Chaplains bringing hope with the Bible

“Nobody wants a chaplain till they need a chaplain, and then they really need a chaplain!”

Bibles are absolutely critical to the on-going ministry of chaplains in New Zealand hospitals, prisons and the Defence Force. Bible Society plays a critical role by ensuring chaplains all over the country have a ready supply of Bibles to give away.

New Zealand Defence Force

Providing comfort to soldiers, sailors, and Air Force personnel

Anthony, who is responsible for 27 chaplains throughout the NZDF says, “Now we have friends and families asking if they can have a cool camouflage Bible. They love the gospel stories. The army boys especially like the armour of God and the rest of us like Psalm 91.

“To me personally the Bible is the Word of God, it’s my security. I realise how often I do something because it’s in the Bible. I seek out people for advice because the Bible says in the company of many there is wisdom.”

Anthony recalls a particular situation when he was posted to Afghanistan. He was just sitting in his room one night and there was a knock at his door. “A soldier came in. He was off on a raid the next morning and he was nervous. I told him there is nothing wrong with fear. He was scared. We asked God to help and then we read Psalm 91 and talked about how God protects those who trust him. I’ll never forget that night, it was pretty special.”

Antony Hawes, Principal NZDF Chaplain

Without the Bible, we’re nothing. It’s everything – it’s our foundation, it’s our reason. The Bible offers us security and as chaplains we offer it to the men and women of the services. It’s our anchor.

“They love the Bible, that’s the thing. When every recruit and cadet start they attest their allegiance to the sovereign and most of them choose to do so on the Bible. And they get to keep it – they love it.”

Bibles for prisoners

Prisoners transformed through the Bible

Condemnation is something prisoners often struggle with and Richard, through his chaplaincy work, can offer them both comfort and hope.

“So many people come in here and they feel condemned. Not only is society and the law condemning them, the people they interact with are condemning them, and then they condemn themselves. They don’t need to be told how bad they are.

“They often say, ‘If God knew how bad I was he would never forgive me,’ so we start with that.”

Richard gives out Bibles on request with a team of volunteers. He notices that prisoners who receive Bibles often go on to tackle extra learning opportunities.

“It opens up a new world for them. It’s about improving yourself and the Bible is probably the best place to start. Three ex-prisoners recently shared about their prison experiences and their new changed lives and how the Bible became their inspiration. It’s their go-to book when they are finding things tough out there.”

One of the best parts of Richard’s job is handing out Bibles. And nearly everyone wants one.

“Giving someone a new Bible is a great thing, seeing the look on their face – it’s just one of those little WOW moments.

“When I talk to prisoners, and it can be about anything, I always let them know I draw my values from the Bible.”

Richard Clement, Prison Chaplain

“All of them have been changed through the Bible without a doubt. A favourite Bible verse with prisoners is John 3:16 and 17, ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.’”

Bibles in hospitals

Hospital patients find hope

Working primarily in mental health, Grahame’s been involved in pastoral care work for 15 years and now enjoys ministering to hospital patients and their families.

He says, “A Bible in a hospital is really like another medical tool for many. It’s a comforting thing for patients to have by their bedspace when they’re going through tough times.”

Grahame says they get frequent and regular requests for Bibles. He personally uses the Bible a lot, particularly when ministering to Christians. He is often asked to read it, especially from Psalms, and family members will also often read the Bible to a loved one when they are passing away.

“One of my worst nightmares is having to say no when we get requests for Bibles and we have none left. We need to be able to provide them immediately, not a week later.

“They want Bibles they can read and reflect on and they often come back to you with questions about different passages.

“I remember a young female mental health patient who was hearing voices telling her terrible things about herself. We met a couple of times a week and read the Bible together and slowly she started to understand the depth of God’s unconditional love for her. I think this was a real catalyst in helping her get well and back home into the community.”

Grahame commented that research is now confirming spirituality and religion are being seen as really valuable in our well-being. “I think our chaplaincy work makes a difference in someone getting well.”

Grahame Walker, Hospital Chaplain

“The provision of Bibles is absolutely crucial to our ministry. For those of you who give financially to enable this to happen we just want to say a big thank you. The Bibles are really well used within the hospital. We couldn’t do what we do without these Bibles. Thank you very much.”

Being a chaplain in a hospital, prison or in the Defence Force is not an easy job.

Chaplains have to relate to a wide range of people with varying backgrounds and faith journeys. They see people at their most vulnerable, often full of fear and worry. And they believe the Bible has something very important to say to them. The Bible can bring them the hope of a Saviour offering the precious gift of peace.

Bible Society supports chaplains through the provision of free Bibles. We can only do this through the generosity of supporters. We want to continue the mission of getting Bibles into the hands of prisoners, Defence Force personnel and those in hospital by ensuring their supply of Bibles doesn’t run out. Can you help us?  If you can contribute to this important work, please use the secure form below.

Thank you for your prayerful consideration of this request.