Around the world, people in isolated communities are living under pressure. Many have been suffering due to war, conflict, persecution, and poverty, all of which has only been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bible Societies are working to reach out to people in these marginalised communities to bring them the Hope of the Bible, to help in our endeavours to end Bible poverty, and to encourage Bible engagement.
This month, our focus is on Brazil, Armenia, and Vietnam.
Here is how your gift will support the Bible Societies in these countries:
- Brazil – distribute 1,000 solar-powered Bibles, 2,000 Bibles and New Testaments per month, 8,000 biblical portions per month, 5,000 New Testaments in tribal languages, and five hundred Torch audio Bibles.
- Armenia – distribute eight Bibles, 200 children’s Bibles and 2,500 Moving Gospel New Testament selections. It will also help train local priests to assist with the ‘Moving Gospel: Good News for Border Villages’ project.
- Vietnam – bring free Bibles, New Testaments, New Reader portions, and children’s Bibles to Christians in poor, rural churches.
Yes, I would like to help bring Bibles to people living in isolated communities in Brazil, Armenia, and Vietnam.
Prior to European colonisation, an estimated seven million indigenous people lived in the Amazon basin, with around half of them living in Brazil.¹ However, the arrival of Europeans in the 16th century brought disease, slavery, violence, and genocide to these communities. Within one hundred years, the Amerindian population had been reduced by ninety per cent. By the 18th century, indigenous coastal populations, which had numbered 900,000 people, were declared extinct.2 People living in the Amazon rainforest were driven deeper into the forest by the Europeans.
Today, there are around 900,000 indigenous people living in Brazil. They consist of 305 ethnic groups and speak 274 languages.3 They live in 33,000 remote communities along the banks of the Amazon River or deep within the forest. These communities suffer from many issues, including illiteracy, child labour, human trafficking, violence, alcoholism, sexual exploitation, a lack of food and diseases.
Their way of life continues to be under threat from cattle ranching, illegal mining, logging, and drug trafficking. In 2019, at least 113 indigenous people were killed defending their territories against people intent on conducting these types of activities.
The Bible Society of Brazil is reaching out to these communities with the Word of God to help end Bible poverty and to encourage Bible engagement. It includes other kinds of assistance, such as education and healthcare. Using a boat called the Luz na Amazonia III (Light in the Amazon III), which is staffed by staff and volunteers, it travels to these isolated communities bringing the Hope of the Bible, along with practical aid, to them.
“In the past it was difficult to get access to health services, education, and, most importantly, the Word of God. Now you bring this all to our doorstep. Thank you for the training so that I can sell my products and buy food,” said Rosa Maria, a beneficiary.
Between July to December 2021, Bible Society made 68 trips visiting 48 communities. They showed the JESUS film in six communities reaching 1,200 people (200 per community). They distributed 15,230 Bibles. They are also translating the book of Luke for new readers.
In 2022, this work is continuing. They are aiming to reach 38,000 people living either in riverine communities or deeper within the forest. They will distribute: 1,000 solar-powered Bibles, 2,000 Bibles and New Testaments per month, 8,000 biblical portions per month, 5,000 New Testaments in tribal languages, and five hundred Torch audio Bibles.
In order to ensure the long-term viability of the project, Bible Society engages with local leaders and indigenous pastors, who encourage ongoing Bible engagement by helping to form Scripture listening groups. The project is bringing long-term change.
“Receiving you into this community is a great blessing from God. I see how much the community has improved. Before, there was a lot of fighting here. Now I see peace and people wanting to help each other,” said Rosiane, a beneficiary.
Meanwhile in Armenia, people living in border villages along the border with Azerbaijan are suffering from constant fear and anxiety. It’s one of the many long-term consequences of a conflict that has been waging between Armenia and Azerbaijan since 1992.
A former Soviet Republic, Armenia is a poor, landlocked country situated in the South Caucasus. In 1924, the Soviet Union created the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (NKAO). The enclave was within Azerbaijan’s borders but was populated by Armenian people. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, tensions between the two countries over the enclave grew. Since the 1990s, Armenia and Azerbaijan have fought three wars over this disputed territory, the first between 1992 – 1994, the second in 2016, and the third in 2020.
Today, people who live in border villages on either side of the border are marginalised and are living under constant physical, social, and emotional duress. They have suffered from decades of neglect during both the Soviet era and in the first decades of independence.
In Armenia, unemployment in these villages is high. Land once used for farming now lies abandoned as men are afraid of being shot at by snipers. Many have moved abroad to find employment. Likewise, there are few opportunities for women, who endeavour to create small income-generating activities. They worry about sending their children to school along roads that are covered by snipers.
“Living in a border village, close to a conflict zone, is different from ordinary life. We have to adapt to extreme conditions,” said a schoolteacher. People living here are suffering from fear, anxiety, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. That is why Bible Society is working to bring them the Hope of the Bible through its Moving Gospel: Good News for Border Villages project.
“People in these villages are very isolated,” says Arshavir, Bible Society of Armenia’s Special Audience Project Manager. “It is important to help villagers connect their daily lives with the Bible. The Bible is not a fairy tale or an old, dusty book. I am happy because I see people clinging to the Bible and faith. More villages are asking us to come to them,” says Arshavir.
Partnering with churches, the team visits isolated villages. They help villagers engage with Scripture by teaching Bible parables, and they run art therapy workshops. In the workshops the women weave carpet squares using traditional Armenian patterns and the girls make puppets based on the parable. The workshops are a vital means of bringing healing, encouragement, and teaching new skills to these stressed villagers.
“I calm down while I am doing this,” says 64-year-old Anahit, who is creating a carpet square. “I can leave all tension and fear behind. My favourite parable is the Good Samaritan because he has not forgotten his neighbour,” she says. The programme culminates with the girls putting on a puppet show based on the parable they have learned.
This year, Bible Society intends to visit four villages (twelve visits per village) in three provinces. It will distribute eight Bibles, 200 children’s Bibles and 2,500 Moving Gospel New Testament selections. It also intends to train local priests to assist with the project.
In Vietnam, Bible Society is working to bring Bibles to members of remote ethnic communities.
A country of 103.8 million people, there are fifty-four ethnic minorities here, who make up 15 percent of the population, including the Hmong, the Bunong, and the Tay. Many of them live in the remote mountainous and rural regions of the country’s Central Highlands.
Lao Cai is a remote northern mountainous province, bordering with China. Here, ethnic minorities account for 80 per cent of the population, with the Hmong making up the majority. The Hmong people survive through subsistence farming and have high levels of unemployment.
Vietnam has been experiencing economic growth over the past two decades, but these economic gains have not extended to the country’s ethnic minorities, who account for 70 per cent of the country’s extreme poor. The reasons for this include isolation, social exclusion, limited access to quality land and low levels of education.4
However, it is among ethnic groups such as these that widespread and rapid religious transformation has occurred over the past thirty years. Thanks to the power of Christian radio broadcasting, namely a Hmong-language evangelical programme broadcasting out of Manila in the 1980s, the Hmong people heard the gospel for the first time. They then spread the Christian message, evangelising from village to village. All of this happened in spite of, or perhaps because of, significant state-sponsored persecution of ethnic groups.
Over the past thirty years the number of Christians has continued to grow. The Bible Society Vietnam is working to bring free Bibles, New Testaments, New Reader portions, and children’s Bibles to Christians in poor, rural churches.
Sophia is a young Hmong woman.5 Her parents became Christians after listening to Christian radio in the 1990s. As a girl growing up in an impoverished Hmong family, Sophia’s parents did not encourage her to study much, although she did her best. Instead, she had to help with the housework and in the fields. “Since four or five years old, I had to do everything from cooking, washing, babysitting, and tending the cattle,” says Sophia.
Sophia still remembers the overwhelming feeling when she received her first Bible. “I was in the 12th grade. I received it from a church member. After work, I quietly found a corner to sit and read the book. The more I read, the more love I felt for God. The Bible was like my best friend. At that time, I often struggled with loneliness and self-pity. The Bible pulled me out of those feelings. The Word of God brought me hope for the future,” said Sophia.
Determined and independent, Sophia decided to move out and live her dream in the capital city, Hanoi. This was particularly difficult during the COVID-19 pandemic when jobs were scarce. Unfortunately, she lost her first Bible when she was moving rental rooms. Therefore, Sophia was happy when she received a Revised Version Vietnamese Bible from Bible Society. “I really love it and I am so, so thankful for it,” said Sophia.
Will you prayerfully consider helping bring Bibles to Brazil, Armenia, and Vietnam?
Just use your preferred giving option below to help bring the hope of the Bible to people living in isolated communities in these countries.
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5 Name changed.