Great news from Syria!

It’s sometimes the case that in the most terrible of times, good things emerge. We see that message threaded through the Bible: amid the most dire situations, God brings good. And it’s still the testimony of God’s people today…

Do you remember the terrible news reports of bombing, gas attacks and desperate refugees coming from Syria? We’ve had an update from George, the General Secretary of Bible Society in Syria (pictured right), which we’re delighted to share with you.

“The war has led people to Christ,” George said. “No one would have believed this when the conflict began! God has used events that people created for something good.”

Although half of Christians in Syria fled during the war, Bible sales went up. Many houses in Aleppo were destroyed by rockets but the Bible Society bookshop was spared. Its doors have stayed open every day of the war to serve the needs of all Syrians.

When asked who is reading all these Bibles when so many Christians have gone George said, “Isn’t it obvious? It’s everyone else. Those who have belonged to another religion are in search of the truth – and they find it in the Bible.”

The Bible Society’s busy year in Syria

August was, as usual, very hot in Syria but this did not stop the Bible Society from holding a Sunday-School Teacher’s Training Seminar for 60 new teachers in a village called Mashta el-Helou on coast. Simultaneously, another 50 teachers attendeda training event in Homs.  Nabil Saad, Programmes Coordinator was excited by the response. “You should have seen the enthusiasm among the teachers being students and the way that they responded to the lecturers from both Syria and Lebanon. We are blessed to work with the very best when it comes to teaching others,” he said. “It is not only a matter of imparting Biblical knowledge to the young children attending Sunday-School in churches across the country, but the true goal is to see how the children enter into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour.”

Biggest book fair in Syria

Since May, the Bible Society staff have been preparing for the largest book fair in Syria, and the second largest in the Arab World. Happening right now, this will be the Bible Society’s 29th year of attending the fair. Up to one million visitors are expected, and Bible Society’s stand there will require more than 11 staff and volunteers to manage and ensure those that come to learn about the Bible have a great experience.

Distribution still key activity

Nabil reports that Bible distribution is still their key activity in Syria.

“In July we gathered colleagues and volunteers from many churches to receive intensive Bible training during a few days at a Syriac Orthodox Campsite in Kessab, northern Syria. Some of the best Bible teachers in Syria had volunteered to share what the Bible is all about and how to make it come alive for others,” Nabil shared.

This is an important event for the Bible Society who utilises a network of volunteers who work long hours every year during the big Scripture distribution times at Christmas and Easter. Nabil says they regularly report that people all over Syria keep asking for Bibles as people are hungry and thirsty for his Word.

Thank you to all of our supporters who continue to pray and give towards this vital mission in Syria. The team there are very grateful for you all.

No words can describe our true joy being involved with the work that God’s given us to do in our homeland Syria, but we keep on reminding ourselves what the Lord said in the Gospel of Saint Luke: The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few! Nabil Saad, Bible Society in Syria.

More Bibles says China – millions still waiting

Across China people are seeking for, drawing from and being convicted by the Bible!

In rural areas and cities alike the Bible is sought after like never before. Officially, the number of Christians in China is 46 million but unofficially the figure is around 100 million.

The Amity Printing Press, situated in Nanjing, is printing Bibles for Chinese Christians, but the demand is hard to keep up with. Particularly, there is a great need for funding for Bible paper, which enables Bibles to be printed at lower prices. These Bibles are either sold at reduced prices or they are given away for free to believers in poorer, rural regions, or to ethnic minorities living in the mountainous regions.

The Amity Printing Press has seen many milestones, including ten million Bibles printed by 1995, 100 million Bibles printed by 2012, and 200 million Bibles printed by 2019.

But behind every milestone are real people whose lives have been impacted through the Bible, every one of whom has a story to tell…

Convicted by the Bible!

Dao Jianfen (left) distributing Bibles

Dao Jianfen, Yunnan Province

Dao Jianfen is a member of the Jingpo ethnic group. Twenty years ago she left her hometown to seek employment in the city.

That day Jianfen’s father, who had just become a Christian, gave her the only Bible owned by the family so she would have the Word of God
with her. This old Jingpo Bible became the most precious thing Jianfen owned. “During those times, Bibles were extremely scarce. The whole village of about 20 households had to share one Bible,” she says.

When Jianfen’s father had first received the Jingpo Bible, he was so convicted by what he read that he apologised to his eleven children for the way he had brought them up. “We were all so shocked. He said he did not know what it meant to love.”

Today, Jianfen, 46, is the overseer of the Jingpo congregation at Xi An Church in Yingjiang County, Yunnan. “The Bible is so important to our lives,” says Jianfen, who also sings in her church choir.

Fervent about Faith and Prayer

Li Yuling who is fervent about prayer

Li Yuling, Yunnan Province

Also from Yunnan Province, 77-year old Li Yuling lives in a village about a two-hour drive from Kunming. Uneducated and illiterate, she lives
alone and survives by planting corn and peanuts and rearing some domestic animals.

Although Yuling has four children, they have left the village to seek employment in the city and subsequently settled there. This makes Yuling one of China’s 50 million left-behind elderly people, most of whom have to fend for themselves without much care and support.

However, all of this does not stop Yuling from caring passionately about the Kingdom of God. Every morning Yuling wakes up before dawn, while it is still dark. She walks to a nearby hill and climbs up it. There she spends hours praying and interceding for her church, village, for the salvation of her non-believing neighbours, and for protection for those who have gone to seek work in the cities. She prays until dawn breaks. “It may be dark, but I am not afraid. I can sense God’s presence strongly,” she says. Yuling has been keeping this ritual for the past 40 years, since she came to know the Lord, along with fasting one or two days a week.

Sometimes Yuling has seen her perseverance pay off. For example, she has witnessed the growth of her church. Forty years ago, there were only 20 people in the congregation. Today, there are about 350 believers.

Yuling’s granddaughter has just graduated from Nanjing Union Theological Seminary and is now serving the Lord full time at Fuyuan County, Yunnan Province. However, Yuling’s four children who have settled in the city have stopped attending church. Her eldest son, who used to serve as a church elder before moving to the city, is a nominal believer today.

Yet Yuling is still on the hill every morning faithfully keeping watch with God while most of her village is asleep. What keeps her going back to the hill to pray? “The account of Noah’s ark,” replied Yuling with tears welling up in her eyes. “Only eight survived the flood. I grieve for those who do not believe in the Lord, those who perish without him, and so I pray and intercede.”

The Bible answers life’s questions

Yan Min with her Bible

Yan Min, Shanghai

Another who moved from her home town to the city to seek employment is Yan Min. “I left my home town in Henan Province to seek employment and a better life in Shanghai. I got a job as a sales manager in an IT company, but I felt unhappy and unmotivated,” says Min, who is in her mid-twenties.

“I had a lot of questions about life.” Feeling stuck, Min decided to buy a Bible from a church bookstore in downtown Shanghai. “Then my eyes were opened, and my ears unstopped when I read Matthew 6:25 where Jesus says not to worry about life, what we will eat or what we will drink. At that moment all my burdens were lifted,” she said.

From that day on, Min devoured the Bible. She read it through seven to eight times within the next few years. “I discovered many truths about life and myself. The Lord convicted me about my attitude towards work with a verse from Colossians 3:23, ‘whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men,’” she says.

“In such a big city like Shanghai, the pace of life is so fast. Technology is evolving every day. Many young people are lost and feel insecure about their future. Without God in their lives, many people just depend on luck and chance,” says Min.

When she was spiritually hungry, Min was able to purchase her own Bible. But there are many Christians in China who are unable to afford
a Bible.

93-year-old receives first Bible!

93 year old Ma Wen with her first-ever Bible!

Ma Wen, Shandong Province

It’s this lack of Bibles which sees Christians in rural areas travelling great distances when they learn that a Bible distribution event is taking place. One of these is 93-year-old Ma Wen, who arose at 3am to travel to a distribution event in Linyi, Shandong Province, in 2018. A Christian for 25 years, Ma Wen received her first-ever Bible at the event! “This Bible is very precious to me – this is my first Bible,” said
Ma Wen.

“You know, before I could not read. But when I became a Christian, I started to learn more and more words from the Bible. Now I have learned so much I can read the Bible a little,” she said.

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.

To donate, just fill in the form below.

Vietnam’s ethnic minorities long for the Bible

Many of Vietnam’s 54 ethnic groups are marginalised and at the bottom of the rung economically and in terms of literacy rates.

Yet, it’s among these marginalised groups that Christianity has often taken a hold. This is why the Vietnam Bible Society is undertaking the critical task of translating the Bible into their various heart languages.

Hmong women in a rural village in Laos.

The Hmong

The Hmong people live in Vietnam’s northern highlands.  In the 1980s, the Hmong stumbled across a Hmong-language Christian radio programme being broadcast from Manila.  Soon, Christianity spread like wildfire through the Hmong population. Today, 300,000 out of the one million Hmong living in Vietnam is Christian. continue reading →

United Bible Societies launches new Romani Bible app

After a long digitisation project, United Bible Society (UBS) has just launched a brand new mobile app for Romani speakers.

Members of the Romani church in Leskovac, Serbia, with copies of the Gospel of Mark in Romani received from the Bible Society of Serbia on April 17, 2011.

The app contains 21 historic and current Romani Scriptures in Latin script, with Cyrillic texts coming soon.  The earliest Romani Scripture in the app is from 1837 in Calo of Spain/Portugal. The app also includes some audio versions.

The versions are in different forms of Romani such as Calo, Lavari, Kalderash, Vlax and Sinti from England, France, Iberia (Spain-Portugal), Germany, the Baltic region, Scandinavia, Romania, Bulgaria, Italy and former Yugoslavia… and even one from Chile. continue reading →

Project update – Domestic violence prevention in Guatemala

Yes! There is a solution to domestic violence in Guatemala.

Thanks to the generosity of Bible Society New Zealand’s Bible a Month Club supporters, we have been able to support a life-changing domestic violence prevention programme in Guatemala, a country with very high rates of domestic violence.

During the first six months of 2019, 602 families and 1,021 children participated in three workshops on the prevention of child abuse. These workshops are built on biblical principles and values. Eleven schools and churches located in vulnerable areas have also opened their doors for the project. The most amazing result from this has been the interest in the Bible shown by children. Many have formed reading clubs and some teachers are including the Bible in their classes as a reading text. continue reading →

Australian Bible historian to give lecture in Wellington

Respected Australian historian, author and broadcaster Meredith Lake is visiting Wellington

Public lecture: Race and the Bible Down Under

The Bible arrived down under at a time when Europeans were rethinking both Scripture and race. From land-hungry colonists to Indigenous evangelists, white supremacists to anti-racism activists – people across Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand have read it very differently, with nothing less than humanity at stake.

This lecture will explore how the Bible has been taken up down under, to contest what it means to be human and to cross cultural boundaries – and what we might learn from that today. continue reading →

First meal on the moon: Buzz Aldrin’s moon communion

Almost everyone knows Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first people to stand on the moon. Almost everyone knows what Armstrong said: ‘That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.’

But how many know what Buzz Aldrin did before they stepped out on to the moon’s surface?

Buzz Aldrin

Aldrin was an elder at Webster Presbyterian Church, Houston, Texas. Before the flight he had wondered about how to mark the landing. He wrote in an article for Guideposts magazine in 1970 that his pastor Dean Woodruff had told him ‘God reveals himself in the common elements of everyday life’ – like bread and wine. Woodruff gave him a silver chalice to take with him on the flight, and there was just enough gravity for him to be able to pour the wine from a plastic container. continue reading →

Major milestone achieved in first ever Tokelau Bible translation

On Wednesday, after 23 years and one month of work, head translator Ioane Teao and Bible Society Translations Director Dr Stephen Pattemore performed the final check of the final verse of the brand-new Tokelau Bible translation.

“We’re very pleased we’ve come to this part of the project! Yes, we had some fun – we celebrated with some sandwiches, a date scone and some bananas and oranges,” Ioane said.

Ioane Teao (left) and Dr Stephen Pattemore checking the Tokelau translation using the Paratext Bible translation software tool.

The project, which has been a joint effort of all Tokelau churches and community groups, had its genesis nearly 30 years ago. Ioane and others consulted with the wider Tokelauan community for six years before the project could officially start. Ioane was the secretary of the team trying to get the project off the ground and support whoever would do the job. To Ioane’s surprise, it was he who would be asked to spend more than 23 years of his life working on the translation. continue reading →

305 million Bibles for the world this decade

In 2018, for the second year running, Bible Societies distributed more than 38 million full Bibles around the globe.

In China, Ma Wen, 90, has been a Christian for 25 years but received her very first Bible in 2018.

Annual Bible distribution has been growing steadily since the turn of the decade, reflecting the ongoing demand for Scripture as well as the tremendous commitment of Bible Societies to put God’s Word into the hands of everyone who wants it. Since 2010, United Bible Societies (UBS) has provided more than 305 million full Bibles to the world.

In 2018, 17% of all full Bibles were internet downloads – and for global languages such as Spanish, English and Portuguese, Scripture downloads all topped a million.

More New Testaments were distributed in 2018 than at any other point this decade. Almost 15 million print copies were provided, mostly in Asia where Christianity is considered a minority religion. continue reading →

The Bible is bringing hope to South East Asian Christians

The Philippines, Malaysia and Cambodia all have in one thing in common. They all have a desperate need for the Bible and the hope it brings.

In Cambodia, it’s an urgent need for help with growing literacy rates so people can read the Bible. In Malaysia, where floods of migrants and refugees wait, it’s providing the hope that the Bible brings. And in the Philippines, it’s Scripture access for the 2.2 million visually impaired people.

Cambodia – learning through listening

Literacy is key to the growth of the Christian church in Cambodia. It enables people to have access to the Word of God and move from darkness into light. Cambodia’s education system is underfunded and many of the teachers, particularly those in rural areas, are so lowly paid they have to take multiple jobs just to survive. continue reading →