God’s Word spreads further in the South Pacific

Children and adults alike from Kiribati and Tuvalu in the South Pacific are delighted to have Bible comic story books in their own heart language for the very first time.

“Their reaction was one of amazement and they were so appreciative,” said Charles Cleary and Seremaia Rareba from the Bible Society of the South Pacific (BSSP). “Please thank all the generous supporters in New Zealand for making this possible,” they said.

More copies of the Bible comic story book titled, The Man Who Trusted God, The Story of Abraham, with content from Genesis 12 to 22, are currently being distributed to Kiribati and Tuvalu churches and communities in Suva, Fiji, before being shipped to the islands.

The Abraham Bible story comics are part of Bible Society’s ongoing mission to reach the people of the South Pacific with the Bible in their heart language.

The next translation project to be finalised in the South Pacific will be the Hano New Testament in Vanuatu. Here, the Hano language is spoken by more than 6,000 people in the North Pentecost area of the island with 1,000 speakers in the main centres.

The last publication of the Scriptures in the Hano language was in 1988, consisting of the four Gospels. The New Testament is nearly complete now with final checking in progress.

It’s hard to imagine that many people in some of New Zealand’s favourite Pacific holiday destinations still do not have the Bible in their own language.

Tropical getaway destinations such as Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Kiribati, Tuvalu, Cook Islands, Niue and French Polynesia, many of which have multiple languages, are waiting for Bible translation projects to be completed or started.

Seremaia (left) from BSSP with Rev Kabong, a church minister from the Kiribati community, with some of the comics.

Without the Bible in their own heart language it’s much harder to connect intimately with God.

There is ongoing translation work on the Tongan Contemporary Old Testament. Text is also being prepared for Bible resources such as concordances and electronic Bibles, which will be distributed in Tuvalu, Kiribati, Niue, Tahiti and Tonga.

In Fiji, translation work continues on the Maumi and Korobubu-Ba New Testaments, with both projects due to print trial editions of completed books later in the year.

Finally, people experiencing trauma will be helped by the translation of biblical trauma healing materials into various South Pacific languages.

Apenesia Lewatoro joined BSSP because he was fascinated with translation work and had a heart to make God’s Word available in the language of his people.

He said, “Bibles were originally translated by the missionaries in the 1800s and one of the challenges now is people don’t understand the languages of the past. We’re working towards translating the Bible into today’s languages of contemporary Fijian, Kiribati, Tongan, and Samoan. Then people can understand God’s Word and make changes in their lives.”

“Thank you so much for your kind hearts in supporting Bible work in the South Pacific. God bless you all.

You can help the Bible Society in the South Pacific bring the Bible to people in their heart language. To make a secure donation to Bible Society’s translation work, click on the button below.

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Bringing the Bible to hard places – Iraq and Bangladesh

Can you imagine doing Bible mission in a country at war with fighting, destruction and danger all around you?

A place where Christians are persecuted, the government is unstable, violence is commonplace and poverty is widespread? This is the everyday reality for the Bible Society in Iraq.

Nabil Omiesh, Head of the Bible Society in Iraq, describes their operational conditions as “difficult”, and he makes a plea for support. “Due to the hard and difficult situation Iraq is passing through now, the religious extremism in the region, I would like to ask our Christian friends in New Zealand to help their persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ in Iraq. God bless you.”

They need help to keep them operational, so they can continue to have a presence in this war-torn landscape.

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

Recently, Sandra Elliot from International Christian Concern (ICC) reported in an Assist News Service article the closure of eight churches in Baghdad due to significant loss of the Christian population. She writes, “Christianity was once an integral part of the multi-faceted religious fabric of Iraq. At the beginning of the 21st century, Christians made up ten percent of the total population. The recent history of Iraq, however, reflects a stream of repression, conflict, displacement and persecution.

“For the 230,000 Christians remaining in Iraq, we must continue to pray and support them,” she said.

The Bible Society in Iraq has two offices, one in the north dealing with the needs of the surrounding region and another in Baghdad dealing with the middle and southern part of the country.

Their most immediate need is for a vehicle for Bible distribution. “Our offices are very simple and spartan. We have one distribution van for our offices in Bagdad but we don’t have one for the Arbil (north) office,” says Nabil.

Nabil tells us another pressing need is for essentials like printers and basic office equipment because of their difficult working conditions and their limited budget.

But finally the biggest need, he says, is for prayer. “We always need prayer for our staff, who are working under these difficult circumstances and require tremendous strength.”

But despite all this, Nabil says he and his staff try to work hard with “joy and peace” in their hearts “to serve the Lord Jesus Christ”.

This steadfast faith is bearing fruit, and the Bible Society in Iraq is considered an important part of the Christian culture in the country.

Nabil says they’re providing several key Bible programmes for children and people in need as well as an important Bible-based trauma healing programme.

Persecution and physical hardship are also commonplace for Christians in Bangladesh.

A developing country, Bangladesh continually faces severe environmental issues, such as last month’s devastating monsoon rains which displaced millions of people, along with poverty and illiteracy.

In Bangladesh there is no war, but in many other ways, the situation is just as bleak as Iraq.

Only 0.6% of the vast 165 million population is Christian. Bangladeshi Christians tend to be poor and working in rural areas. They live in villages and are mostly farmers living hand to mouth. Their low income means they are not able to purchase Scriptures for their own use, yet this growing Christian community is hungry for the Word of God.

Bible Society is the only supplier of Scriptures to the churches in Bangladesh and they depend on them to provide Bibles for their committed, but unsupported, congregations.

“In addition to keeping the Christian community supplied with Scriptures, there is a great need to share the Bible with this huge number of people, who speak 46 different languages and have not yet heard the Word of God,” said acting Bangladesh Bible Society CEO Richmond Joydhor.

Like Iraq, the Bible Society’s greatest need in Bangladesh is for a vehicle. Bibles and biblical resources are too sensitive to post in Bangladesh so the only safe means of distribution is through private transportation to reach every corner of the country. They also need help with basic operational costs including equipment and staff training.

Would you prayerfully consider this opportunity to help continue the Bible work in Iraq and Bangladesh? Your gift will help provide resources including vehicles to ensure they can continue to reach people with the Bible.

You can make a secure donation now using this form…


Myanmar – Bibles for those who can’t afford them

Christianity is growing significantly in Myanmar and people are seeking truth through the Bible.

But there are many people who can’t afford to buy a Bible or don’t know how to get hold of a copy.

With a quarter of the population living below the poverty line, the goal is to distribute Bibles at a price people can afford.

We want to help the Myanmar Bible Society supply Scriptures to Christians in the three languages of: Myanmar (nationwide), Sgaw Karen (in the south) and Jinghpaw (in the north).

“We want to provide both ethnic majority and ethnic minority people with Scriptures in national and ethnic languages which they can read and understand clearly, to help them grow in the knowledge of God,” said Khoi Lam, Myanmar Bible Society CEO.

Myanmar Bible

Myanmar is the official language of Myanmar and is widely spoken even by ethnic minorities. The literacy rate across the country is high at 95% and demand for this Bible is huge.

Sgaw Karen Bible

Karen (Kayin) is the largest majority group in Myanmar, numbering about 7,000,000 (the number of Christians is about 500,000). Many Karen are living in the mountains and Thai border area. They are in need of the Bible.

Jinghpaw Bible

Kachin is the name commonly used by outsiders for the 600,000 tribal people calling themselves Jinghpaw. They also form one of the 56 ethnic groups officially recognised by China, where they numbered 132,143 people in the 2000 census. Jingpaw is spoken by 425,000 people in Myanmar and by 40,000 people in China. Due to political unrest in the region, thousands of Jinghpaw are internally displaced. Most of them are Christians.

Country facts

The population of Myanmar is 52 million of which 89.3 % are Buddhist, with Christians making up less than 6%. The government recognises 135 different ethnic groups and it’s estimated there are about 200 spoken languages. Myanmar (Burmese) is the official language and is spoken by about 68% of the population as their first language.


Will you partner with us and help reach more than 10,000 people in Myanmar with the Bible in the language they can read and understand?

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Scripture access at an all-time high

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

30 first translations

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

31 New Translations, revisions and study editions

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

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

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

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

The Digital Bible Library

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

These languages are spoken by more than 5.2 billion people.

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


More Bibles needed for Christians in Cuba

Cuba is changing with the Bible

“In one area of Cuba, Pinar del Rio, they were very excited when they saw something they had never seen before – a whole box of Bibles. Earlier they had seen two or three Bibles at once but never a whole box,” commented a Pastor.

Alain Montano, CEO of the Bible Commission of Cuba (far right) with members of an Adventist Church in Santiago, Cuba

The vision of the Bible Commission in Cuba (Bible Society Cuba) is for every Cuban Christian to own a Bible. The project to achieve this is called One million Bibles for Cuba. And already, thanks to the support of many of you last year, plus the ongoing support of many others around the world, some 730,000 Bibles have so far been distributed in Cuba. Now another 270,000 Bibles are needed to meet the one million goal. Will you help us reach this target this year?

When you help supply more Bibles, you will be answering the prayers of Cubans who are seeking God.

What God is doing in Cuba is a miracle. God is transforming this nation through Bible distribution and Scripture engagement.  But with a population of 11 million people and a nearly 100 percent literacy rate, combined with an unprecedented growth in Christianity, Bibles are like water in a dry, parched land.

“There is still a long way to go,” says Alain Montano, CEO of the Bible Commission of Cuba. “We must continue while the doors are open to spread God’s Word in our country.”

Providing Bibles will change lives by bringing God’s Word to people here. This is a country where scraps of Scripture have been passed down on pieces of paper, hand-to-hand between believers, because Bibles were just not available,” he said.

“We see the libraries in the churches are almost empty. There are no Bibles with commentaries and no biblical texts,” said Mr Montano. The reason for the constant demand for Bibles in Cuba is simple: In the last 10 years, the number of Christians has doubled.

Orgalis Santana Parcaval

Bernt Olsen from the Norwegian Bible Society, who visited Cuba said, “This is the biggest need for Bibles I have seen in any country. The need for Bibles is unimaginably large – none of the churches have enough Bibles to give to new members, the elderly, children and youth, to students and pastor seminaries.”

The people of Cuba are crying out for the Bible. You can help meet this need.

“In my church there are many who do not have their own Bible. People are baptised but do not get a Bible. It is a Bible crisis in Cuba – there are so few Bibles to find,” said Orgalis Santana Parcaval (30), a seminary student at the Eastern Baptist Church, Cuba.

Around 35 percent of these Bibles will go to children, who are key churchgoers in Cuba. Mr Montano said this work is vital. “When you give a Bible to a child in Cuba, you are giving a Bible to the whole family.”

“We’ve had a lot of examples where parents have come to church because the children brought home a Bible.” He explains that these Bibles are suitable translations for children with colour illustrations.

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

As well as reaching children, the recent introduction of regional Bible distribution centres is ensuring Bibles reach those most in need. These centres are making a huge difference in helping get Bibles to out-of-the- way places in the countryside.

“It is very comprehensive work distributing this many Bibles in a project this size – One million Bibles to Cuba,” said Mr Montano.

This initiative will reach five distinct audiences: school-aged children receiving their first Bible, teens and older youth, adult new believers, prisoners, and seminary students and clergy.

Will you help reach the goal of giving One million Bibles to believers in Cuba by making a gift?

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


Reaching Palestinian children and youth

The Palestinian Bible Society reaches children and youth through creative programmes

The Palestinian Bible Society aims to reach out to Palestinian children and youth through a Bible-based programme which includes conferences, camps, puppet shows and biblical trips for special events like Christmas and Easter. The programme reaches children and youth with its message of encouragement and biblical values in churches, clubs, villages and schools.

“One of the children who participated in the Bible camp comes from a Christian family that is not engaged in the Church and has never taught anything Christian to their children. It was a shock for Tony to hear stories from the Bible, as he never had a Bible and never understood what it meant to be a Christian,” explains a Palestinian staff member.

“The story of Joseph touched his heart, so he returned home and shared with his parents that God can take care of us, even in the hardest of circumstances. This testimony touched his mother’s heart. Today she is reading the Bible with her children every night and has started to attend church on a regular basis.”

One young sceptic met the Bible Society team who shared with him the story of Jesus. He is now a volunteer! The staff worker explains, “One young man was reluctant to hear the story of the crucifixion at first, as he had many doubts about Christ and why he was crucified.

“However, when we began sharing the story of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, he listened attentively. After a long discussion and many one to one interactions with him, he began to understand that the cross paid the price for his sin. Today he is one find it challenging, even threatening, to cope with the high number of refugees. So I found it was a signal of true Christian of the active volunteers who is doing puppet shows and reading his Bible on a daily basis!”


Bible Society helping families in need in Chile

Jesus is being used as a role model for families and children experiencing trauma and dysfunction in Chile.

We’re partnering with the Chilean Bible Society again this year to support their Bible-based programmes, administered by teams of Christian professionals in the highly regarded Profamilia Centre in Talcahuano.

Working with families in need, the centre is renowned for its success in helping repair broken family relationships and running programmes to prevent alcohol and sexual abuse, violence, bullying and drugs.

In partnership with the police and government antinarcotics departments for eight years now, the centre’s courses, which promote Christian family values, are in constant demand.

Profamilia teams also work directly in at-risk primary and high schools running anti-bullying and cyber bullying prevention workshops for children, and dating violence prevention for teenagers. Through these workshops they promote Christian values.

“The goal we seek to fulfil is to develop ‘good people’ with Christian principles,” commented a Profamilia spokesperson.

“The results of our work are tremendously positive and recognised by the authorities, counsellors, teachers and parents.”

Just one example is eight-year old Josie (not her real name), who had severe reading problems and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). There was no help available to her and her mother sought out the Profamilia Centre. The Christian professionals at the centre focused on giving tools to Josie’s mum to help her overcome her daughter’s learning disability as well as deal with a stressful family living situation.

There was a ‘remarkable’ turnaround in Josie, which her mum attributes solely to the Christian staff at the centre.

By helping us support this project, you can help turn around hundreds more young lives in Chile. Scripture materials will also be given away in this project.

Donate now

Rebuilding family life with the Bible in Mexico

At a small church in a poor rural Mexican community, I met four, passionate and gifted volunteer teachers who are using Bible Society’s materials to help rebuild families.

Stephen Opie, Bible Society Programme Director reports on the Learn and Prevent in order to Grow project in Mexico.

In communities like this, family life is often broken and unstable. It’s common for Mexican children and youth to struggle to navigate through very difficult circumstances at home and school.

Roxana (pictured above, second from right) teaches 4 – 6 year olds in this church. “In this community, in our case, the children are really ignored, they’re neglected. It’s a matter of giving them attention and helping them feel valued and they can feel like they not only have their parents, but they have God. And God loves them,” Roxana says.

Like so many other communities, family life here is “disintegrating”. These volunteers have seen firsthand how the programme has aided families in their communication. Catalina (pictured above, second from left) explains,

“It’s improved their Communication and their time together with their families. There’s a lot of brokeness and abuse and families are suffering. This material is creating values for the children which helps them unify with their families more. For us, this material has really been a big blessing.”

Young people play a game to teach them about boundaries.

Desperate to implement the programme wider, they shared it with local school teacher Veronica, (pictured above, far right), who now regularly uses the material at a nearby Junior High School with 13 and 14 year olds. “I shared it in school,” she says. “Not in a religious manner, as I’m not permitted to do that. But I applied it to some children that had a lot of behaviour problems. I applied it to strengthen their moral values. There were changes in some of the kids. They took better advantage of the opportunities at school and a lot of their negative attitudes were modified.

And there was a big change in the group they allowed me to share it with – in the end they were working together in a harmonious manner. And they started doing better at school.”

For many of the local children, growing up without a father is a reality. Lisbeth (pictured above, far left) grew up in this community and says that when the kids learn about God the Father, they change. “That’s when the children’s lives change and it really helps them grow. It’s really been useful for us,” she explains.

Caption: Children with materials they’ve received from Bible Society.

The Mexican Bible Society is passionate about reaching children and youth with the hope of the Bible. Will you help us equip volunteer teachers like Roxana, Catalina, Veronica and Lisbeth with the materials they need to help rebuild families?

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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

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 bible.com.au

Story from Bible Society Australia, by Anne Lim