|Shenandoah Journal June, 2006By Florence Barrett
DAYTON – Raymond Brunk, 64, knew at an early age he wanted to give the world the message of Jesus Christ. His Dayton ministry, Gospel Sunrise, is now in its 26th year, providing religious cassette tapes to truck stops and gospel tracts and Bibles to 65 countries — all on a budget made by donations.
“The only limitation we have now is financial,” Brunk said, adding the bank balance to date is $150. “As fast as it goes in, it goes out.”
Last Wednesday, Brunk piled 50-pound bags of boxed materials into a post office bin, ready to mail them to India. But there was no money for the $1,000 postage.
“That’s the way it always is. I always have mail waiting to go out,” Brunk said. “If money would come in this afternoon, it would go.”
The standard box contains approximately 2,000 tracts, one Bible and one New Testament.
With tons of mail going out each year, United States Postal Clerk Robert Ritchie said, “he’s our biggest mailer, undoubtedly.”
Brunk, the ministry’s board of directors and 12 volunteers, who work Monday evenings preparing the materials for shipment, operate on faith, believing that God will provide the necessary funds, not only for mailings, but also for the nonprofit organization’s equipment, cassettes and materials.
“We have three or four church groups that donate an annual offering,” Brunk said. “Most of our money comes from people on the poverty level. It’s a whole lot of $10 bills or $10 checks.”
Earlier in the ministry, they made requests to Christian foundations, Brunk said, but those organizations are bombarded with requests.
“We aren’t sponsored by anybody,” he said. “It’s entirely an independent ministry.”
The seeds for the ministry were planted when Brunk, originally from Harrisonburg, was a boy.
“I accepted the Lord at a tent meeting at [age] 10 and I wanted to start writing and getting the gospel out, but my parents said I was rather young and should wait awhile,” he said, smiling. A year or two later, Brunk assisted missionary Edith Showalter with her talks at Sunday night church meetings.
“What came out of that experience was to get the gospel out and be involved in other people’s lives/’ he said.
Gospel Sunrise got its start in March 1980 and was incorporated in December of that year. For 13 years, Brunk had owned and operated a tape recording service with the record label “Sunrise Recordings.”
While producing tapes for a Christian truck driver’s highway ministry, Brunk started making copies of sermons for distribution and wrote a tract for a special three-tape set recording.
The first tract published was a listing of 101 sayings of Jesus, Brunk said.
“My goal was to write a separate tract on each of the 101 [sayings! Work was so fast and the demand was so high, I wrote 20 and that was it.”
Writing tracts for prison ministries led to requests from Nigeria and South Africa. Now
the tracts are distributed throughout 31 African countries, Europe, India, Central and South America, the Pacific Islands and the Caribbean.
The 20 tracts, printed on pastel colored paper, have been translated into Spanish and Korean, among others.
“Some of these have been translated in 11 different languages,” Brunk said. “We’ve had one that’s been translated in Arabic … we have two in [the language of] Farsi, and that’s in Iran.”
Dayton resident Martha Shank has been active with the ministry since its early years.
“I don’t know how I got started, besides [Brunk] was a friend,” she said. “I was very much mission-minded.”
Serving as the ministry’s secretary, she sends a response to all requests, most of them from ministers asking for Bibles and reading materials.
“It’s not very often that I don’t have tears,” she said about reading of their hardships. “We send only gospel material.”
Shank receives between 25-” 50 requests weekly, a steep decline from the 500-700 letters received weekly in 1996.
“But now it’s slowly, slowly decreased because of the; tremendous cost of postage,” she said, noting the African countries’ dire economic conditions and civil wars.
For instance, Brunk said, in some African countries, an airmail stamp can cost the equivalent of wages for six weeks.
Shank sends a formal letter with a personal note and tracts, weighing up to 3 ounces.
“The response letter is sent so that they know immediately their letter came through,” she said, noting that they are told a shipment will be sent, which takes about three months to be delivered.
Closer to home, Gospel Sunrise distributes religious cassette tapes to Interstate 81 truck stops from Lexington to Tom’s Brook.
“The tapes are largely testimonies, sermons and music,” Brunk said. “We put out two to 3,000 tapes a week.”
Brunk works with David and Lois Knight, making copies of tapes on recycled cassettes.
“We duplicate tapes and put them in baskets in truck stops up and down 81,” David said. Tapes are also available at the Thomas House in Dayton, the Salvation Army in Harrisonburg and the Bridgewater Laundromat.
The Knights have been volunteering with Gospel Sunrise for eight years, David said, because, “It’s a great outreach. It goes out all over the world. There’s a great need.”
Although ministry distribution totals through 2005 were more than 36.5 million tracts and 1.5 million cassette tapes and postage costs were $426,731, there are still more requests than Gospel Sunrise can fill, Brunk said.
“In 26 years, we feel we have filled less than 10 percent of the requests for our materials.”