More Bibles needed for Christians in Cuba

Cuba is changing with the Bible

“In one area of Cuba, Pinar del Rio, they were very excited when they saw something they had never seen before – a whole box of Bibles. Earlier they had seen two or three Bibles at once but never a whole box,” commented a Pastor.

Alain Montano, CEO of the Bible Commission of Cuba (far right) with members of an Adventist Church in Santiago, Cuba

The vision of the Bible Commission in Cuba (Bible Society Cuba) is for every Cuban Christian to own a Bible. The project to achieve this is called One million Bibles for Cuba. And already, thanks to the support of many of you last year, plus the ongoing support of many others around the world, some 730,000 Bibles have so far been distributed in Cuba. Now another 270,000 Bibles are needed to meet the one million goal. Will you help us reach this target this year?

When you help supply more Bibles, you will be answering the prayers of Cubans who are seeking God.

What God is doing in Cuba is a miracle. God is transforming this nation through Bible distribution and Scripture engagement.  But with a population of 11 million people and a nearly 100 percent literacy rate, combined with an unprecedented growth in Christianity, Bibles are like water in a dry, parched land.

“There is still a long way to go,” says Alain Montano, CEO of the Bible Commission of Cuba. “We must continue while the doors are open to spread God’s Word in our country.”

Providing Bibles will change lives by bringing God’s Word to people here. This is a country where scraps of Scripture have been passed down on pieces of paper, hand-to-hand between believers, because Bibles were just not available,” he said.

“We see the libraries in the churches are almost empty. There are no Bibles with commentaries and no biblical texts,” said Mr Montano. The reason for the constant demand for Bibles in Cuba is simple: In the last 10 years, the number of Christians has doubled.

Bernt Olsen from the Norwegian Bible Society, who visited Cuba said, “This is the biggest need for Bibles I have seen in any country. The need for Bibles is unimaginably large – none of the churches have enough Bibles to give to new members, the elderly, children and youth, to students and pastor seminaries.”

The people of Cuba are crying out for the Bible. You can help meet this need.

Orgalis Santana Parcaval

“In my church there are many who do not have their own Bible. People are baptised but do not get a Bible. It is a Bible crisis in Cuba – there are so few Bibles to find,” said Orgalis Santana Parcaval (30), a seminary student at the Eastern Baptist Church, Cuba.

Around 35 percent of these Bibles will go to children, who are key churchgoers in Cuba. Mr Montano said this work is vital. “When you give a Bible to a child in Cuba, you are giving a Bible to the whole family.”

“We’ve had a lot of examples where parents have come to church because the children brought home a Bible.” He explains that these Bibles are suitable translations for children with colour illustrations.

As well as reaching children, the recent introduction of regional Bible distribution centres is ensuring Bibles reach those most in need. These centres are making a huge difference in helping get Bibles to out-of-the- way places in the countryside.

“It is very comprehensive work distributing this many Bibles in a project this size – One million Bibles to Cuba,” said Mr Montano.

Young people with Bibles at a pentecostal church in Havana, Cuba

This initiative will reach five distinct audiences: school-aged children receiving their first Bible, teens and older youth, adult new believers, prisoners, and seminary students and clergy.

Will you help reach the goal of giving One million Bibles to believers in Cuba by making a gift?

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Swimming pool converted to prayer hall in Bahrain

Bible Society supporting swimming pool church with Scriptures

The new prayer room made from a converted swimming pool. Pastor Joseph Paradeshi removes his shoes and kneels before the ‘alter’ as he enters the room.

Prakash is a mason in a construction company. There are many construction workers and house maids in the area of Tubil in Bahrain. It is difficult for these people to get to church because of the long distance and they don’t have transport.

Last year Prakash and his friends started a prayer group with five people. Now it has grown to become a congregation of 250 people.

The company manager, who is not of the Christian faith, feels his company is blessed because of the Christians working for him. So he converted the swimming pool into a prayer hall at his own expense and offered it to his workers for free for their worships services.

The Bible Society in the Gulf (BSG) supplies Bibles and Scripture materials to this group and many others throughout the region.

Bible Society New Zealand is supporting BSG’s work in Bahrain this year, thanks to the generosity of our Bible-a-month Club mission partners.


Reaching Palestinian children and youth

The Palestinian Bible Society reaches children and youth through creative programmes

The Palestinian Bible Society aims to reach out to Palestinian children and youth through a Bible-based programme which includes conferences, camps, puppet shows and biblical trips for special events like Christmas and Easter. The programme reaches children and youth with its message of encouragement and biblical values in churches, clubs, villages and schools.

“One of the children who participated in the Bible camp comes from a Christian family that is not engaged in the Church and has never taught anything Christian to their children. It was a shock for Tony to hear stories from the Bible, as he never had a Bible and never understood what it meant to be a Christian,” explains a Palestinian staff member.

“The story of Joseph touched his heart, so he returned home and shared with his parents that God can take care of us, even in the hardest of circumstances. This testimony touched his mother’s heart. Today she is reading the Bible with her children every night and has started to attend church on a regular basis.”

One young sceptic met the Bible Society team who shared with him the story of Jesus. He is now a volunteer! The staff worker explains, “One young man was reluctant to hear the story of the crucifixion at first, as he had many doubts about Christ and why he was crucified.

“However, when we began sharing the story of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, he listened attentively. After a long discussion and many one to one interactions with him, he began to understand that the cross paid the price for his sin. Today he is one find it challenging, even threatening, to cope with the high number of refugees. So I found it was a signal of true Christian of the active volunteers who is doing puppet shows and reading his Bible on a daily basis!”

Will you help resource this work so that more Palestinian children and youth can be reached with Bible-based programmes?

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Bible Society helping families in need in Chile

Jesus is being used as a role model for families and children experiencing trauma and dysfunction in Chile.

We’re partnering with the Chilean Bible Society again this year to support their Bible-based programmes, administered by teams of Christian professionals in the highly regarded Profamilia Centre in Talcahuano.

Working with families in need, the centre is renowned for its success in helping repair broken family relationships and running programmes to prevent alcohol and sexual abuse, violence, bullying and drugs.

In partnership with the police and government antinarcotics departments for eight years now, the centre’s courses, which promote Christian family values, are in constant demand.

Profamilia teams also work directly in at-risk primary and high schools running anti-bullying and cyber bullying prevention workshops for children, and dating violence prevention for teenagers. Through these workshops they promote Christian values.

“The goal we seek to fulfil is to develop ‘good people’ with Christian principles,” commented a Profamilia spokesperson.

“The results of our work are tremendously positive and recognised by the authorities, counsellors, teachers and parents.”

Just one example is eight-year old Josie (not her real name), who had severe reading problems and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). There was no help available to her and her mother sought out the Profamilia Centre. The Christian professionals at the centre focused on giving tools to Josie’s mum to help her overcome her daughter’s learning disability as well as deal with a stressful family living situation.

There was a ‘remarkable’ turnaround in Josie, which her mum attributes solely to the Christian staff at the centre.

By helping us support this project, you can help turn around hundreds more young lives in Chile. Scripture materials will also be given away in this project.

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Rebuilding family life with the Bible in Mexico

At a small church in a poor rural Mexican community, I met four, passionate and gifted volunteer teachers who are using Bible Society’s materials to help rebuild families.

Stephen Opie, Bible Society Programme Director reports on the Learn and Prevent in order to Grow project in Mexico.

In communities like this, family life is often broken and unstable. It’s common for Mexican children and youth to struggle to navigate through very difficult circumstances at home and school.

Roxana (pictured above, second from right) teaches 4 – 6 year olds in this church. “In this community, in our case, the children are really ignored, they’re neglected. It’s a matter of giving them attention and helping them feel valued and they can feel like they not only have their parents, but they have God. And God loves them,” Roxana says.

Like so many other communities, family life here is “disintegrating”. These volunteers have seen firsthand how the programme has aided families in their communication. Catalina (pictured above, second from left) explains,

“It’s improved their Communication and their time together with their families. There’s a lot of brokeness and abuse and families are suffering. This material is creating values for the children which helps them unify with their families more. For us, this material has really been a big blessing.”

Young people play a game to teach them about boundaries.

Desperate to implement the programme wider, they shared it with local school teacher Veronica, (pictured above, far right), who now regularly uses the material at a nearby Junior High School with 13 and 14 year olds. “I shared it in school,” she says. “Not in a religious manner, as I’m not permitted to do that. But I applied it to some children that had a lot of behaviour problems. I applied it to strengthen their moral values. There were changes in some of the kids. They took better advantage of the opportunities at school and a lot of their negative attitudes were modified.

And there was a big change in the group they allowed me to share it with – in the end they were working together in a harmonious manner. And they started doing better at school.”

For many of the local children, growing up without a father is a reality. Lisbeth (pictured above, far left) grew up in this community and says that when the kids learn about God the Father, they change. “That’s when the children’s lives change and it really helps them grow. It’s really been useful for us,” she explains.

Caption: Children with materials they’ve received from Bible Society.

The Mexican Bible Society is passionate about reaching children and youth with the hope of the Bible. Will you help us equip volunteer teachers like Roxana, Catalina, Veronica and Lisbeth with the materials they need to help rebuild families?

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Jesus – the model to follow for kids in Mexico

Volunteer Brenda Saavedra is desperate for more resources.

She’s loved the Sunday School materials produced by the Bible Society in Mexico. But they’ve been through the book more than once, and now she’s eagerly awaiting book two.

Stephen Opie, Bible Society Programme Director reports on the Grow and Learn Project in Mexico.

Brenda holds up the Bible Society materials that have been so helpful to her and the volunteer team.

Brenda (picture right) is delivering the Bible Society’s creative Grow and Learn Sunday school programme, designed to strengthen church children’s programmes in poor areas and where churches need help. The programme includes volunteer training and provides churches with the materials they need to grow a solid children’s ministry.

I met Brenda at Fuente De Bendiciones Church (Fountain of Blessings Church) at San Cristobel outside Mexico City. My Spanish is terrible, but I understood her two-word response to me when I asked her why she does it. “Los niños!” she says. “The children!”

“I haven’t had the blessing of having children, so these are my spiritual children,” Brenda says. “Some of the kids even call me ‘mum.’ I want to invest everything I have in them – they’re my passion,” she  explains.

The church is in a poor neighbourhood where most families don’t have good access to essential services. Just like many children in Mexico, exposure to violence, be it in their own home or in their community is almost normal. Grow and Learn is about changing that – the programme’s main theme is Jesus is a model to follow. Brenda and other volunteers teach the kids biblical morals and values and that treating people badly is not ok – nor is the violence they see around them every day.

I stood at the back of the room beside a dentist from the next town. He brings his child a long way just to attend the programme. In fact many parents are dragged to church by their children who have such a great time. The parents notice a change in their behaviour, bring them to the programme and end up sitting in the church service downstairs themselves. Some of the children found out about the programme because they heard other kids in their neighbourhood singing the songs.

Mexican kids enjoy the engaging programme, especially the activities and games.

“This material has been a great blessing for us. It’s not just the content, but the community that we’re in doesn’t have a lot of resources. They’re not well off. And having this free material has been a big blessing,” Brenda explains.

She notices a change in the behaviour of the kids that come. “Some of them were very timid. But they’ve opened up and now get involved in the classroom. They make friends. Some were really aggressive and violent and very expressive, because they come from a context where they hear and see that kind of violence. But they’ve become more tranquil and friendlier.”

I’m inspired by the importance Fuente De Bendiciones Church places on these kids. It’s a small church but they know that this is the next generation who will carry on their work in the years to come. That’s why teaching them now how to follow the best role model they could possibly have – Jesus – is so important.

Grow and Learn is being run in churches all over Mexico. By the end of 2017, Bible Society hopes to have trained another 400 teachers to deliver the programme and build up their church children’s ministry.

Will you help support this work enabling volunteers like Brenda to be trained and provide children’s materials?

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New Zealand’s Favourite Bible Verse

New Zealand’s favourite Bible verse in 2016 was Jeremiah chapter 29 verse 11:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”

YouVersion says New Zealanders highlighted, shared and bookmarked this verse in their mobile app more than any other last year.

YouVersion makes the Bible available globally in more than 1,000 languages, thanks to United Bible Societies’ Digital Bible Library (DBL). The DBL is an online digital asset and licensing management platform developed and maintained by United Bible Societies. The DBL gathers, validates, and safeguards a large collection of quality, standardised, digital Scripture texts in more than 1,000 languages. YouVersion is one of the organisations holding a ‘library card’ that enables their users to access the Scriptures in various languages via the YouVersion app.

Overall the most searched for verse in the YouVersion community was Zechariah chapter 14 verse 9, “The Lord will be King over the whole earth. On that day there will be one Lord, and his name the only name.” This had the most shares, bookmarks and highlights in nine different countries.


Bringing hope to prisoners and patients this Easter

This Easter, many New Zealanders will be celebrating this important Christian event in hospital or in prison.

They may be alone and in bleak circumstances away from friends and family.

But there is one thing that can make a real difference in their life – the Bible.

For many years, thanks to our supporters, we’ve been able to supply Bibles and Bible resources to chaplains to reach those in need.

Easter is about the beginning of all things being made new and the hope of life forever (Colossians 1:18 – 20). It’s about a crucified and resurrected Lord Jesus. For people currently in hospital or prison this hope can be life-changing.

One area of hospital chaplaincy where Bibles are increasingly important is mental health.

Currently there is a need for more Bibles in te Reo Māori, according to Chaplain Rev. Wyatt Butcher, who says Māori have a strong spirituality, structured largely around the Christian faith. “There is a growing trend for these patients to request the Scriptures in Māori. They treat these as taonga [a treasure],” he says.

“One such patient, who recently received the Word of God in Māori, settled in to read it and was quickly able to be integrated into the unit from an isolation room. Meeting this need sped up his recovery.”

 

“Our palm-sized Little Book of Hope is still our most popular Scripture leaflet with hospital patients. Chaplains like it because it’s small and fits in their pockets and contains key Bible verses on relevant topics like hope, strength, unity and peace. I love being able to present chaplains with this wonderful resource.”
James Williamson – Bible Society Mission Partner

The need for hospital chaplains to have a continuous supply of Bibles is nationwide.

Rev. Amail Habib, Chaplain at Whanganui Hospital, says Bibles are always in demand. “Many patients ask for them. They also appreciate it when we can give them free Bibles.”

Echoing these thoughts is Hospital Chaplain Noel Tiano, Te Korowai-Whariki, Central Region Forensic Mental Health and Rehabilitation Services. “Without a doubt, the forensic and mental health clients and staff here are very appreciative of the Bibles, especially the newer modern English translations. It’s especially valuable when I conduct spiritual reflections with clients so that we can read passages together and explore its application in their life situation. I prefer to select themes that deal with their recovery, for example – assurance, forgiveness, self-esteem, hope, faithfulness, compassion, confidence, nonviolence, mindfulness – and relate these to their faith journey.”

And the need for Bibles in chaplaincy continues in prisons throughout New Zealand too.

Graham Lapslie, Chaplain at Auckland South Corrections Facility says, “Hardly a day goes by without a request for a Bible or New Testament of some description. We feel that your ministry is a critical component to the ministry of chaplaincy in this prison.”

“The Bible is their treasured Word, their hope, and their future; the eyes of the women that we give them to (the Bible), fill with light, love and often tears too,” said Mrs Nina Haines, Assistant Chaplain at Auckland Regional Women’s Correction Facility.

Mark Sims, Assistant Chaplain at a North Island prison agrees.

“The bottom line is God’s Word shared and read brings results, as the one who inspired the book breaks through men’s hearts to bring life. We can trust the Bible to do its job.”

Mark also shared about Raymond, who had been brought up in a Methodist church and had a belief in God. “I met him whilst looking for another prisoner and after introducing myself he immediately agreed to have a Bible study.

“Raymond had the seed of God’s Word in him from childhood. He had some knowledge about Jesus but no understanding about how his death and resurrection could bring him the gift of eternal life. As we talked he grabbed my hand, bowed his head and asked Jesus to save him.”

In 2017, we aim to grant 4,000 Bibles, New Testaments, and Scripture portions to hospitals, hospices and prisons in New Zealand.

Will you help us continue to supply chaplains with Bibles so they can get them to even more prisoners and patients?

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12,000 Kiwi youth to encounter Luke’s Gospel at Easter

Common Bible reading barriers have been addressed in this year’s Easter Gospel to be distributed at Easter camps around New Zealand.

The barriers were revealed in Bible Society’s 2016 Youth Bible Engagement Research. Not knowing where to start reading, having trouble connecting with God, time pressures and simply not understanding the Bible content were the key barriers uncovered in the research.

To help youth overcome some of these, Bible Society has published a special edition of the Gospel of Luke. The publication features chapter summaries, an eight-week youth group discussion guide, and new reflection sections called pause.

The pause sections invite readers to imagine themselves in a Bible scene using their senses of sight, smell, hearing and touch.

“Using your imagination is another possible way to connect with God and the Bible. I encourage them to just go for it and not be concerned about getting all the details right. It doesn’t really matter if you imagine the disciples in sneakers,” commented Jeremy Woods, Bible Society’s Youth and Young Adult’s Ministry Partner (pictured above).

“It’s about inviting youth to discover the Bible for themselves, hear what God is saying, and for them to reflect on what God is doing in their community.”

Since 2011, when Bible Society first began preparing specially designed Bible resources for Easter Camps, more than 50,000 Gospels and other resources have been given away to youth throughout the country. The material is often used post-camp by youth group leaders as a discussion resource.

“This Gospel is about encountering and following Jesus. In Luke we encounter Jesus who (often over a meal) challenged common understandings about what it meant to follow God. Luke is an invitation for all of us to come and see if the way of Jesus is better than the way of the world,” commented Jeremy.

A key goal in producing these resources is to give youth permission to grapple with their understanding of their faith with others. “It is important that they own their faith,” Jeremy said.

This Easter, Bible Society, through the generosity of its supporters, will give away 12,000 Gospels of Luke at the following Easter camps: the three main Easter camps – Baptist Central (Fielding), Baptist Northern (Mystery Creek, Hamilton) and Canterbury Youth Service’s Southern (Christchurch). It will also be given to youth at the nine Presbyterian Easter camps held around the country, the Central Division Salvation Army Easter camp at Silverstream, Upper Hutt and at the Wellington New Life Camp.


Millions in China still waiting for a Bible

In recent years, we’ve supported the work to provide Bibles for Christians in China.

Many of you have been partners in this mission allowing Chinese Christians to receive Bibles for the first time. Once again this year, we’ve committed to bringing Bibles to Chinese Christians.

Since the 1980s, the church in China has experienced rapid growth – unofficial estimates put the number of Christians today at 100 million. Although much of this growth is taking place in poor rural areas, Christians can be found right across China.

Man with Bible at church in Henan Province, China

For example, below, you’ll read the stories of three different Christians, all of whom came to faith through reading the Bible. There are many others who are waiting to receive a Bible for the first time as well.

One thing many Christians have in common is poverty. In rural areas many Chinese people live a life of subsistence farming that has been unchanged for centuries. Others migrate to the cities for work where they live in cramped, miserable conditions surviving on low wages, which they send home to their families.

For every one of these Christians, the Bible will be a precious gift, something they could not otherwise afford. Read on to learn how the Bible is changing lives in China.


“After six months of reading the Bible to believers, I became a Christian.”

Rev. Yin Jianhui, 51, Hunan Province

The year was 1983 and Rev. Yin (pictured right) had just graduated from high school. She was asked by a group of about eight elderly people in her neighbourhood to read the Bible to them because they were illiterate. At that time, the churches had yet to reopen in the area after the Cultural Revolution. Thinking it was a good thing to help people, she agreed. Soon, she came to really enjoy her Bible reading sessions with them.

“I would read a passage of the Bible to them and they would discuss and explain it. One elderly lady, the one who owned the Bible and had been a Christian for many years before the Cultural Revolution, would explain what we’d just heard. I would sit and listen to the explanations, then read for them another passage and so on,” recalled Rev. Yin.

“The elderly believer also owned an old hymnal but they didn’t know the songs and couldn’t sing it, so I taught them too, because I knew how to read music. So we’d sing together and read the Bible.”

Men with the new Bibles they received during a Bible distribution in their rural church. Hunan Province, China.

Then some time later, Rev. Yin’s baby nephew fell ill and cried all the time. It seemed nothing could help him. By then, she had learnt the Lord’s Prayer by heart. “I didn’t really know how to pray so I just recited it to try and help the little boy. It worked and he got better! So then, after six months of reading the Bible to these believers, I became a Christian.”

Today, Rev. Yin is the Chairman of the Yiyang Christian Council in Hunan Province, overseeing the work of 265 churches and continuing to read and teach the Bible to believers in China.

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“The Bible moved me to repentance.”

Zhang Tao, 35, Yunnan

Zhang Tao (pictured right) comes from a middle-income family. His father, now in retirement, held a respectable job as a lecturer in a teachers’ training college and his mother was a factory worker. With no financial worries to trouble him, life should have been comfortable and smooth sailing. However, an early entry into the work force at 15 led him into bad company and drugs.

Once hooked, this destructive habit of substance abuse was to plague him for the next 16 years. “During those 16 years, I suffered tremendous physical and mental torture. Countless times, when the hope of overcoming the addiction diminished, my despair would become unbearable,” Zhang  recounted. Not wanting to see his parents’ despondence, he left home, only returning when he was at his wits end.

However, even in this dark crisis, God was not far away. In October 2011, he received his first Bible at a drug rehabilitation centre. “I held it carefully in my hands because it felt like I had just received a sacred gift. My heart was filled with joy and I was very touched.”

Free Bible distribution in Meijia, a village outside Hefei, Anhui Province, China.

Curious about the book and its contents, Zhang began reading in earnest. “The Bible moved me to repentance. In that process, I also received hope and comfort. It helped me get out of my drug addiction which had tormented me for 16 years.”

The Bible has so spiritually invigorated and motivated Zhang that he is currently aspiring towards gaining a theological education. To him, the Bible is the guiding compass of life. “Without it, a person loses his direction in life,” Zhang shared with conviction.

“Without the Bible, my life would not be transformed at all and I would still be living in my past pain and struggles, caught in a chaotic lifestyle, steeped with interpersonal problems. Now, I can live a truly joyful life in Christ. The Word of God has strengthened me to face the challenges of life and not be fearful of failure. Because of his Word, I can press on courageously.”


“Without the Bible, there is no solid ground.”

Wu Zhe, 29, Shanghai

For Wu Zhe (pictured right), the most difficult period of his life was in 2009 when he couldn’t find a proper job after graduating from university in Changsha, Hunan Province. “I was learning taiji [Tai chi] then with the hope of starting a business. Because I did not have any capital, I was also selling rosemary at a roadside stall to support myself. However, one day while manning the stall, I was beaten up by some thugs! Then, I worked as a dish washer in a restaurant for one week but was not paid for my labour.”

Exasperated, Wu went from Changsha to Shenzhen and finally to Shanghai where he worked as a copywriter. It was during his time in Shanghai that he first read the Bible.

“I got to know a Christian whom I thought had something quite special. Curious about Christianity, I bought a Bible from the church bookshop. I wanted to understand the teachings of the Bible by reading it myself and not just listening to other people’s views of it.”

Launch of the Liso Annotated Bible 2015.

So Wu started his journey of discovery, reading the Bible from cover to cover as well as consulting other Christian materials and interacting with believers, bringing it everywhere he went. “I reckoned that in order to understand the message of the Bible I needed to read it through once. It was through reading the New Testament that I came to know Jesus personally. Tears rolled down my face as I began to understand that it was for my sins that Jesus was crucified. That was how I came to faith,” recalled Wu.

Wu was so moved by God’s love for him that he has since been buying Bibles as gifts for non-believing friends around him who expressed interest. “The Bible helps me understand what moral standards in life I ought to have and gives me a sense of belonging and meaning in life.

“I wish more people would come to know the truth and receive life from God. Without the Bible, there would be no solid ground, I would be in the dark without any guiding light.”


There are millions more like Wu, Zhang and Rev. Yin desperately waiting for the Bible.

You can be part of their Bible transformation story. Your gift will help get the Bible to people longing to receive God’s Word. They’re waiting now for the Bible.

You can help reach these people by supporting the cost of Bible paper to keep Bibles affordable, or your gift could help make free Bibles available to those who can’t afford to buy one. Thank you for prayerfully considering how you can help bring the Bible to people in China.

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