2,000 Telugu new reader portions for workers in the Gulf

More than 2,000 Telugu migrant workers in the Gulf States are now engaging with the Word of God thanks to a special edition of the Sermon on the Mount published by Bible Society in the Gulf States (BSG).

Specially designed for illiterate or semi-illiterate people, this is the first New Reader portion BSG has produced. It is based on chapters 5, 6, and 7 from the Gospel of Matthew and printed in large fonts in conversational Telugu. Together with the Sermon on the Mount book, workers are given an audio version on a phone memory card.

The Bible educates

The aim of the new reader programme is to encourage Telugu speaking migrant workers to read the Bible in their language. There are over a million of these workers in the Gulf. The majority do blue-collar jobs and are either illiterate or school dropouts.

“I discontinued my elementary school and since then I have been working as a labourer. You have created the opportunity for me to improve my reading skills. You have rekindled interest in me to read. Now I am enjoying reading the Bible text in this book.” A worker in the Gulf

Gangadhar with his new Sermon on the Mount book in Telugu.

Since only 2,000 copies were printed, BSG chose to cooperate with only a few Telugu Churches in the Gulf States. Limited copies were sent to Kuwait and Bahrain so the Telugu Church leaders and Telugu Christian community could sample the Sermon on the Mount book. To date the feedback is positive.

Churches praise new publication

Pastor Somaiah in Kuwait, who is the chairperson for pastors from 50 Telugu congregations said, “I like this book, it has Bible Study notes. This is useful for semi-literates and also to the educated. I want to take this to my church and do an in-depth Bible study on the Sermon on the Mount.

Hope and an anchor

Hyrar Jebejian, General Secretary of BSG said, “We believe this programme will have great impact not only on the workers who received the portion but also on their fellow migrant workers as they encourage them to join the programme and consequently accept Jesus Christ as their Saviour.

“We believe these migrant workers will be empowered through their faith in Jesus Christ and ability to read the Scriptures on a daily basis to endure the harsh conditions in the Gulf. Hrayr Jebejian

“Most importantly, these workers may be strengthened to keep away from drugs and alcohol and concentrate on working for the sake of their families back home and fellowshipping with their Christian brothers and sisters in the Church,” he said.

Bring the gift of literacy to people in Togo and Pakistan

Did you know illiteracy rates in Pakistan and the African country of Togo are some of the highest in the world?

Can you imagine not being able to read your Bible – the very thing that is foundational to our faith?

In the little West African country of Togo (highlighted above), Christians like Nfoula (pictured right) are eagerly waiting to read the Bible but can’t because of illiteracy.

“Sometimes I am ashamed of my situation (illiteracy), but today I give thanks to God because soon everything will change by the grace of God,” shares Nfoula Gbati, a 46 year-old farmer.

“I am a member of the Assemblies of God Church. I live in Bikotiba, a village about ten kilometres west of Bassar (North Togo). When I was old enough to go to school my parents said rural work was more important than any other activity and that no one had the right to let us go to school. That is why I am illiterate.

“Today I regret it sincerely because I cannot read important documents the authorities send to promote our rural activities. I cannot even read or write my own name. At meetings, other people take notes for me. I do not want this situation to happen to my children and I struggle so they can have a good education.

“Previously, we did literacy classes at the church for a few weeks. Many of us had registered to take these courses, but unfortunately they were suspended due to lack of resources. Our pastor has told us what the Bible Society of Togo wants to do for the illiterates of our village. I lack words to express my gratitude to God to all those who want to help change the condition of the illiterates that we are. We will continue our prayers.

“May God grant you a hundred fold for what you do for us. I hope this literacy initiative will open a new page in my life. My Christian life will be improved because I will be able to read Bible stories myself and comment on them. And I will be able to participate in church services, which will strengthen my faith in Christ.”

Nfoula knows the life-changing impact literacy will have in his life but he is just one of many.

The Bassar of Togo is an unreached people group of 190,000 and its two key languages are Mina and Bassar. The Bible Society of Togo is especially keen to reach these people as the Bible was translated into these languages just a few years ago.

They want to help churches and communities in this region gain literacy skills in their native languages to be able to engage with the Bible. Illiteracy affects 46% of the Bassar region.

“Once translated, the Bible must be read and understood,” said Togo Bible Society CEO Estelle Akouegnon. She told us their mission is that every Togolese would have access to the Word of God in their own language, the language they understand best.

“The challenge is truly big and we are waiting to see great transformations in the lives of our church members who are mostly illiterate and who have come to register in large numbers for literacy classes,” said Emmanuel Ayi Ajavon (pictured right). He is Pastor of the Togo Methodist Church (Bethany Parish of Agouégan) near the lakes in Aného.

“The Bible in Mina was published by Bible Society in 2014. Many of our members have this Bible but they are still unable to read it because they have not been to school. As soon as the literacy classes were opened, the elderly people of our church and a few young people from the village who were not even attending our church came to express their joy and their enthusiasm for these classes.

“I myself have been particularly touched by the content of the literacy programme which helps in a very short time, the illiterate to read and write. It particularly helps me with Bible study and meditation with the elderly.

“I want to express my gratitude to Bible Society and its partners who supported us and allowed us to really understand, the meaning of this biblical verse, ‘The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; On those who dwell in the land of the shadow of death a light shines.’ (Isaiah 9:2) We have truly come out of the darkness of Scripture ignorance and see the light whenever those who did not read yesterday read it today,” said Pastor Emmanuel.

The light literacy shines is happening in Pakistan where women are particularly affected, with three out of five unable to read or write.

That’s why the Pakistan Bible Society has been working hard over the past 15 years to give thousands of women like Shahida the chance to gain life-changing literacy skills through the biblical Beacon of Light programme.

 “I am Shahida Manzoor (pictured left) and my husband Manzoor Masih works in the fields. Nowadays we have harvesting season and it was very difficult for me to come to join in the programme but due to my desire my husband allowed me to come. Now I can collect the graduation certificate. I am so glad that now I can read the Bible. When I read the Bible with family, my children listen very carefully because I read slowly. When I make a mistake or get stuck, my children laugh and enjoy it. I am thankful to God that I can now read the Bible.”

Parveen Akhtar (pictured below centre) is a literacy teacher, she has been teaching in adult education for two years. “When you go to the home and teach the women to read, this also exposes their men to the Bible stories. I feel very good, that I am doing something for them. It’s very necessary to provide these people education. Very few people go to school, they are very poor. There is a lot less fighting in the families, they have good friendship and fellowship between them now they are following Christian ways,“ commented Parveen.

“Culturally and historically in Pakistan, the woman is the key to the family,” said Pakistan Bible Society CEO Anthony Lamuel (far right in picture). For every Pakistani woman who learns to read and receives Scripture, an average of six additional people will be reached with God’s Word. In addition to sharing the Bible with their family, women tell us their self-esteem is boosted through learning a new skill. They can demand a fair wage for their work as they can read numbers. They can help children with homework and access healthcare by reading things like medicine bottles.

Will you help teach more people to read the Bible today, so they can bring God’s Word into their homes and communities?

You’ll join others in helping more than 7,500 Togolese and 7,000 Pakistan women start the journey to literacy through the Bible in 2017.

Donate now

Michael Perreau – man with a mission

“We have a simple mission: the Bible for everyone. Our vision is for people to have the Bible in their chosen language and in their chosen medium and their chosen time. Digital plays a part of that. That’s kind of the simple, common mandate that binds us together.”

Successful global business founder Micheal Perreau, (62), gave it all up for the Bible because it made a difference in peoples’ lives.  After making his fortune and leaving the financial world behind, he and wife Deborah turned their lives over to giving it all back, 90 per cent of it, to helping the poor.

But despite creating jobs for the struggling, about 60,000 jobs in 10 years, Mike said there was a missing component in creating turn-around positions for these people. “As people who are committed to the Bible, we found that the fullness of transformation can best be ascribed to rooting in some of the values that the Bible had to offer,” said Mike.

It was this conviction that led Mike to partner with Bible Society. He has now been Director General of the United Bible Societies for six years.

Bible heroes

During this time he describes many highlights – particularly meeting Bible beneficiaries. “That is my joy, to see individuals’ lives that are being touched as God is narrating his story into their lives.

“Only a few months ago I met an 82-year-old grandmother who was receiving her first Bible. When she heard that the Bible was being made available for the first time in her language, she walked through the bush for six hours just to receive her Bible.”

Mike also talked about his ‘Bible heroes’, people laying down their lives for God’s Word. “I have a Bible hero whose whole family was poisoned for just reading the Bible (after becoming Christians) and he managed to survive and committed his life to make the Bible available to others.

“I have a Bible hero whose father was executed and as a consequence he fled his country on that same day, not know whether the rest of his family was alive, only to find when he ended up as a refugee in France that (some members of his family had made it to Canada),” described Mike.

The Bible is relevant today

Mike says the Bible is still relevant today.  “If we take just some factual evidence, then what we are seeing is that we are now distributing more Bibles than at any time in our history. There is evidence of a hungry spirituality. The question is, how do we make the Bible accessible to a hungry spiritual nation or individual?”

The Bible is Mike’s personal compass

“The Bible is my due north, it’s my daily encounter with the God of grace, it’s the blessing I receive, it’s sustenance when I go through hard times, it’s my operations manual.  The Bible is my companion in life – it would be my wife on one side and my Bible on the other side.”

Original story written by David Adams, Editor of Sight magazine (edited with permission).  View the full story here.

Kaikoura earthquake survivor says the Bible helped her recover

Kaikoura resident and local business owner Denice Devine (Dinn), appearing in one of our short films for Bible Month, says the Bible helped her post-earthquake recovery.

The 47-year-old wife, mother and now grand-mother shares how her faith, and particularly how the Bible, helped her during the traumatic time.

“I took part in Bible Month (in the film) as I thought it would be nice to share a bit about the effects the earthquake had on me and my family and how God’s love shone through.”

“Mostly what I want people to take away from my own story shown in the film is that no matter what happens in our life good, bad, easy or hard, God’s word (the Bible) is the foundation to stand on and one that will not be moved!”

A Psalm provided a life-line

Dinn said on the night of the earthquake God directed her to Psalm 104. This Bible passage helped her deal with the fear immediately following the earthquake and still gives her comfort today. Dinn’s post-quake fear was so great she was unable to eat, sleep or be left alone.

“This whole scripture reaffirms to me who God is and how great he is, it reminds me that he created everything in this world to work together and for a purpose. All I know is my fear of the unknown has gone.”

Reading the Bible is a commitment

Dinn says what the Bible means to her is ‘life’. “The Bible is life-giving truth,that cannot be denied. As hard as I find it sometimes to read my Bible I will never turn my back on it. Sometimes when I read the Bible I have no idea what God is saying to me and other times wisdom and revelation just flow.

View more Good for Life short stories