Two Southern Exchange Volunteers Working to Put Good (Free) Books in Student Hands
If there’s one attribute that seems to be universal among SBTS students it is a love for reading and a passion for good books.
For those in ministry, it’s doubly important to be given to reading, for God has revealed himself in a book and studying it is fundamental to the minister’s calling.
Two longtime volunteers have been working tirelessly behind the scenes these past few months to put more good books into the hands of seminary students free of charge through The Southern Exchange. The Southern Exchange serves students and student families through the distribution of free used clothing, shoes, household goods, furniture, and good books.
Glen Hedgspeth and Marvin St. John have spent countless hours this year organizing the book room at the Exchange, giving students access to hundreds of titles on myriad topics.
“Our book room was a big mess,” said Mary Mohler, who oversees the Exchange. “We desperately needed help weeding out old and unhelpful books so that newly donated ones could be sorted through and added to the shelves.
“Nancy St. John and Becky Hedgspeth work together at the Southern Exchange on Tuesdays so they mentioned the need to their husbands who contacted me to see how they could help. They jumped in and worked for many hours over many weeks while no one else was there. They updated the list of topics and went through every book on all the shelves and then added newly donated books that had been piling up for months.
“It is now a joy for our students to shop there (for free) and find helpful resources. During the pandemic, students must shop by appointment only. I have seen a few guys come and spend their entire appointment time in the book room. They are grateful!”
Hedgspeth, a Louisville native, is retired from the insurance business, after more than 35 years in the profession. In 1988, he became part owner of the insurance firm Hayes, Utley, and Hedgspeth and sold that business six years ago. Hedgspeth has walked with the Lord for many years and has been a member of Southeast Christian Church since its inception, serving in numerous roles including elder, deacon, choir member, Sunday school teacher and several others.
Glen’s wife, Becky, has worked for several years in The Exchange. They’ve been married for 44 years, have two children and five grandchildren.
Glen began volunteering at SBTS 16 years ago after meeting President Albert Mohler at an event at Southeast Christian. He was immediately drawn to the seminary after learning of its commitment to sound doctrine and the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture. He has also been a member of the Southern Seminary Foundation for 15 years and currently serves as vice chairman of the board of directors.
“First of all, we love the school because of its commitment to biblical inerrancy,” Hedgspeth said. “Secondly, the mission to educate/train and send vocational ministers to preach the gospel, and thirdly, we love Dr. and Mrs. Mohler. The faculty and staff there are some of the best people I know and am proud to be a part of this ministry.
“We’ve also had the privilege of meeting numerous students and their families. We really enjoy having them come to our home for a meal and some fellowship. I just can’t think of a better ministry to give of my time, talents and treasure.”
Marvin St. John
St. John has been involved with SBTS for the past decade. A native of Kankakee, Illinois, he moved to Louisville in 1980 and is retired after working many years as a physical therapist. St. John and his wife, Nancy, have been part of Southeast Christian Church for 30 years and have been married for 55. They have one son.
St. John has been auditing classes at SBTS for the past eight years and has completed 15 in numerous areas of biblical and theological studies.
“In our current society it’s almost impossible to find truth,” he said. “Our mass media slants all news to their point of view, not truth. SBTS is the only place I know where truth is practiced and Christ is exalted.”
St. John and his wife have served many students over the years, providing financial help with tuition, books, clothing, and more. St. John is also a major contributor to the seminary’s annual golf tournament, the Heritage Golf Classic.
Labor of Love
Turning the book stall into a highly useful resource has been a labor of love for them both.
“There are secrets on our campus but maybe none as secret as the books at Southern Exchange,” St. John said.
“There are hundreds of great books free for the taking on numerous topics. Mrs. Mohler informed Glen and I how the books over the years had gotten disorganized. Glen and I knew this project was going to be a challenge to literally look at every book and place it in its proper place. It turned out to be an endurance run. Due to health reasons, we had to cease for a while but there is still a little more to finish completely. Hopefully we’ll begin the finishing touches in January.”
The books available represent a wide variety of genres ranging from Bibles to novels, science fiction works, home school curriculum, theology, devotionals, Bible studies, counseling, missions, children’s books, language books, and much more.
Mary Mohler says these and other volunteers provide immeasurable service to the Southern Seminary community—service that is largely unseen and unsung.
“These retired gentlemen lead active lives and could invest their time doing many other things,” she said. “Yet they choose to serve the students of Southern Seminary and Boyce College in this behind the scenes way while seeking no recognition.
“We are blessed to have a team of weekly volunteers, like Marvin and Glen’s wives, who make this ministry possible. Their work is such an encouragement to us as they roll up their sleeves and happily serve our students and their families. We are truly blessed by their sacrificial efforts.”
To volunteer for The Southern Exchange, fill out a volunteer interest form.