Sixteen years ago, Oasis Books, the Logan bookstore, put down roots and asked Brad Scheelke to cultivate them. Other bookstores have come and gone in those years, but the Oasis — true to its name — remains a place to rest, socialize and drink from the well of Living Water.

And part of the store's success can be traced to three reasons:

The store is a nonprofit venture, part of a chain of outlets owned by the Community Christian Ministries. The people at the Oasis often give away books. "Come in and get one," says Scheelke.

The store has a loyal clientele.

As realtors real estate agents are wont to say: location.

"I enjoy living in Cache Valley because people here are interested in talking about God," says Scheelke. "And it's liberating to be in a more isolated place. We're really not here to sell books but to show people that God's forgiveness is based on His mercy, not our performance. We want to encourage people to see that God is enough for them, no matter the circumstances."

The store has many of the same items featured in other Christian bookstores. There are CDs, tapes, videos. There are also Christian trinkets for kids and inspirational items for adults. But the store's selection of books is what sets it apart. For such a small enterprise, the books offered are carefully chosen for their relevance and seminal quality — reflecting the taste and temperament of Scheelke and others who work there.

About half of the visitors who drop by the store are LDS. But they form just part of the cross-section of believers who come by to talk, shop and sometimes spend the day. Lively discussions sprout up. Over the years, in fact, Scheelke has seen every sentiment human beings have to offer — from tears to jeers. Yet he never gets discouraged, he says. And he never gets weary of discussing the "mercy of God."

Still, running the shop can be a bit of a balancing act. Scheelke doesn't want to antagonize anyone, yet he also feels compelled to draw distinctions and express his core convictions. And for a shopkeeper, that can be a real tightrope walk.

In a recent article for the company's in-house magazine, he describes the feeling:

"Oasis Books is located in a culture where it is common to overhear religious conversations in the supermarket checkout line, on the street corner, or in one's place of work," he writes. " . . . A real sense of camaraderie seems to be had in these shared experiences. About 85 percent of the people in the area are Latter-day Saints (LDS), commonly called Mormons. Even toward outsiders, LDS folks long to have a sense of togetherness in religious experience . . . LDS folks view this commonness as a fact, believe that others see it similarly, and are puzzled when others emphasize differences . . . Much common terminology seems to only increase the confusion."

Nevertheless, anyone who can manage a successful shop for 16 years is doing something right.

And for Scheelke, offering people "an oasis" in a harsh and often confusing world is right.

"There is so much hate and bitterness in the world," he says. "People are longing for something to give them peace."

On the shelves of Oasis Books, many Loganites find that something.


You can reach Jerry Johnston by e-mail at jerjohn@desnews.com