Rev. Mark Fuerenstau, center, was assisted by Mark Barnett, Justice West and Rev. DJ Fuerenstau during
the consecration of the bookmobile. (Putnam Sentinel/Nancy Kline)
Rev. Mark Fuerenstau, center, was assisted by Mark Barnett, Justice West and Rev. DJ Fuerenstau during the consecration of the bookmobile. (Putnam Sentinel/Nancy Kline)
OTTAWA — Ten large boxes of books from the Trinity United Methodist Summer Reads program will have a new home beginning this week.

Since the church no longer does the program, they were looking for something to do with the books. The answer came when they heard about a special bookmobile mission underway at two churches in Hancock County.

Pleasant View United Methodist Church, rural Bluffton and Mt. Cory United Methodist, Mt. Cory, have been working together for a year and a half to renovate, add shelves and stock with books for a bookmobile to take to White Oak, Tennessee, an Appalachia area serviced by Henderson Settlement.

Henderson Settlement is a settlement, which now has a farm, and multiple ministries to employ and serve residents in this pocket of Appalachia.

It was during a visit to Henderson Settlement in 2013 that Rev. Mark Fuerstenau, current pastor of the two Hancock County churches, and his mission team were in the settlement library. Rev. Fuerstenau was serving as pastor of Kossuth Zion United Methodist Church in Spencerville, Ohio. In August, he and a team representing two Ohio churches drove down to serve needy families in White Oak, located in Campbell County, Tennessee/

“While we were standing in the library the director of Henderson Settlement said he would like to have a facility like that in White Oak,” Rev. Fuerenstau said, “But added that they didn’t have a building to put a library in.”

Rev. Fuerenstau said this is when he had an epiphany experience.

“Suddenly the idea of a bookmobile popped into my head,” he said. “If they don’t have a building what about taking the books to the people.”

One person along on the mission trip suggested an old delivery van she had stored by her barn.

“I was all excited,” Rev. Fuerenstau said. “But after that was checked we were told by a person at one of DJ’s churches that the van was not repairable.

Rev. Fuerenstau put the idea of a bookmobile for the White Oak area on a back burner

.”I knew if the time was right God would let me know.”

Then about a year and a half ago he was traveling through Delphos when he noticed that Trinity United Methodist Church had their church bus up for sale. The pastor called Doug Ditto, the church trustee, to inquirer about the bus.

He was told the church was accepting bids on the bus and urged him to put a bid in if he was interested.

Ditto also told Rev. Fuerenstau to call Juergen Waldick,, to find out the condition of the bus. Waldick serves as Allen County Prosecutor.

“I called, but didn’t get a hold of him,” Rev. Fuerenstau said. “So I called his wife’s number and left a message.”

The church trustees were going to make their decision on a Monday night. Rev. Fuerstenau received a call from Waldick before the trustee meeting.

“He said I can tell you if you put a battery in it it will take off. He said it was in good shape.”

Rev. Fuerenstau told Waldick that at that time he didn’t have any money to put towards the bus. Waldick asked what the bus would be used for.

Both Ditto and Waldick liked the idea that the bus would be used for a bookmobile mission.

“I’d rather see the bus used for this than as a party bus,” Waldick told Rev. Fuerenstau but he did not know what the trustees would decide.

“I was on pins and needles that night,” Rev. Fuerenstau said. At 10:30 p.m. he received a call from Ditto. He was told the trustees had decided to donate the bus to the two churches to have it transformed into a bookmobile.

The churches had Knippen Chrysler in Delphos check the bus and find out what work it needed before it would be transported to Hancock County.

The work, including new radiator and battery, was completed by Knippen Chrysler at a reduced cost.

“They did all the work and called a week later,” Rev. Fuerenstau said. He and Pleasant View member John Hattery went over to pick up the bus and bring it back to Mt. Cory.

“We just kept seeing God’s hand in this project,” the pastor said. A member of Pleasant View, Don Doty, offered an inside space to do the work.

While work was being done inside the bus to remove the seats, research was being done to find someone who built shelving for bookmobiles.

Doty found a place in Florida who did special bookmobile shelving.

“I called the company but didn’t hear back,” the pastor said. “So I figured that was a dead end and started looking for other options.”

About three weeks after leaving the message the owner of the company called. He apologized for the time it had taken to call back, explaining he had been on a one month cruise.

When Rev. Fuerenstau told him what the churches were doing the owner asked if they were fussy about color.

“I told him no, and that we were not on a big budget,” Rev. Fuerenstau said. It turned out the owner of the business was also a United Methodist member and worked out a special deal on the shelving and brackets for the bookmobile. He explained that he always made extra shelving for orders in case something went wrong and had extra shelving in his warehouse.

The normal retail price for the shelves would have been $9,000, but the church was able to get their shelving for $4,000. It also turned out it was delivered to the church from Florida for only $350 because another delivery was being made to Columbus and these shelves fit on the truck.

The pastor said many people from both churches put many hours into the bookmobile.

“Then we had books coming from everywhere,” he said. Members of his former church in Middlepoint donated books. Members of his wife’s former church in Elida donated books. The Ottawa Trinity United Methodist Church donated their ten boxes. Bluffton School and Bluffton library also donated books.

“We were getting calls from everywhere of people saying they had books if we needed them,” the pastor said. The bookmobile would not hold all the donated books so it was decided to rent a box trailer to take down additional books to be stored and rotated for use in the bookmobile.

On Sunday, July 10, a special consecration service was held at both churches to bless the bookmobile. The trailer and bookmobile left on their journey Monday to White Oaks Tennessee.

“This is a place that has about 50 percent unemployment,” Rev. Fuerenstau said. He said the county library has agreed to hire and provide a driver for the bookmobile.

“I’m not sure what county that is in but it’s nice to think the bookmobile is going to provide someone a job,” Rev. Fuerenstau said. Both churches will provide funds for the ongoing expenses of the bookmobile.