietnamese. Bi-centennial Gospels were shared with all the members of Congress in 1976. Hundreds of thousands of special Olympic covers were shared at a number of Olympic games.
In 1969, Helen Cadbury Alexander went to be with the Lord, but The League and its Members continue sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with enthusiasm. Since its founding through 2018, millions of League Members have invited 130 million people to meet Jesus Christ using a Gospel of John. All because one brave young woman had a vision to bring God’s Word to the lost souls around her. She had said,
“If only we could get people to read the Book for themselves it will surely lead them to Christ.” —Helen Cadbury
What about you? Would you like to join this exciting movement and continue the legacy begun by Helen Cadbury? All it takes is a desire to share your faith. We can help. Join the movement today!
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