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By Mary Porter

My husband, Donald (Dean) Porter, pastor of New Beginnings Church of the Open Bible in Stuart, Iowa, first heard about the Iowa 99 County Bible Reading Marathon on January 25, 2016, when he was seated beside Ginny Caligiuri at a dinner in Des Moines. Ginny is the state director for the Iowa Prayer Caucus, the state leader for the National Governors’ Prayer Team, and the state director for the U.S. National Prayer Council. She and the Iowa Prayer Caucus had just finished a reading of the entire Bible in the Iowa Capitol rotunda before the 2016 Legislative Session gaveled to order.

On the last day of the reading, the Lord laid on Ginny’s heart to expand the opportunity to read the Bible aloud to the 99 counties of Iowa leading up to July 4. So Ginny and the Iowa Prayer Caucus organized a Bible reading in front of Iowa’s courthouses.

Ginny said, “I believe it will set captives free, break bondages, and bring healing to our state and nation. That is what the Word does. It changes the atmosphere and miracles happen!”

Governor Branstad signing the proclamation

Governor Branstad signing the proclamation

On April 26, Governor Terry Branstad signed the 99 County Bible Reading Marathon Proclamation, encouraging Iowans to participate in this historic occasion. Citizens from all 99 counties were invited to participate during the last week of June through July 3 to verbally read through the entire Bible near their local courthouse.

Approximately half of Iowa’s counties participated June 30-July 3. With a Men of Vision missions trip to Papua New Guinea scheduled, Dean was unable to lead the plans for Guthrie County for that time period, but God had another plan for the county. On August 20, Dean was contacted to assist with the marathon part two, set for September 8-11.

With seventeen days to plan, we made phone calls and sent emails to other ministers and potentially interested people in Guthrie County, including the Christian Motorcyclist Association, Walk to Emmaus participants, and groups who participated in the Guthrie County Southern Gospel Sing. Announcements were made at senior meal sites and Bible study groups. The opportunity also spread by word of mouth, with individuals calling up friends and saying, “Let’s do this.” Media picked up on the plans and began to share it with the Guthrie County communities.

On the Sunday night before the event, Dean and I were feeling a little discouraged and frustrated as we looked at the time slots that weren’t filled. Then Dean felt the Lord speak to him, saying: “If you are worried about it being successful, then you’re trying to do it yourself. Step back and let God do it.”

We made plans to have four reading stations going simultaneously: one for the New Testament, two for the Old Testament, and one for Psalms through the Song of Solomon and the book of Revelation. Originally the reading time was set to start at 8:00 a.m. However, one gentleman from the Greenfield area volunteered to read for a half hour beginning at 5:00 a.m. on his way to work. So Dean changed the schedule, and at 5:00 a.m. all four stations were full.


By the end of the day every slot had been filled with 48 individuals. Our oldest participant was 93. Everyone was so thankful for the opportunity to participate. One lady told me she saw herself in the Scripture. Another man told me, “I need to read out loud more often. I got more out of my reading than I usually do.”

The reading of the whole Bible from Genesis to Revelation finished at exactly 10:00 p.m., seventeen hours after it had begun. Despite a forecast of higher temperatures and probable rain, God, who gave the vision, was in charge of weather. At one point during the day the sheriff asked Dean, “What are you going to do when it rains?” Dean looked at him and said, “It’s not going to.”

In the end we couldn’t have asked for a better day (weather wise) to speak God’s Word into the atmosphere. When we read God’s Word aloud, especially in a public place, we are bringing God into our lives and into the circumstances we often feel He has been pushed out of. What better way to change the world than through His own spoken Word. After all, that is what Jesus used when He was tempted.

As my husband said, “Anyone could do this, even without a degree or title. It’s just a matter of getting out and doing something for our Lord in our part of the world.”

Mary-PorterMary Porter is a Gospel ventriloquist (with Suzi Q). She serves alongside her husband, Don (Dean) Porter, at New Beginnings Open Bible church in Stuart, Iowa.

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