A woman looks at the free book she just received from a book dispenser stand created by the local Adventist Church in Santa Tecla in El Salvador, Nov. 7, 2019. The initiative was part of a community outreach that drew hundreds of onlookers at the main plaza in efforts to to spread hope through bibles, devotionals and magazines as well as point to the nearest Adventist congregation. Photo: Fabricio Rivera

December 16, 2019 | San Salvador, El Salvador | Fabricio Rivera/IAD News Staff

Azucena Quintanilla wanted to make a difference in her local Seventh-day Adventist Church. She wanted to engage more members in spreading hope in the community of Santa Tecla, a municipal district in La Libertad in San Salvador, El Salvador. Quintanilla, 21, wanted to have a free Adventist book dispenser placed in the middle of the town’s main park. It was as simple as anyone pressing a button for a free book or magazine. She brought her idea to the church board and the members so they could bring their new and good-as-new books and devotionals so they could share with anyone who wanted a free book.

Books and missionary magazines were collected and dispensed from a specially-made stand complete with a button, lights, sounds, and sign.

Azucena Quintanilla, 21, speaks about the initiative that she as communication director at her local church in Santa Tecla led the members to take part in the outreach book dispenser activity last month. Photo: Fabricio Rivera

“The dispenser cost us just $40 dollars to build from materials recycled from a wooden airplane that was used during one of our vacation bible schools events,” said Quintanilla. A church member helped build it and another member, an electrician, worked on the button and lighting.

Church leaders spoke with the municipal leaders about the idea and arrangements were made to make the book dispenser available for three Saturday evenings on Nov. 16, 23, and 30. “The idea sparked so much interest among municipal leaders that they approved those three days for the activity,” local church organizers said.

Each magazine or book had a note with a positive message, the logo of the church, social media contacts and an invitation to visit the nearest Seventh-day Adventist Church.

A man collects a free book from the church’s new book dispenser during one of three Saturday scheduled times at the main plaza in Santa Tecla last month. Photo: Fabricio Rivera

“It caused such a stir at the park,” said Quintanilla. “Many people were so curious to press the button and get a free book, or a bible, or whatever came out.”

“I think this was a new way of getting people’s attention, similar to a vending machine,” said Carlos Hernandez, an onlooker that got a free Bible. “I love to read. I will see how this version of the Bible is and will come back next Saturday to see what I can get.”

The dispenser was scheduled to be available from 6:00 to 8:00 pm, but by 7:30 all the books and magazines had been given away, said Quintanilla.

A man receives a book after pressing the button on the book dispenser. Each person who received a free book or magazine also received a small card with a message of hope, the logo of the church and invitation to visit the church. Photo: Fabricio Rivera

A total of 50 bibles, 570 Adventist books and more than 400 magazines were given out for free through the special initiative.

Quintanilla was overjoyed with the results, and thanked church members who got involved in the project to spread the hope of the gospel in an innovative way. Quintanilla said she was challenged during a recent Adventist communication congress to think of innovative ways of getting more members involved in connecting with the community.

Azucena Quintanilla (left) stands with her fellow church members that assisted in the book dispenser outreach initiative. Photo: Fabricio Rivera

Plans are for additional free book dispenser activities throughout different towns and communities in the coming months.

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