Among the many people we should all thank for this magazine you are currently reading, let’s be sure to include the Church’s Mail Processing Department! For the past two decades that department has been captained by the ever-jovial Mr. Gaylyn Bonjour, who graciously agreed to an interview. He first related some of his background, happily recalling the details of his conversion.
“My son was ten,” he said, “and I told my wife, Leona, ‘You need to go find a church so he can learn respect!’ Actually, what my son was doing was being like his father!
“I had a guy working for me who was in the Worldwide Church of God. One day, he said, ‘Leona, would you like to come to church?’ She said, ‘Yeah!’ She went, came back, and said, ‘This church is really different!’ I replied, ‘God is for kids and little old ladies. I run a ranch—I don’t have time for that.’ She kept saying, ‘You really ought to come,’ and she talked me into going. I put on a white shirt and tie, and I had a pack of Lucky Strikes [cigarettes] in my pocket,” Mr. Bonjour said with a chuckle. “The people were well-behaved, and I could see that they were taking notes and listening. They had beat-up Bibles, and I thought to myself, ‘They actually use their Bibles!’ I just went that one time, and Leona said later, ‘You need to come to church.’ I said, ‘Do they have any literature? Bring some home, and I’ll show you where they’re wrong.’”
With a flourish, Mr. Bonjour continued, “And here I am! I proved to myself from the Bible that the Sabbath was right, not Sunday. Line upon line, precept upon precept, learning a little here and a little there. I thought, ‘Now I know the truth—what am I gonna do with it? I’ve got to quit smoking, cussing, all that stuff.’ That was the start.
“I told the leaders, ‘I need to be baptized,’” Mr. Bonjour recalled. “They went, ‘What makes you think you’re ready for baptism?’ I reached into a desk drawer and I pulled out a pack of cigarettes. I said, ‘These have been in there a month. I haven’t smoked in a month.’ And they got smiles on their faces. Just before Passover in ’82, my wife and I were baptized.”
After a quick mental calculation, Mr. Bonjour said gratefully, “I was 37 years in the world, and now I’m 39 years in the truth. I wouldn’t change anything. All of the bad things I went through before coming into the truth were the things that made me repent. I just thought, ‘I need to look inwardly. I need to work out my own salvation.’ That’s what I’ve been doing.”
Keeping MPD Going
And how did he begin working in the Mail Processing Department? “When the Living Church of God split from Global in 1998,” Mr. Bonjour began, “all of MPD stayed with Global. The Church put out a message saying, ‘We need help in MPD!’ I sent it to two guys from my congregation—they said no. I decided to throw my hat in the ring. I was asked, ‘Are you willing to relocate?’ and I said ‘Yeah, I am.’ So, I sent my resume in and was hired.”
As it turned out, it was an ideal time to relocate. “From the time I was baptized, I had been in Fresno, California,” Mr. Bonjour explained, “and you only have so much to give as a pastor before people know what you’re going to say. I went to headquarters, and they put me on a 90-day trial. When the previous head of MPD left, they said, ‘Can you keep MPD going?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I reckon I can.’ And I made a few mistakes. If I messed up, I would find out how much it cost, and then to cover it, I would make an offering above what I would normally make. When it comes out of your pocket, you start being more careful!”
Reflecting a bit, he continued, “That taught me that to run MPD you don’t have to be a rocket scientist, but you do have to pay attention to detail and stay current. Acclimating takes about two years, because in two years, almost everything has changed, but you’ve been there as it changed, so it’s natural for you. That’s how I inherited MPD, and I’ve been in it for 20 years.”
Being Careful with God’s Money
One of the vital ways MPD helps the Church is in keeping up with postal rules and regulations. “We qualify for a bulk mail rate—the average cost of a piece of mail leaving here is 18 cents,” Mr. Bonjour explained. “Otherwise, it would be a minimum of 50 cents. So, the money that we don’t spend on postage goes toward other purposes—that’s the impact that we have. Minimally, MPD probably saves the Work about half a million dollars a year.”
Obviously, that takes focused and diligent effort. “We try to be good stewards of the resources that God sends our way, cognizant of the widow’s mite,” he said. “So we stay on the cutting edge. On our Mailer Scorecard, we’ve never had to pay extra postage—we make very few mistakes.”
Such efficiency requires an understanding of federal requirements, which fluctuate all the time. “The post office changes a lot,” Mr. Bonjour revealed. “When they implemented the Intelligent Mail Barcode, we were on top of that. Then we learned how we could get around the National Change of Address (NCOA), which is an antiquated system that has a minimum of 40 percent error—four out of ten addresses they have are incorrect.
“We found that by studying the rules, we can avoid the built-in pitfalls the NCOA has,” he said. “We do that by sending a magazine every 60 days—if you have an address that you don’t service within 95 days, it has to go through NCOA. Since we don’t upload through NCOA, they don’t have a chance to mess with our database. We upload it, it goes through our regular process, and we end up with good addresses.”
Mr. Bonjour explained that, although it sounds simple, this workaround saves the Church serious money. “When the NCOA would make mistakes, the address change service would take the mistakes and send them back to us, saying, ‘There’s something wrong with this address.’ That costs you.” He went on to explain just how much it can cost—even tens of thousands of dollars every year! But the effort MPD pours into the process prevents such expenses from burdening the Work, keeping them in the realm of a few hundred dollars a year. “The database is clean and efficient!”
Efficient indeed! For such a crucial department, MPD has only a handful of workers, so everything each one does is essential. “For our size, we’re cutting edge,” Mr. Bonjour said. “We had a vendor come to us and say, ‘We want to handle your mail for you. We’ll presort it and save you money.’ They went through 47,000 pieces—they made $50. They found that there’s no fat. We’re as efficient as we can be, and that’s pleasing to all of us. The money that those working in MPD are saving doesn’t only pay their wages, it far exceeds that—for the benefit of the Church.”
Don’t Give Up!
Such important work isn’t easy—physically or spiritually. Dealing with the huge volume of mail, the complicated equipment in MPD, and other fulfillment issues requires a lot of patience, persistence, and problem-solving.
Mr. Bonjour was candid about that. “Working here is filled with little character-builders and big ones,” he said. “There can be frustrations that build up, but those exist in every person’s life. How do you learn to be long-suffering? Well, you’ve got to suffer a long time—you’ve got to deal with problems.”
Nevertheless, the job’s benefits far outweigh its frustrations. “In most places, it’s a job—here, it’s for God.” If the first mailing to someone doesn’t succeed, Mr. Bonjour says they don’t give up. “We’ll first-class mail it to the individual—even if it’s just a semi-annual letter or a TWP invite. We don’t know if they will want it, but we’re going to try to get it to them. You never know who might be impacted by that item. It’s rewarding to know that what you’re doing is for God and His people, and to work around those who are like-minded!”
Mr. Bonjour’s enthusiasm for the Work is shared by his staff—a team he likened to close family.
God Grants the Increase
MPD is keenly aware that without the brethren’s support, none of this would be possible. Mr. Bonjour remarked that “I say at the Feast of Tabernacles, ‘At headquarters, we know that you pray for us. We can’t do it without you. But you don’t know that every morning in MPD, we pray for you. We pray for the scattered brethren, we pray for healing in the Church, and we pray that God continues to bolster those who don’t have the opportunity to be with other brethren more than once or twice a year.’”
As hard as MPD works, “God’s got the accelerator and the brake,” Mr. Bonjour said confidently. “In our biggest year, we sent 1.6 million pieces out—but our department has never converted one person. God does that. He says to preach the Gospel to the world as a witness, and then He opens certain minds. So, in one way, He’s given us something to keep us busy. He says, ‘I am with you until the end of the age. Stay occupied until I come back.’ So that’s what we’re doing!”
We at the Living Church News are grateful for Mr. Bonjour’s willingness to sit down with us and for all he and his team in MPD do for God’s Church!