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


Scripture access at an all-time high

Last year Bible Societies worldwide finished Bible translations in 61 languages spoken by more than 428 million people.

30 first translations

Thirty languages now have the Word of God for the very first time. This includes 17 communities who now have their very first Bible, six communities who have a New Testament and seven who have their first or some additional Scripture portions. This means 95 million people now have biblical material for the first time ever.

31 New Translations, revisions and study editions

In addition to these climatic firsts, Bible Societies were also busy revising and updating existing translations. In 2016 this resulted in 28 new translations and revisions plus three study editions with the potential to reach more than 333 million people.

There are currently 6,880 languages in the world spoken by more than 7.4 billion people.

Some 648 languages spoken by more than 5.1 billion people now have a complete Bible and a further 1,432 languages (spoken by 657 million people) have a New Testament. This leaves 434 million people with only some portions of Scripture and a further 253 million people with no Scripture translated in their language at all.

United Bible Societies is committed to working towards the day when everyone can access the full Bible in the language of their choice. Bible Societies are currently working no more than 400 translation projects around the world.

The Digital Bible Library

The Digital Bible Library (DBL) is central to our strategy to make the Bible as widely and easily accessible as possible. By the end of 2016, the DBL contained 1,474 Bibles, New Testaments and portions in 1,134 languages. There are also now 403 audio scriptures in 345 languages.

These languages are spoken by more than 5.2 billion people.

The DBL is owned and maintained by United Bible Societies in partnership with other Bible agencies and with the support of the Every Tribe Every Nation alliance. It makes the Bible accessible by providing digital Scripture texts to the public through partners such as BibleSearch and YouVerion.


New Wellington Bishop’s love for the Bible

Last year one seaside church in Wellington decided to put into action the principals of Bible Society’s Pass it on campaign with great success.

Church members at St Albans in Eastbourne purchased 70 Bibles which were passed on to children and youth in the wider church family and community at a special Bible Month service. Some Bibles even went to students at Wellesley College.

Here, the then Rev. Dr Eleanor Sanderson, Vicar at St Albans and now newly ordained Anglican Assistant Bishop of Wellington shares about the experience…

“As well as supporting the work of the Bible Society through Bible Month, we wanted to take up your challenge and literally Pass It On. One of the great things about the work of those translating the Bible today is the multi-generational forms that the Bible is now shaped for. The pass it on message of Bible Month felt like a great invitation for our church to really make practical the passing of the gift of the Bible a reality right now amongst our own families and communities.”

“People were really supportive. I specifically sent a message to our prayer e-mail list with the request to purchase more Bibles for particular young people in our community and I had a fantastic response.”

A Bible enthusiast herself, Bishop Eleanor told us how important God’s Word had been to her.

“For me, the Bible has been such an important part of growing and understanding the love of God; both the love that God has for each of us, and this world, and also the love that we can have for God.

“I don’t think I would have found that love for God had it not been for finding the Bible first. Part of my faith story is that as a young teenager I woke one day with a huge urge to go and buy a Bible so that I could find out about God.

“I wasn’t part of a church or a church-going family and so this desire didn’t come from that influence. I got a bus into the nearby city and found a Christian bookshop and bought a little white Bible.

“Lots of the passages in the Bible confused me (and still do!), but through wrestling with them and reading more and more, I definitely found a strong chord of understanding that was a huge part of being drawn closer to making the decision to follow Jesus.

“During the church service I shared how later on in life God asked me to give this Bible away to another young person who was exploring spirituality.

“I shared that in my internal resistance to giving away something so precious, I remembered that God loved this person far more than I loved my precious Bible and so it is always an easy thing to say yes to passing on the gift of the Bible to others.”

Bishop Sanderson was ordained as Wellington’s first female Anglican Bishop on June 2nd at the Cathedral of St Paul .

Bible Month 2017 – The Bible: it’s good for life!

We believe the Bible is good for life! That’s why, in time for this year’s Bible Month, we’ve launched the new Good for Life initiative.

“Good for Life is all about equipping Christians with the tools they need to ensure the Bible remains an important part of their faith,”

Bible Society CEO Francis Burdett

To help churches encourage Bible reading this Bible Month, we’ve produced a set of unique Good for Life videos showing the transformational impact the Bible can have in people’s lives. These stories feature a surfer who broke his back, a Kaikoura earthquake survivor and a young girl who loves Bible stories. Watch the videos on the Good for Life web hub.

And to help church leaders understand more about the relationship New Zealanders have with the Bible, we teamed up with Nielsen to conduct a nationwide Bible reading survey. One key finding centred around the ancient biblical truth, “Do to others has you would have them do to you”.

Respondents were asked what they thought the main message of the Bible is.  Aside from those that answered ‘Don’t know’, the strong impression from the general population is that the Bible points to the Golden Rule, “Do to others as you would have them do to you,” Luke 6:31 (NIV).  In fact, some young people quoted the verse directly from the Bible.

Another interesting finding was nearly three out of five New Zealanders over 13 years old own a Bible and 7% read the Bible every day. A further 5% read the Bible weekly, meaning more than one in ten New Zealanders over 13 read the Bible every week.

Teenagers (13-18) are more likely than those aged 19-64 to read the Bible and attend church regularly. Those aged 19-24 are significantly different to all other age groups in many areas of the survey.

The 2017 Bible engagement survey also reveals the top barriers to Bible reading for Christians as a lack of self discipline (28%), being distracted by other activities (26%) and being too busy (24%).

You can order your free copy of the survey here. Other Good for Life resources include Bible posters, a six month Bible reading challenge and small group Bible studies. All these can be found on the Good for Life web hub.


Bringing the hope of Jesus to orphans in India

Bible Society in India (BSI) is bringing the hope of Jesus to homeless and orphaned children in India.

Through this work, many young lives will be impacted with a first-time introduction to Jesus through the Bible. Taking an holistic approach to mission, Bible Society not only provides children with Bibles, but also notebooks, a quality pair of shoes and a school bag.

Rahul and Rebekah (below right) are just two orphans of an estimated 8 million in India (official figures put the number of orphanages at 850,000).

“These orphanages rely heavily on Church and para-Church organisations to clothe, feed and educate the children. Bible Society is helping support this work through its 16 district offices. The children are always very happy to receive our practical gifts and spiritual support through gifts of Bibles, New Testaments and children’s Scriptures,” says Dr Varghese, BSI Marketing Director.

Christian orphanages can be found in every city and in all rural areas of every state of India. They vary in size, from housing 10 children to as many as 1,500 children or more.

*numbers are difficult to estimate accurately as many births go unregistered and many orphans live on the street.

 

Brother and sister orphans Rahul (pictured left) and Rebekah (right) are housed at the Kathal hostel in India.

Their grandmother Dhandi has been their main carer since their parents died. Rahul’s favourite school subjects are Gujarati and maths, and he wants to be a doctor. Rebekah’s favourite subject is English and she wants to be a nurse.


“We have seen that the Word of God sown as a seed in a child’s heart bears much fruit and is a tool in touching and transforming the lives of young children. We expect the Scriptures distributed to orphanages will have a multiplying effect, as children share it with friends at school.”

Dr Varghese, Bible Society of India


David and Lalhriatpuii

As the new school year began, BSI offered very practical help to orphaned and needy children. Staff distributed notebooks, school bags and shoes at the Khristiya Bal Vikas Centre. David said he was glad to have his new school bag and shoes. His father died when he was one and now his mother looks after him and his three brothers by herself. She thanked BSI for the generous gifts David received.

Lalhriatpuii was very happy with her new school bag. Her mother abandoned her when she was just two years old. She was in an orphanage but now lives with her father and brothers. Her father thanked BSI for the gift his daughter received and praised God for his love.

Anuja and Karishna

Anuja (left) arrived at the Bethel’s children’s home when she was seven years old. Her father died. She has a mother and an older brother and her favourite subjects are English and Gujarati. In the future she wants to be a missionary or a pastor. She heard about Jesus at a meeting and knew she wanted to give her life to him. That’s why she wants to work sharing Jesus with others.

Karishna (right) came to Bethel when she was six years old with leprosy and tuberculosis and no family to look after her. Through God’s grace, medicine was secured for her at the orphanage and two years later she was cleared of both illnesses with no lasting scars. Today she is doing well and wants to be a nurse.


Kathlal Children’s Hostel and School

Originally a mission compound opened in 1908, with a hostel opening in 1957, it houses around 65 boys and girls from disadvantaged homes as well as orphans.

On one visit, the children recited from the Bible even though they have never owned a Bible. Subsequently, BSI staff gave age-appropriate Bibles to all the children. They also received a school bag, two notebooks and a cream bun!

Vishal (pictured right) lives at the home and comes from a single parent family. His grandmother tried to help look after him. His favourite school subject is maths and his favourite Bible story is Jonah. He wants to be a policeman.

 

This July – New Zealand Bible Month – you can partner with us to help bring the hope of the Bible to orphans and disadvantaged children like Ruth, Rebekah, David, Lalhriatpuii, Anuja and Karishna.

Your gift will go towards helping 50,000 orphans like them receive children’s Bibles, notebooks, shoes and school bags.

Will you prayerfully consider giving the gift of a Bible to a children like these, so bringing the love of God into the life of an orphan?

To make a donation, fill in the form below.  Thank you and God bless you.

 

 


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.

Orgalis Santana Parcaval

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.

“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.

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

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.

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?

If you’d like to partner with us in reaching Cuba with the Bible, you can donate now using the form below.


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!”