Global Bible reach continues to grow

Bible reach in the key areas of distribution, translation and engagement continues to gather momentum globally.

In 2017, Bible Societies worldwide assisted in the completion of Scripture translations in 49 languages spoken by more than 580 million people.

For 20 of these languages, spoken by more than 14 million people, it was their ‘first’ ever Bible translation. Seven communities received the very first full Bible in their language, four received their first New Testament and nine communities received their first, or additional, portions of Scripture.

Languages change and develop over time. That is why Bible Societies are also committed to revising existing translations or providing new translations, when requested, giving new generations the chance to meaningfully engage with Scripture. In 2017, this resulted in 26 new translations and revisions, plus nine study editions, with the potential to reach more than 566 million people.

 

Why Bible translation matters

When a community receives the Scriptures in their language, something profound happens. People feel that God is speaking directly to them, from among them. “God speaks my language!” is a common joyful reaction as they start to experience the hope and transformation in the Bible.

While great strides have been made in Bible translation, with the full Bible available in the languages of around 81% of the global population, 209 million people across the world still do not have the chance to encounter any part of Scripture in their language. Much work lies ahead if at least some parts of the Bible are to be made available in these remaining 3,773 languages.


Sign Language Scriptures for Deaf Communities

Some 70 million Deaf people use sign languages as their ‘first’ or heart language. But only 10% of the more than 400 unique sign languages have any Scripture, and those that do have very little. No sign language has the full Bible; American Sign Language comes closest, with the New Testament.


Reaching People with Visual Disabilities

An estimated 285 million people are visually impaired, 40 million of whom are blind. Only 44 languages have the full Bible in Braille, with some Scripture available in a further 200+ languages.

Transcribing and printing Braille Scriptures is a significant undertaking: a full Braille Bible consists of more than 40 bulky volumes and costs around $825 to print. But despite the development of audio and other formats, Braille continues to be the most popular way for blind people to engage with the Bible.

In 2017, Bible Societies in 32 countries ran Braille projects to meet the Scripture needs of blind readers. Two languages received their first ever portions of Braille Scripture: Luganda (Uganda) and Khasi (India). A further four languages received additional Braille Scriptures: Oshikwanyama (Namibia), Kinyarwanda (Rwanda), Armenian (Armenia), and German (2017 Luther Bible). In Latin America, work was completed on the transcription of the Dios Habla Hoy version of the Spanish Bible, meaning that all 44 Braille volumes can now be printed on demand.


Scripture Access and Engagement

Developments in digital technology have provided unprecedented access to the Bible, and more people than ever before in history are engaging with Scripture – and sharing it, too.

The Digital Bible Library® (DBL), by the end of 2017, contained 1,735 Scripture texts in 1,269 languages spoken by 5.6 billion people. Audio Scriptures in the DBL nearly tripled in 2017 to 1,078 audio Scriptures in 732 unique languages spoken by 4.9 billion people.

The DBL, which is owned by United Bible Societies (UBS), makes the Bible accessible by providing Scripture texts to the public through partners such as BibleSearch and YouVersion.


Pray for this mission!

In summary, UBS, which includes Bible Society New Zealand, is working towards the day when everyone can access the full Bible in the language of their choice. Please pray for this mission and our vital partner organisations worldwide helping with this work.


Ready for school and armed with the Bible!

Hutt Valley school children start the school year with a first for many – a Bible in hand!

More than 200 children in the Hutt Valley have begun school not only with all their school supplies, but also many of them have a children’s Bible thanks to the generosity of Bible Society’s supporters who donated to our Pass it On initiative.

The Big Little Bible (an illustrated Bible with 30 easy to read stories) and Taku Paipera – (My Bible), the only available children’s Bible in Māori – were  on offer at Hope Centre Lower Hutt’s Back to School party.

One parent at the event commented the Bible would be useful to help explain the meaning of Christmas and Easter celebrations which her children had been asking about.

At the Back to School party excited children were kitted out in school shoes and t-shirts along with gifted backpacks, lunch boxes, drink bottles, stationery supplies and packs of Lego. Cafe food, face painting, a lolly tent, games and a bouncy castle slide were also on offer as part of the fantastical, steam punk themed event.


Sharing the real meaning of Easter with Kiwi kids

Bible Society wants to share the story of Jesus with 100,000 Kiwi kids this Easter!

“This is a huge opportunity – one that could have a remarkable impact on thousands of Kiwi children in 2018. It’s the chance to get the story of Jesus into the hands of children who may never have heard this story before,” said Bible Society Programme Director Stephen Opie.

The Super Cool Story of Jesus is a creative little child-friendly book. It tells the story of Jesus’ life, including the Easter events, in playful, rhyming language with fun pictures.

Award-winning children’s author Joy Cowley says the illustrations in the book are “stunning.” She goes on to say, ”It’s such a pleasure to see the story of Christ Jesus in a multi-cultural context, beautifully designed. These illustrations will appeal to children, enhancing a message of love and light.”

Passing on faith

“We really pray this resource will help kiwi children understand the true meaning of Easter and that parents, families and friends will engage with passing it on to the next generation,” said Stephen Opie.

Parenting expert, co-founder of the Parenting Place and also founder of Faith4Families, Mary Grant says, “Of all the ways we care for our children, it could be said that, for Christian parents, passing on our faith is the most important.

 “We are the ones who can pass on the wonderful Jesus story and the truth about the God who ‘does stuff’. Not just by living it but by talking about it at every opportunity, and when our children are most receptive.”

Get your free copy today!  

The Super Cool Story of Jesus is available to anyone. Churches are encouraged to use the book for programmes, events and activities where they have children who may not know the story of Jesus. Bible Society will also be working with partner organisations to get free copies of The Super Cool Story of Jesus to families, with a special focus on reaching families in less favourable circumstances.

Donate and help reach 100,000 kids Order your free copies


2017 Christmas resources run out the door!

More than 3,000 families throughout New Zealand will be sharing the well-good news of Christmas with their children this year.

Bible Society’s free booklet The Well Good News of Christmas has literally run out the door. Families and individuals snapped up the special offer of the free book which saw all 3,000 copies given away within three weeks.

“The response to our offer of a free book about the Christmas story has been overwhelming. We were inundated with orders and the feedback we got once people recieved their free book was very encouraging,” Bible Society’s Stephen Opie said.

Bible Society is committed to reaching young people and children with the message of the Bible and helping resource parents and families to pass on their faith to the next generation.

Here are some of the comments we received from delighted recipients…

“Thank you very much. The children love it, and it has been a wonderful blessing.”

“My copy for my 6-year-old arrived yesterday. I am going to put it in his Christmas box. Thanks so much – it’s a beautiful book.”

“Thank you! Love the illustrations and poetic wording.”

“Thank you so much. My kids love it and have already read it.”

“These books are wonderful for our community children who come to church each Sunday.”

“I would really love one for my granddaughter becuase I can’t find good books about Jesus on her level.”

“Love it for my moko.”

In addition, Bible Society’s annual Christmas leaflet for children, this year called Escape to Egypt, was also a great success with churches and individuals throughout New Zealand quickly snapping up the 90,000 free copies available.


Mai Chen and her Bible – a reality check on life

Prominent top lawyer, twice New Zealander of the Year finalist, and with qualifications too numerous to list, Mai Chen is a phenomenal success.

Her name opens doors. Today she is managing director of Chen Palmer Barristers and Solicitors, Australasia’s first public law specialist firm, a BNZ Board director, an Adjunct Professor at Auckland University Law School, and surprisingly… a Bible enthusiast.

Bible Society’s Sarah Richards speaks with Mai Chen about how the Bible influences her.

“The Bible is so important. I read it first thing every morning,” she says.

When I ask her how she finds time to read it she replies, “It’s easy. You just get up in the morning you switch on your morning devotion on your iPhone and you read it. I also have an NIV Bible app and I quite often run and listen, or walk and listen or drive and listen. It’s always good to hear the Bible and be bought back to the things that really matter.

“I would rather have the Bible going through my head than Katy Perry,” she says. Mai believes it helps with the self-talk we have going through our heads every day. “It (the Bible) helps me to have God in mind, it helps me enormously.”

“The wonderful thing about the Bible is it’s all about our imperfection. Jesus didn’t come for the wealthy and righteous, he came for the sick – so you just take what medicine you can when you can. I try and read it when I can, if I get some solitude at the weekend, when I walk or run the dog – I find it helps me. I listen to the Bible instead of listening to music or podcasts.”

Elaborating on this Mai says the Bible helps centre her and it’s her guiding light. “It keeps you on course. And I love it because it’s such a radical book and Jesus was such a radical person. He didn’t do what people expected him to do.

“He wasn’t mightier than thou, he didn’t look down on people, he said to the prostitute, ‘I don’t condemn you either, go in peace’. He healed sick people, he hung out with prostitutes and tax collectors. He annoyed people we could consider to be the high and mighty and it’s really good to be reminded of this when we read the Bible.”

I asked Mai what the Bible means to her personally.  She replied, “Well it’s the only way I can touch God really . Every now and then, I get a glimpse of God, some manifestation of him in my life and sometimes he speaks to me, otherwise I am learning by reading the Bible.”

However it was on a trip to Israel with her husband, Dr John Sinclair, whom she met at a Scripture Union camp as a teenager, that Mai gained a much greater appreciation of the Bible.

“Israel made the Bible come to life for me. Jesus could have come down anywhere on the planet but he came down in the Middle East. My husband got sunstroke and we were only there in october. And I thought about the verses in the Bible where Jesus said go out into the world, don’t take anything with you, not even a coat and I ‘ll just provide for you.  I thought about how hot the climate was when the disciples were told to not take anything.”

Another reason Mai loves the Bible is because it’s a reality check on life.

“The world tells us that it’s all about being happy  and not having any problems . And people think being Godly must mean their life is going to go smoothly. But actually his (Jesus’) life was far from smooth. So it’s good to be reminded about this when life is hard. We want to be rich, we want to be beautiful, we want to be loved, we want to be popular, we don’t want pain but the Bible says that those who follow him will have trouble ahead. But the Bible says he will provide.”

Mai Chen has accomplished many things such as writing the Public Law Toolbox and the Superdiversity Stocktake  and setting up the Superdiversity Centre as well as establishing groups including New Zealand Asian Leaders and Superdiverse Women.

She says there is no doubt her gifts are God-given.

“I can’t sit on them (the gifts). I have to use them and I am lucky to have them. I don’t have very many and there are days when I feel totally inadequate. But God gave me the ability to think. I have a good mind. I have a lot of ideas. A lot of these ideas drop into my head whole, I am really fortunate to be like that.

“Time is a gift. The question is what you do with it. I spend most of my time productively.  I read things, listen to things, think about things, or I am doing something meaningful with my family. It’s not often I slump on the couch, eat ice-cream and watch TV. Time is short and I don’t have very much of it, I don’t want to go with all my gifts not used.”


Youth and the Bible in the 21st Century

By Roger Moses, Headmaster, Wellington College
Board Member, Bible Society New Zealand

It was the dynamic 19th century preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, who once said memorably that “A Bible that’s falling apart usually belongs to someone who isn’t!”

Spurgeon, of course, spoke in an age far removed from the post-modern world of the early 21st century; a world where Christians and non-Christians alike would have been familiar with common Biblical stories and themes that had helped shape the morality and ethics which underpinned Western civilisation.  The stories of creation, Noah’s Ark, David and Goliath, Daniel in the lions’ den, Jonah and the Whale, the Nativity story, Jesus’ feeding of the five thousand and the Death and Resurrection of Jesus would have all been known to the wider populace, even those with no personal commitment to the Christian faith.  Influential writers took for granted the positive influence the Bible had on the world around them.  Charles Dickens, for example, wrote that “The New Testament is the very best book that ever was or ever will be known in the world.”  Abraham Lincoln, the most legendary of all American presidents, said “I believe the Bible is the best gift God has given to man.  All the good from the Saviour of the world is communicated to us through this Book.”

The contemporary world of New Zealand however, presents some very different challenges for those who still believe that the Bible is the Word of God.  No longer can we take for granted that the young people we are endeavouring to reach have any knowledge of the scriptures or, indeed, the one who throughout the past two millennia has been known as the Saviour of the world.  In a very real sense, we find ourselves once again in the same circumstances as Paul when he addressed the Greek philosophers on Mars Hill.  Like Paul, we need to present the Gospel in both the language and context that is meaningful to our audience.

Young people today in New Zealand are as hungry as ever to find genuine meaning and a moral compass that gives direction to their lives.  The fundamental questions are as relevant as ever.  Who am I?  Where do I come from?  What is my purpose?  What happens when I die?  Millions of searchers throughout the centuries have found the answers to those questions in the Bible.  In the words of St Augustine, “The Holy Scriptures are our letters from home.”  The challenge for us today is how to communicate that message in a post-modern culture which assumes the relativity of truth and often marginalises historic Christianity as narrow, outmoded and largely irrelevant.  Yet despite the obvious challenges of the day, Charles Colson’s words ring true:

“The Bible-banned, burned, beloved.  More widely read, more frequently attacked than any other book in history.  Generations of intellectuals have attempted to discredit it, dictators of every age have outlawed it and executed those who read it.  Yet soldiers carry it into battle believing it more powerful than their weapons.  Fragments of it smuggled into solitary prison cells have transformed ruthless killers into gentle saints.”

 


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


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.


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.


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 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.

Learn more about The Aetherlight