Sacramento minister ‘praying for a miracle’ after accidentally donating heirloom family Bible

Pamela Anderson stands behind her father, Fred McNally
Pamela Anderson stands behind her father, Fred McNally Pamela Anderson

When Pamela Anderson donated her old belongings to a local Goodwill several months ago, she didn’t know that among the things she was discarding was a Bible passed down in her family for generations, dating back possibly to the 1600s.

Last week, while her father was entering his second week of hospice care, the Sacramento minister realized that she had lost a family treasure and began scrambling to find it, in an attempt to lessen the imminent loss that she feels approaching as each day passes.

“It’s too much loss,” she said, seeing her father in hospice care daily.

After hurrying to multiple Sacramento-area Goodwill stores to check whether the Bible was shipped around, even arriving accidentally at a Goodwill headquarters office, she is still keen to find the Bible. On Tuesday, she posted on her Facebook page asking friends to help her.

“I am praying for a miracle,” she wrote.

The recent history of the family Bible traces back to Anderson’s great-grandparents, who immigrated to Chicago from Copenhagen, according to Anderson’s older sister Karen McNally.

McNally, who now works as a pilot, said her great-grandparents gave the Bible to her father while he was in his 20s. Her father was an Air Force pilot who served in Vietnam.

The elder daughter got attached to the Bible when she was young, she said. To this day, she can describe the Bible in vivid detail.

“It’s not a standard size. It’s bigger than 5 by 7, but not 8.5 times 11 or 8.5 times 10,” she said. “It has the Old Testament, the New Testament, the writing was decorative.”

She said that between lines of what looked like printed text were handwritten words in Danish. The word “Rasmussen” – her great-grandmother’s last name – showed up several times, scattered among handwritten dates that she believes signified major life events, such as marriages, births and deaths.

Her father replaced the cover with a leather cover around 30 years ago because the old one was falling apart, McNally added. That was one reason Anderson said she didn’t realize it was a family treasure when she donated it.

McNally said that Anderson, who is seven years younger than her, was not aware of the Bible in their house as they grew up. Their father gave Anderson the Bible when she was ordained as a minister 28 years ago.

“My dad and I thought she would be more excited, but she looked confused,” McNally said. Anderson didn’t realize what her father was handing her.

“When you get ordained, it’s like a wedding. People flow in from around the country, you’re hosting a bunch of people,” Anderson said. “It just didn’t click because everything went by so fast, and then suddenly, [the Bible] was in my possession.”

“I moved to Jersey, and then moved to Australia. I was moving all around the world doing ministry, and it was sitting in a box for 28 years,” she continued.

When Anderson was cleaning out her old belongings several months ago, she donated the Bible along with all the objects she didn’t want anymore.

Last week, as she sat with her sisters talking about moving boxes out of their father’s house, the Bible came up.

“It was such an innocent conversation,” McNally said. “We were talking about what things we wanted to keep, and we talked about the Bible. Pam looked so confused.”

Anderson said that McNally began describing the Bible, and she immediately searched everywhere in the house. After coming up empty-handed, “I finally had to confess to my sisters. I sobbed telling them I lost the Bible.”

“Now when I walk around my house, I’m thinking, ‘I have this stupid book but I don’t have that treasure. I have that stupid piece of paper, but I don’t have the Bible,’” Anderson said.

Her and McNally are still hoping that they will find it.

The elder sister said, “It’s a priceless heirloom of the family and we hope that it’s recoverable.”

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Elaine Chen, from the University of Chicago, is a local news reporter for The Sacramento Bee. She grew up in the Bay Area and later in Beijing, China.