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?

Donate now

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?

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.

Two hundred years of the Bible in Australia

The founding of the New South Wales Auxiliary of the British and Foreign Bible Society on 7 March 1817 has been hailed as a visionary move by the Anglican Archbishop of the Sydney Diocese, Glenn Davies.

Noting that the same men who established Bible Society also formed the Bank of New South Wales a fortnight later, Davies said the move showed extraordinary foresight for a colony in its infancy.

“The men who established both institutions 200 years ago put their deposit in the heavenly realm before the treasures in earthly vessels,” he said. “The word that they treasured so much still speaks to men, women and children today because the word of God is living, active and a two-edged sword.”

He said he was grateful for the Bible Society’s ability to print Bibles in easy-to-read English so that the “living oracles of God” were accessible to today’s generation.

Davies will address a National Celebration of the Bible on Sunday, 5 March. It will be webcast from the Hillsong Convention Centre in Sydney, and will also feature Hillsong’s Brian Houston.

Any church can use the live stream of the webcast, or show a delayed stream. There are also “Lighthouse Churches” carrying the event live.

Bible Society has been operating longer in Australia than any other organisation. The only change is the name. In 2010, the Bible Societies in each state merged into a single organisation, Bible Society Australia. As it has been doing for 200 years, it’s still involved in the translation, publishing, and distribution of the Christian Bible. BSA also aims to engage people with what it calls the Good Book, using traditional and new media.

Two hundred years ago, the Bible was widely viewed as the bread of life and essential for spiritual sustenance. It was widely accepted, unlike today, that the Bible contributed to the private and public good. This is why, as Bible Society Australia marks its bicentenary, what it really wants to celebrate is the Bible – and to advocate for it in every possible way.

Bible Society’s CEO Greg Clarke reminds us that, 200 years on, “there is an enormous amount of work still to be done. We’re not content simply to hand out Bibles. We want to help people engage with the Bible and answer their questions about it,” he says.

“We’re celebrating our 200 years of sharing the Bible by doing more of what supporters want us to do – championing the Bible worldwide, from prisons in Australia to churches in China.”

The Bible remains the world’s best-selling book with more than five billion copies printed. Many Australian national values stem from the Bible. A common Anzac statement is from John 15:13: “Greater love has no one than this – to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”.

Clarke says the work of Bible Society will continue both here and throughout the world, adding “the Good Book really is here for good.”

For more about Bible Society Australia’s 200th anniversary celebrations, visit

Story from Bible Society Australia, by Anne Lim

A special Christmas present for Oman’s teenagers

There are some very happy youth in Oman with brand new Bibles thanks to your amazing support.

Last year we invited you to support the distribution of Youth Bibles in Oman and at Christmas this project became a reality. Thanks to you, we were able to help give away 100 Youth Bibles at a special youth Christmas cafe event organised by the Bible Society in the Gulf.

“I was happy to receive the Youth Bible. I have my own copy but I really needed one to give to a friend who is not a believer. I think this will be the best Christmas present for her. Please pray for her,” said Anisha.

“I felt so special when the Bible Society gave me this Bible. I am very thankful to you. I find it very easy to read. I especially love to read the four Gospels. I can’t express my gratitude enough,” said Enoch.

And finally from a grateful youth pastor at the event: “Everyone who participated is now able to share the full story with friends and family (because of the free Bibles). This cafe’s impact will not be measured by the joy of the night but by the lives changed by opening the Bible and reading it for themselves. Thank you Bible Society for your continued passion and service to the communities of the Arabian Gulf. God’s Word is being read in heart languages and changing the communities, one Bible at a time.”


Bible Society partners with game studio on innovative Bible game

Thousands of kids around the world are playing a New Zealand-made online Bible game designed to bring the Scriptures alive.

“We love it,” was the resounding comment from kids at the Hope Centre, Lower Hutt, who recently trialed The Aetherlight: Chronicles of the Resistance. So far, the game has more than 15,000 players across multiple platforms, mainly from New Zealand, Australia and the United States, with 400 kids playing the game every day. Game makers Scarlett City in Auckland estimate more than 30,000 hours have been played worldwide.

The game tells a tale paralleling the story of the Bible, re-imagining the Bible story as a ’steampunk’ allegory, taking characters and stories from the Bible and putting a fresh face on them to connect with kids.  Bible Society is partnering with Scarlett City to help families and churches connect the story kids encounter in the world of Aethasia to the real story of the Bible.

”Reading the Bible for most kids these days is a foreign concept. This is a way for them to engage with and understand the Bible,” said Hope Centre Children’s Pastor, Sarah Hart.

Ten-year-old Mackensie Te Pohe loved playing the game. “It’s really fun and interesting,” she said.

Episodes are released every few months (episode two The Resistance Takes Flight was released in July 2016).

“By connecting game players to the big story of the Bible, The Aetherlight brings a significant opportunity to help pre-teens understand the Bible’s relevance in their lives,” said Stephen Opie, Bible Society Programme Director.  “It really is the ancient art of storytelling for the 21st century.”

The game comes with its own companion Bible, which has just been released in the USA and New Zealand.  The New Living Translation even includes two unique codes to unlock exclusive game items.

The Aetherlight is available on PC and Macs, as well as mainstream mobile devices.  Visit for full details or download the game from the app stores by clicking on one of the buttons below.

Get it on Google Play

Learn more about The Aetherlight

Help Bible Society reach refugees with the Bible

“Pray for us,” says the Director of the Bible Society in Syria, based in Aleppo. “Every day we live is a gift from God.”

People in Aleppo are living without water and electricity. They have nowhere to escape. And there is nowhere safe to shelter. Bombs and missiles are falling, causing huge damage throughout the city.

The Director of the Bible Society in Syria is speaking over a noisy telephone line from the city that was once Syria’s economic capital. Today it is the world’s most war-torn city, but Bible Society is carrying on with its work.

Five years ago this July the war reached Aleppo. He describes a life where explosions roar day and night. There is no warning before the shells land and the rockets explode. There are no functioning air defence sirens to tell people to seek shelter.

“You’re dead before you hear the rocket arrive,” he says. “We live with the knowledge we could just as easily be hit whether at home, work or in church. There’s nothing we can do, nowhere we can go. It is God who decides. Therefore, people continue to live as normally as possible. They go to work, and they go on worshipping, though many of the city’s churches are now partially or completely destroyed.

“God has given us hope ever since the conflict began, and as a Bible Society we serve all people and all churches, whether they are Orthodox, Catholic or Protestant.”

Pictured above is a Syrian refugee family who fled their home village when the bombs started to fall, killing people in their street. They live in an apartment in Jordan, and say that the only help they have had is from Christians – the Bible Society of Jordan and a local church. The Bible Society is working with many churches to provide material help for many thousands of Iraqi and Syrian refugees in the country.

Demand for Bibles is high

Despite the war, the Bible Society team has managed to bring in 30-40 tonnes of Bibles and Christian books each year. Most arrive via Lebanon, since it is not possible to send the books directly to Syria.

“The demand for Bibles is high here,” the Director says. “Children’s Bibles are very popular. People feel that only the Bible can provide answers in this difficult time, and it is only God who can really meet their needs.

“For the Bible Society, this is actually a good time, because we witness and give people hope through the Bible. People in Aleppo are traumatised and exhausted after four years of war. They live with the grief of all their loved ones who have lost their lives, and with the fear of being hit themselves.

“Also, everyday life has become harder. Even small or mundane tasks are difficult. People are dependent on private generators for electricity, they get water by carrying it in buckets, and there is little to buy in the shops.”

“We are totally dependent on God. He is the only solution. At the same time we have realised that we must not lose our respect and love for man.”

“Yes, this is what we have learnt through this conflict and we are crying out to God on behalf of each person in our country. Each one is precious in his sight! Please continue to pray. It’s the most important thing you can do for us.”

Donate now

Helping refugees in Lebanon

We’re helping to reach out to displaced Syrian, Iraqi and Kurdish refugee families fleeing to Lebanon with the hope of the Bible.

Partnering with the Bible Society in Lebanon, we aim to build bridges to these desperate people in a very practical way by helping them with food and medicine needs, as well as their spiritual needs.

“We want to be living the Word to them and for them to encounter God’s love,” said a Lebanon Bible Society worker.

Our goal is to help provide as many as 4,500 refugee families forced out of their homes with aid packages and Scripture materials. In doing so these people will be introduced to the Bible message for the first time and local partner churches will be strengthened.

Would you prayerfully consider how you can help bring the Bible to refugees in Lebanon, Greece and on the refugee highway by making a gift?

We are 100% donor funded and rely on your gifts to continue our work.

New Zealand supporters thanked in Kiribati

Kiribati Bible translator, Rev Teakamatang Eritai gave a long vote of thanks speech during the launch of the Kiribati New Version on September 17.

Rev. Eritai grabbed the opportunity to kindly acknowledge every individual who sacrificially gave money in Aotearoa, New Zealand through Bible Society New Zealand to help pay for the 3,000 Bibles that were given freely in Kiribati. Rev. Eritai challenged his people to cultivate an attitude of giving rather than receiving – to give back to God through the Bible Society whether in offering or prayers of thanksgiving, and continuous support to the work around the region and the world. He also thanked the United Bible Societies for all the technical help given by the Translation Consultants in the 28-year-long period of the project. The assistance to speed up the translation process from Every Tribe Every Nation (ETEN) ministry was also acknowledged.

On this note, it is the constant desire and prayer of the Bible Society in the South Pacific that families and individuals will rise up in every country like Kiribati, Tuvalu, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Samoa, Tonga, and Fiji to be Bible donors (join the Bible-a-Month Club) and be a source of blessing to other people groups that are in desperate need of God’s Word.

Story: Bible Society of the South Pacific

New waterproof Bibles for the Navy

A chaplain for the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) hopes his sailors won’t ever have to test just how waterproof our New Testaments really are!

Chaplain Pete Olds, RNZN, commented, “The practice of offering our new recruits a Bible is one that goes back many years.  Now, in the RNZN’s 75th year, we can gift them the good news in a way that really resonates with their new life as sailors; waterproof and wrapped in something of our history as a service.  I’ve got to be honest though, we’re praying the waterproof bit will turn out to be unnecessary.”

Bible Society recently supplied 1,350 New Testaments with Proverbs and Psalms to the Royal New Zealand Navy as part of their 75th anniversary. The specially designed Bibles with plastic coated pages include a Navy prayer and front cover design of HMS New Zealand, a battle cruiser gifted to us from Britain in 1911.

These Bible play a role in the new recruits’ training process and often throughout their whole life in the Navy, explained Peter. “The 300 trainees a year go through an ‘attesting process’ where they take an oath on a Bible to join the RNZN or they can choose to make a verbal affirmation. However, the majority choose to ‘attest’ on a Bible, which is now the special design Navy Bible, and then they get to keep it. All trainees are offered a Bible and usually they take one and often they carry it with them from then on.”

“For our sailors, particularly our new recruits, they are embarking on a new life that is quite uncertain and there are a lot of questions that come up, especially in those initial stages of training. They are intensely personal questions such as, What am I doing here in this organisation, Where is this going? Some of these emotional and relational things, such as being separated from family, are big issues. So for them to be able to pick up and read The Word themselves is very important. And it enables us to have a dialogue with them and we can point them to things they may find encouraging, critiquing or shaping in terms of the message,” said Peter.

“Our hope in having these Bibles as a tool and having our presence here as chaplains, is we get to start the dialogue about the bigger meanings found in the world and the story that lies beyond the immediate, everyday stuff. “

“Personally, I find we are living in a world with a ceiling on it and any notion of the transcendence of a larger cause is often removed. We’re so focused on what’s going on here and now, and in terms of faith, a lot of people have just discounted there is anything bigger – a bigger picture. So one of the things we seek to do is engage people’s understanding of that bigger picture because I think it is fundamental to who and what we are.  The world is a pretty bleak place at times and if you’re got no concept of ‘other’, of God or spirituality, there are a lot of things you haven’t got any option for other than to just endure because there is not a hope lying behind them.”