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.
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?
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.
Chinese Christians are known for their love of reading the Bible. “Regardless of their educational background, they all want to have a Bible with them. When they are faced with difficulties or during a quiet moment, they will want to read the Bible,” says Elder Fu Xianwei, Chairman of the Protestant Churches of China.
The Bible has gone from being banned, confiscated, burned and destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, to becoming the best selling book in China. All this has happened within a couple of decades and is due in part to the establishment of the Amity Printing Company (APC), now the largest Bible press in the world.
The printing and distribution of the Bible has helped fuel this explosive growth of the church in China. It is believed unofficially there are now more than 100 million Christians in China with one million coming to faith each year. Some estimates suggest that by 2030 China will have more Christians than the USA. The church in China has become one of the fastest growing churches in the world in modern history. But as the church grows exponentially, millions of Bibles are needed yearly to meet the ever-growing demand.
“This means there is a huge Bible ministry need in China. Millions are becoming Christians and they need the Word of God for their faith to be nurtured. In addition, many of these new Christians are poor and live in the rural central and western regions of China. They need a first Bible. Or they are seasoned poor Christians with worn out tattered Bibles.
“The Bibles for China’s Millions project aims to enable millions in China to buy a copy of the Bible at an affordable price. “It is our prayer that the billion in China will be impacted by the Word of God for the blessings of all nations in this century and beyond,” says Kua Wee Seng, Director, United Bible Societies China Partnership.
Up and up the windy dirty path, Bible Society representatives from USA, Britain and Netherlands joined local church leaders on a long and mountainous trek too narrow and dangerous for their van to pass through. With heavy loads on their backs, many of these foreigners weren’t used to this labour.
Nonetheless their faces lit up with joy and their steps were light. Although few words were uttered to the locals as there was no common language, these Christians served a single purpose, united under God’s banner of love. Their task was to bring boxes of Bibles to be given out free in the rural areas where 70 percent of China’s Christians live. As they approached the village churches, they were welcomed like celebrities. The church band began playing, throngs of church members who had been camping out since early morning, rushed to greet the guests singing praises to God.
Despite the cold wintery air, many elderly, rural Christians could not be deterred from coming. While the village of Christians waited to receive their Bibles, many of whom were getting their very first, tears of joy streamed down their faces.
Some spoke of waiting more than 10 years to own a Bible.
A Bible is a precious gift to Chinese Christians.
Getting Scripture to where the need is great
Christians living in the Henan province of China are hungry for the Bible, but are either too poor to buy one or have been using the same, now worn out, Bible for 20 years.
A team from United Bible Societies visited Tongxu County in this province late last year to distribute Bibles. Here, 30,000 Christians worship in 67 churches of varying sizes, pastored by two elders and 200 lay preachers. Even though the Chinese economy has developed and grown tremendously, the income gap between city and rural dwellers is vast. In Tongxu County, residents are mainly farmers who grow potatoes and carrots for sale. In recent years, it has become increasingly difficult for these small scale farmers to make a sustainable living due to greater competition.
Elder Hou’s story
Elder Hou Fengxian is a 53-year old farmer and volunteer elder at Sunyingxiang Church. Since his graduation from Henan Bible School, he has been serving the congregation for 20 years.
Elder Hou says he needs more Bibles, “We have many new baptised members and we can’t afford to buy more Bibles. There are also seekers who would like a Bible so they can read God’s Word for themselves. Some of our Bibles are more than 20 years old and need to be replaced.”
Every Sunday, Elder Hou conducts a 20-minute Bible Reading session for his congregation. About a quarter of them cannot read well so this session helps their reading skills.
The Bible is my treasure
Deaconess Zheng Jingdan is 74-years-old. Her parents brought her to faith and she has been serving the church since it started in 1982. One of her daughters-inlaw is also a deaconess. The Bible is her treasure. She reads the Bible every morning, memorising verses first before making breakfast.
So far, she has memorised the whole book of Psalms. When one of her sons became a Christian last year, she got him a Bible. “The Lord knows our needs here and has provided for us through your giving. Thank God and thank you!”
You can be part of Bible Society’s impactful ministry in China.
You can help reach Chinese Christians 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.
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.”
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.”
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 Apple and Android mobile devices. Visit www.theaetherlight.com for full details or download the game from the app stores.
The Aetherlight Companion Bible is also now available from Bible Society New Zealand at $24.99 email: orders@Biblesociety.org.nz or telephone 0800 4 BIBLES.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.”