Bible Societies facing immense pressure

The United Bible Societies, of which Bible Society New Zealand is a member, is a global network that reaches into 244 countries and territories.

In fact, there are only nine countries where Bible Society has no work. This is a unique and very special aspect of the global Bible Society network.

Of all these countries and territories, there are six that are operating in places considered to be ‘high risk’ for Christians. These are places where the Christian church is under high pressure. Iraq and Bangladesh are two of the six. They are struggling, and need our prayers and encouragement.

For them, everyday survival is very risky and a constant struggle. Just staying operational is challenging in these hostile, and sometimes war-torn environments. It’s fair to say that these Bible Societies are holding on by the skin of their teeth.

Iraq

This is a country torn apart by war, destruction and suffering, and poverty is widespread. It is a dangerous place to be a Christian. Yet despite these conditions Bible mission continues. For the Bible Society in Iraq this is everyday life.

“We always need prayer for our staff, who are working under these difficult circumstances. They require tremendous strength.”

A burnt out church dome in Qaraqosh

In the picture above, a man stands in a room in a church in Qaraqosh. A room that used to contain around 500 Bibles. A room burned and Bibles destroyed by extremists as they ransacked every church on the Ninevah Plains. This is the Church of Archbishop Yohanna Petros Mouche who said, “I wept and wept when I came into this room to see all the Bibles destroyed.”

The Iraqi people are beginning to return home after the conflict, only to find their houses, villages and livelihoods destroyed. The Al Taheri Church was formerly the largest and most beautiful church in Iraq. Now a little group, recently returned from Kurdistan, gather and pray there. Persecution means Iraqi Christians depend on God more than ever. This means Bibles are in huge demand and people are relying on the Bible Society in Iraq. The Bible brings comfort and strength.

Today, as the result of much hard work, the Bible Society in Iraq is considered a vital and unifying part of the Christian culture. It is critical this support continues to be offered and Bible Society can maintain its presence and vital mission work.

Bangladesh

Like Iraq, Bangladesh doesn’t often feature on our nightly news bulletins. But it’s a country of great need, with many unable to read and millions underemployed (low wages and only a few working hours a week). Around 38 million live below the poverty line. Most of the 157 million people in Bangladesh are not Christian, so the presence of Bible Society is almost unimaginable. It’s a huge mission field, and the Bangladesh Bible Society is working continuously to share God’s love with people.

It takes great courage for the Bible Society team there to tackle these enormous and sometimes frightening challenges on a daily basis. They need to be very careful when they distribute scriptures in public places, as there are reports that Christian evangelists have been beaten.

But despite the continuing threat of violence, they remain faithful, positive and steadfast in their mission to get the Bible to people who need it.

“Keeping the threat in our mind, we need to share the Gospel, so that they come to know about Jesus,” said a Bible Society team member.

Even though there are huge risks, the Bangladesh Bible Society is having success running activities such as the literacy programme for women (around 30% of adult women can’t read), which means they are then able to read the Bible (pictured above). But to keep the Bible work going there, they need support for core costs such as staff, a vehicle to distribute Scripture, office costs, travel costs, seminars and Scriptures.

“We need this to stay operational,” said a Bible Society Bangladesh team member. 


The prayers of Christians in New Zealand mean a lot to the staff of the Bible Societies in Iraq and Bangladesh. These staff are inspirational and courageous people who love the Bible and want others to have Bibles too. Please pray for their protection and future operational sustainability.

You can also make a difference by making a donation to the Bible mission in Iraq and Bangladesh. Your gift will help keep the doors open as they courageously continue to provide Bibles to people who need them. To make a gift today, you can use the secure form below.


Volcanic eruptions can’t stop Bible translation

Two volcanic eruptions couldn’t stop the launch of the revised Havakinau New Testament, which is now serving an unexpected purpose.

It’s bringing hope to Havakinauspeaking Christians in Vanuatu as they begin the process of rebuilding their lives and homes on other islands following the volcanic eruptions of Monaro Voui on the island of Ambae.

Photo from Vanuatu Daily Post

The New Testament was finally launched a few weeks ago at the Annual Apostolic Women’s Conference where 200 women danced, sang and praised God for the Bible in their mother tongue. Many were tearful as the Havakinau New Testament has encouraged them to hope in the Lord for the day they can finally return to their island. About 11,000 people from Ambae have been relocated to three different islands in Vanuatu.

Some have relocated to Maewo, Port Vila and Santo. Some 2,000 of them are on Maewo but the majority of them are living with their relatives in either Port Vila or Santo. More than 200 of the refugees are actually being housed at the church where the Havakinau New Testament was launched. It is an extremely difficult time for them reported Pastor Lois Fatu, head of a church in Luganville, Santo, Vanuatu. Many have been relocated indefinitely with the women, girls and children sleeping in
the church and the men and older boys in tents pitched on the church grounds. Only last weekend they heard the volcanic ash was reaching heights of 11,000 metres above the crater and affecting gardens on neighbouring islands as well as Ambae itself.

“We pray that God’s Word in their own language will be a help and comfort to them at this stressful time,” said Pastor Lois.

The volcano Monaro Voui has exploded twice, once in September 2017 and then more recently in March this year. In fact, it was just as the consignment of 1,000 New Testaments arrived in September for the second attempted Bible launch that Manaro erupted and the islanders were urgently evacuated.

It was a stressful time for the whole community as they fled to safety, leaving their homes and animals behind, unsure of what they’d come back to afterwards.

Jack Titek, Vanuatu Branch Manager of Bible Society South Pacific (BSSP), said one of the things that kept them going was the thought of returning home and celebrating the arrival of their revised New Testament.

“They felt the launch would be an historic occasion for their people and therefore people really wanted it to take place in their home in the west of Ambae,” he said.

The return home and a second eruption!

And so, as the volcanic activity decreased and more and more people returned home to rebuild their lives, the Bible Society and the churches began making preparations for the launch. But, once again, their plans were thwarted as Monaro started spewing ash and gas, blanketing the whole island. People fell ill, food and water supplies were contaminated and roofs collapsed under the weight of the ash. In April 2018, the Government announced the urgent and permanent evacuation of
the whole island.

Finally – the launch!

So it was with great celebration and fanfare that the Havakinau New Testament was finally launched at the end of August in Luganville on the island of Espiritu Santo. To mark the occasion, 200 women marched around the school grounds singing and dancing with the New Testament in their hands. Then worship, prayers and speeches were made before the New Testament was officially handed over to the people of Ambae.


Te Paipera Tapu (Holy Bible in Māori) celebrates 150 years

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of the first edition of Te Paipera Tapu (The Holy Bible in Māori).

While the first ever Scriptures in Te Reo Māori were published in Sydney in 1827 by the New South Wales Bible Society, this was the first ever full Māori Bible.

A sneak peak at the upcoming Paipera Tapu app, to be released early in 2019.

But the journey of the Bible in Te Reo Māori didn’t stop there.

This edition was followed by three further versions in 1889, 1925 and 1952, as well as a reformatted edition of the 1952 text which was published in 2012.

Then there was Tāku Paipera, the only Māori Children’s Bible storybook available, launched at the end of 2016.

Now, that very first edition of Te Paipera Tapu, first published in 1868, has just been digitised.  And this digitised version will be one of the many tools used to help produce a brand new translation, in more contemporary language for today’s Te Reo Māori speakers.

“Translation of any significance takes time, and anecdotal evidence suggests that contemporary Māori usage is already considerably different from the language of the current Māori Bible.  So we need to be pro-active,” commented Dr Stephen Pattemore, Bible Society’s Translations Director.

A new mobile Māori Bible app is also currently in development and will feature the current Māori Bible text (2012) as well as English Bible translations for people who want to read Te Reo Māori alongside an English text such as the Good News Bible. The new app will be launched in early 2019.

For more about the story of how the Bible was translated into Māori, watch our Ngā Timatanga video.


Sophie Gray; baking for Bibles for China

Nationally-known cook, author, Destitute Gourmet founder and Food Director of Bauer Media, Sophie Gray says Bake for Bibles is a great project for kids, friends and the whole family. And very importantly, the cookies are delicious!

Bake for Bibles is our newest fundraising initiative where volunteers bake Noah’s Ark animal cookies, ice them and sell them to friends and family. Participants are given a free Bake for Bibles pack which contains cookie cutters, a Noah’s Ark presentation box, cookie packets, a booklet (including the recipe), a poster and a colouring-in sheet.

Sophie says, “I think it’s a really fun and accessible way to get the kids involved in a baking project. The animal theme is very relatable and Noah’s Ark is a familiar and popular story, whether you’ve grown up in a household of faith or not.

“So you can invite the neighbours’ kids in to help bake the cookies and tell the Noah’s Ark story and talk about what’s going to happen to the money being raised.”

Sophie also believes Bake for Bibles is a great inter-generational activity for grandparents, aunts and uncles, and Godparents who may have more patience than parents when icing gets sloshed around the kitchen by little children. “Instead they will just enjoy the moment and the connection,” she said.

“Selling baking for money is a time-honoured tradition in the Western World from bake-sales to cake-stalls.”

A Christian since primary school, Sophie likes the idea of getting the Bible to people who need it. “I feel the Bible is almost a symbol of freedom. And the freedom to know God and explore faith isn’t something that’s accessible to everyone in the world.

“So what this project does is put the freedom I have into the hands of others who wouldn’t otherwise have it by giving them a Bible,” she says.

Take part in Bake for Bibles

Bible creates excitement at Kenepuru hospital

“I would take millions of these Bibles! I have never seen people so excited about a Bible before,” says Rev. Amy Finiki, chaplain at Porirua’s Forensic Mental Health hospital.

The award-winning comic strip Action Bible has both patients and staff lining up to read it.

Rev. Amy, who hunted out the Bible for patients with reading difficulties, has been both amazed and delighted at the reaction. “Everyone on this campus is trying to read this Bible. Everyone knows about it – even patients in other units.”

There are about 20 units in all at the Hospital with a total of around 200 beds including Kenepuru Hospital. Rev. Amy works primarily with youth (13-18 years) in three units including Acute Adolescent Mental Health, Intellectual Disabilities Youth Mental Health, and the National Forensic Youth Mental Health Unit. Porirua is home to the country’s first national forensic mental health youth unit opened in 2016, for young people who are involved with the justice system.

Rev. Amy commented patients are saying things like, “Have you see it? It’s amazing. It’s like a comic.” She believes its popularity is due to its accessibility and readability.

“It doesn’t look like a normal Bible, there’s colour and reality to it, even ethnically it’s pretty correct, it’s really well done. It makes people feel like they want to read the Bible and if they can’t read well they can at least see the pictures and follow the story.”

Rev. Amy said the under 18-year-olds loved it and even devised time slots to make sure everyone could have a turn reading it.

“That’s unbelievable to me- it’s a Bible! I love the Bible, don’t get me wrong, but I’m a realist.”

And now patients have started coming to the on-site chapel. “The Word they are reading is not so harsh. It’s more loving. And the world isn’t grey and black – it’s more colourful,” she said. She was spurred into looking for a Bible with a difference when she realised her patients weren’t reading the usual pocket-sized New Testament and Psalms she hands out. “What I found was they couldn’t read well and some Bible words can be difficult.”

“I went off looking for a Bible for teenagers with reading difficulties and came up with nothing. All I could find were little kid’s Bibles which I thought would be very demeaning to them.”

Finally her research turned up the Action Bible and within a week of giving it to the youth there were bookmarks all the way through. But it was both the staff members and the kids who were reading it.

“The kids were passing it around to one another and then the staff members were reading it while it was in the nurses unit. And I just thought this is amazing.”

There are also three schools on campus, one for each of the main units, and the Bible started getting passed between these schools. Now the teachers, nurses, occupational therapists and the kids were reading it. Then just before Christmas Rev. Amy had a delegation visit her asking “ how can we get hold of a copy of this Bible. We need more of these!”

 “There are many patients who find just having the Bible with them brings them comfort. Others find peace in reading it and exploring it.  It is a wonderful tool to have in our hospital,” she said.

Since writing this story Bible Society has granted the hospital another box of Action Bibles and Rev. Amy and the team want to say a big “thank you!”


Wellington Medical Doctor knows the power of the Bible

Wellington medical Doctor Ate Moala loves praying the Bible.

“That’s how I read the Bible. I pray it. I read out the scriptures, personalise them and turn them into prayers” she explains.

“The Word of God is life to me. One of the scriptures I really love is Proverbs 4:20 (NKJV).” Ephesians is another of Ate’s favourite books.

Take Your Bible Prescription!

Ate, who appears in one of our new Good for Life films, sees the Bible as a valuable tool in her work. In situations where things seem medically hopeless, she believes it is important to give people hope. “I say to people. This is where the medical textbook ends, but there is God. I tell them that God, Creator of the human body, is able to do much more.”

She says, “When people are in seemingly hopeless situations, I encourage them to read and speak the promises God has given in his Word.

“Or it might be a person with depression and you can look them in the eye and speak to their soul and say, ‘God has got a great plan for you and your future’, and remind them of who they are. It’s a great privilege to help people in a holistic way and shift people from despair to hope through the life-giving power of God’s Word. You give people a chance to encounter this loving God who has revealed himself to us through his Word.”

Sometimes Ate says she’ll write them a promise from the Bible (like a prescription) and encourage them to take it three times a day. “You’re actually giving them a gift – the living Word.”

Go Girls!

Ate, who is Tongan, also founded Purely Girls, a Christian youth leadership development ministry in New Zealand and now Tonga. Her vision is to help girls know who they are, and that they are loved, special and cherished. Ate and the Purely Girls team equip the girls with tools so that they can reach for the stars in all areas of society.

Watch Ate’s story below…

 


One million Bibles for Cuba dream comes true

The dream of distributing one million Bibles throughout Cuba became a reality this week with the final Bible being presented to an excited young Cuban girl.

The young girl from Havana that received the one millionth Bible

Faithful Bible Society New Zealand (BSNZ) supporters have been key in making this happen and their commitment was honoured with a special engraved plaque presented to BSNZ Programme Director, Stephen Opie, who attended the finale celebration in Havana.

Humble beginnings

The idea of distributing one million Bibles in Cuba originated in 2012 after Bernt Olsen, from Bible Society in Norway found pastors in Cuba who didn’t even have a Bible themselves. This was a catalyst moment for the Biblical Commission of Cuba (Bible Society), which launched One Million Bibles for Cuba in 2012.

Since then they have worked with many different denominations across the country of 11 million people, and helped unite the church behind the ambitious project. For the Cuban Church, which started to grow rapidly in the early 1990s, it seemed like an impossible dream but today youth, children, prison chaplains and Bible seminaries all have Bibles.

During the life of the project, Bible distribution numbers grew exponentially, from just 32,000 in 2012 to more than 300,000 in 2017.

More work to do

“There is a real sense here that this is not an end, but a beginning,” Stephen Opie said. “The need in Cuba for more Bibles is still great, with many Cubans unable to afford one. With the church behind them, and the continued support of many faithful Christians in New Zealand and all over the world, hundreds of thousands more Bibles could be distributed in the coming years.”

Joel Dopico, Executive Director of the Cuba Council of Churches said, “If we continue on this strategy, we believe half of all Cubans can be reached with the Bible.”


The Bible bringing hope, peace and healing to the Middle East

As the fighting and conflict continues to rage in this part of the world the Bible is in unprecedented demand. It is bringing hope, peace and healing to people desperate for answers.

Bible distribution in Syria

Despite the often dangerous situations Bible Society staff on the ground in both Syria and Lebanon remain strong in their mission to get the Bible to people who need it…

Head of the Bible Society in Syria, George Andrea, recently sent us this message; “It’s true the terrible situation in our dear homeland (Syria) is going from bad to worse. We keep on praying that God himself would put an end to this war, which has already lasted for seven years.

“So far we are ok, but Damascus has been a ghost city for several weeks while the war has been going on in several suburbs of the capital. Please pray for our country.”

Among the daily threats of war, violence and persecution, the Bible Society team of staff and volunteers have remained in Syria to ensure Bible mission there continues.

George Andrea

Devastation in Aleppo

In Aleppo, the scene of the deadliest conflict of the war last year, Bible Society continued carrying out Scripture distribution and Christmas programmes in different churches. Mr Andrea (pictured right), who is based in Aleppo, along with most of the Bible Society staff team, said the churches there remained active throughout the very worst of the bombardments.
“Not only by holding funeral services – there have been far too many of those – but also by offering community-centred services, which are so badly needed,” he explained.

Church is part of people’s lives

“It may be difficult for people in other parts of the world to understand just how much the church is part of people’s lives here in the Middle East. Yes, there are many people who never attend church, but once there is a crisis more and more people get in touch with the church because it remains there, in the midst of the crisis.

“The Church doesn’t only look after its own members – thousands of families from other communities have been helped for years, and the aid is given with no strings attached. It would be very difficult to find a church in Syria which doesn’t actively help people. I believe the church is both salt and light in our country, and we need both in order to rebuild.”

Huge demand for Bibles

Amidst all this turmoil is a huge demand for Scriptures – from both Christians relying on God more than ever, and Muslims looking for an alternative to the extreme expression of Islam they see around them. Last year in Syria, Bible Society distributed 284,065 scripture items, including 7,108 Bibles, 6,676 New Testaments and 6,076 children’s Bibles. Bible Society also runs bookshops in the region, including one in the city of Aleppo – just 150 metres from the frontline of the war in Syria.

“Supporting the Christian presence all over Syria is a major need in these times. Many churches and monasteries are being attacked and burnt, which has created a fear of existence for Christians. This is our opportunity to support their continuous presence,” Mr Andrea said.

Peace and justice in Lebanon

In this often volatile region, Bible Society of Lebanon is working hard to ensure the Bible’s message of peace, justice and reconciliation impacts lives.

Mike Bassous

Lebanon Bible Society CEO Mike Bassous (pictured right) says, “The Lebanese youth have a lot of questions about God, justice and peace. This is because Lebanon and its surrounding countries have experienced wars, injustice and famine, so the youth ask, does God exist and why does he allow this to happen?”

“We believe answers can be found in the Peace and Justice Bible, which highlights more than 3,000 verses on this topic, including study sections, which help answer their questions.”

Bible Society of Lebanon is distributing the Peace and Justice Bible to these young people, including many university students, and encouraging their interaction with the Word of God. Nour is one such student whose life was turned around…

Nour discovers the Bible

Nour is a 20-year-old Lebanese woman from Tripoli (North Lebanon), who lives in a village near the Notre Dame University of Lebanon. She participated in a Bible Society university survey and programme on the Peace and Justice Bible which addressed questions about oppression, inequity and injustice. She said she didn’t like the idea of God who is responsible for injustice in the world.

However, she was surprised when she began to look at verses in the Peace and Justice Bible, and became interested in reading it, and asked for a copy. She then also asked for a Bible for her children.

Two weeks later, Bible Society staff met Nour again and they were pleased and surprised when she announced she wanted to become part of the university pastoral team as a result of reading the Bible. She said, “The God in this Bible is different to the god which I have heard about. He is a God faithful to his promises, a God who tolerates the failings of man and accepts his freedom, a God who loves and seeks the heart of man, for these reasons. I want to know more about him.”

But what is even more amazing is Nour joined the Bible Society team to become part of the first group of Christians in the history of the university to take part in pastoral care work. Mike Bassous said, “This spiritual breakthrough would not have happened without the Peace and Justice Bible.”

PLEASE JOIN US IN PRAYING FOR SYRIA AND LEBANON

A final message from Mr Andrea and Mr Bassous: “We have a message of peacemaking, this is our mission. It’s also of love and reconciliation for all Syrians and Lebanese. We need to proclaim a peace that passes all understanding, and a love which forgives and repairs broken hearts. This is what we are all about. We cry with all the people suffering here, and our hearts are filled with the love of Jesus to the ones on all sides bleeding today.”

To make a donation to help bring the hope and peace of the Bible to Syria, you can use our secure donation form.

Donate now

The Super Cool Story of Jesus touches hearts nationwide

Thanks to the support of many people around the country, nearly 80,000 copies copies of the Super Cool Story of Jesus have been given away to Kiwi kids.

With demand still strong, the remaining 20,000 will be distributed soon.. During the course of this project we had many excited people contact us. One New Plymouth grandmother, who has 30 grandchildren and 20 great-grandchildren was so keen to get the story of Jesus to her tribe she ordered 50 copies, one for each grandchild!

We were also able to get the book to families in less favourable circumstances through our partnership with Salvation Army. Here’s what Eleanor Carr, Salvation Army Regional Family Store Manager had to say.

“It was a pleasure to be able to have the super cool super readable super engaging book The Super Cool Story of Jesus available in our Central Division Family stores. It was an extra treat for our customers and a timely offering at Easter.”

Meanwhile, Sarah Coup from Harvest Junior Church, Papakura, Auckland shares about how her church used The Super Cool Story of Jesus as a resource at a local library Storytime event.

“I decided to base our programme around The Super Cool Story of Jesus.  We had more than 20 children attend our 45-minute Storytime and craft session, where we read the Bible Story of Easter. We did crafts relating to Jesus and his love for us and then every child went home with their own copy of The Super Cool Story of Jesus. In our audience, we had a parent who hadn’t heard the Easter story before. She was able to go home with one of your books. It was a blessing being able to give back to our community in this way. We really felt we were giving the children something of worth and something that will remind them in the many Easters to come.

Bible Society’s display at the Waikato Show, where we gave away more than 300 copies of The Super Cool Story of Jesus.

“We also gave our Sunday-School children a copy each as well. The seed you have sown is huge and we wanted you to know our journey with your book! May God bless your ministry abundantly!”

And lastly, we had a very positive response at the annual Waikato Show, the first time Bible Society has exhibited there. We gave away 320 copies of The Super Cool Story of Jesus to excited kids who played on the activity table with our Bake for Bibles cookie cutters.

None of this would have been possible without you. Thank you for partnering with us and stepping out in faith. We were able to fulfill this vision of telling Kiwi kids nationwide about Jesus.


Sandalwood trees and the Bible offer hope

Since 2015, we have been partnering with the Bible Society of the South Pacific to support a creative Bible-based programme encouraging community living through growing sandalwood trees.

The MagiMagi programme is now growing strongly and is starting to change lives in the Pacific.

Now 25-30 year olds are starting to read the Bible and villagers are getting excited about the potential economic success of their sought after sandalwood trees. In addition, a village life-style based on cooperation is starting to grow. This was the way of the past.

This is all thanks to a Bible Society South Pacific (BSSP) project called MagiMagi based on biblical mentorship. The project is running in the four villages of Dravo, Maumi, Naila and Nsisogovau which together has a population of more than 800 people. Denominational churches are coming together in unity to get behind the project.

Through MagiMagi, people have received Bibles and study books in Fijian. Now they are reading them and also joining small groups to receive Bible study guidance and encouragement. In other MagiMagi villages, work is being done on translations of comics and scripture resources into local dialects. This means many people are returning to their own mother tongue.

However the big draw card for MagiMagi is the economic benefit. Fifty two sandalwood trees planted in Dravo village will be worth a staggering FJ$1.5m (NZ$1m) when harvested in the future, 10-15 years from now.

In addition, people are also being trained in producing shorter-term food crops such as taro, cassava, coconuts and cabbages. Previously individual growers were being played off against each other by buyers. Now they are selling cooperatively and getting better returns.

Model farmers – Maumi Village

This is how it works. Model farmers are mature Christians who are able to mentor and disciple others. There are 15 model farmers in Maumi trained in agricultural techniques who take other farmers under their wing. Some of the other farmers are not interested in Christian activity at first but want to learn how to make a living off their land.

One participant is Makiti, who had some land that many years ago was used to grow rice until the value of this crop plummeted. Now through MagiMagi, he has been taught how to grow watermelons, which sell for about FJ$15 each.

At first, Makiti was solely interested in learning to make a living off the land. But then he changed and became curious and Christian living and the Bible. He even attended an outreach and became a Christian.

The Bible truly is bringing the life to Fiji.

You can be involved in this creative and life-giving project in Fiji by making a donation. If you’d like to contribute, you can make an online donation using our secure form.

Make a donation now