The Bible is bringing strength and hope to those who need it most in the Gulf States.
Searing heat, punitive employers and never-ending hours are the norm for migrant workers in this oil-rich part of the world. But the Bible is helping them survive these harsh conditions. It is giving them strength to endure the long work days and stay away from harmful temptations, but most importantly hope for a better future. To help, we’ve pledged to support Bible Society in the Gulf (BSG) in their life-saving work of sharing the Bible with as many people as they can.
Here is news from some of the projects we’re supporting in the Gulf States in 2018.
Qatar church facing difficulties
“Government restrictions are escalating and almost strangling the church in Doha, Qatar but nothing can hamper God’s miraculous doings and blessing among his children,” Dr. Hrayr Jebejian, head of the Bible in the Gulf.
“Security measures include screening machines, surveillance cameras, long queues and car park restrictions, which are causing a sharp drop in the number of worshippers at church. However, despite these conditions and scripture importation restrictions, BSG stands firm in its call to support church ministry,” he said. The churches of Qatar need large numbers of scriptures and BSG is always trying to provide for the thousands who attend church despite the restrictions.
These church goers are low-paid, desperate labourers. “The migrant community in the Gulf are alienated, discriminated against and overwhelmed with back-breaking jobs. The church and BSG offer hope, care and the love of Jesus Christ,” said Hrayr.
BSG wants to distribute 4,000 Bibles and 8,000 New Testaments in Hindi, Nepali, Telugu, Sinhala, Tamil, Malay and Tagalog to churches and labour camps in Qatar. In Qatar, similar to other Gulf States, one Bible can have a ripple effect through being shared with co-workers, friends, and families back home.
Voices of hope from Qatar
“I just came to know Bible Society is distributing Bibles in labour camps to people who cannot afford them . That is amazing. We are so grateful. How else can we put the Good News in poor, desperate migrants’ hands and hearts. May God bless you.” Lucas, pastor of a Nepali church.
“I know the words written in this Bible will change my life. I have many struggles,” Baruah.
“I like the Bible because it will change my life from sadness to happiness. It will keep me away from temptations, it makes me strong and gives me hope. I will use it to tell others about Jesus,” Bestoh.
Kuwait can’t wait for strong churches
The Asian migrant churches in Kuwait are growing in number, and need support to function and thrive. This help is all the more critical as their members are often desperate and turn to the church for hope, refuge and fellowship.
Church leaders often lack theological training and have the added stress of a constantly changing church membership, as old migrant workers leave and new ones arrive.
Driven by harsh living and working conditions, abuse and non-payment of wages, the suicide rate among migrant workers is alarming. Local newspapers feature workers’ suicides in just a few brief sentences, with the victims’ names and even their nationality rarely mentioned. Domestic workers and maids are the most vulnerable group as they are excluded from the protection of Kuwait labour laws. Many are abused and some are even tortured.
Runaway housemaids seek shelter at both the churches and embassies in Kuwait, where a large number take refuge from mistreatment. According to Pastor Ver of the Filipino Language Christian Congregation, the embassy has about 300 runaways weekly wanting to return to their home countries. Bible Society in the Gulf (BSG) is aiming to strengthen these churches with Bible and New Testament distribution as well as training up migrant church leaders from Telugu, Sri Lankan and Ethiopian churches in the Bible.
At the Sri Lanka Assembly of God most of the members are housemaids. BSG conducted three seminars to better prepare leaders for migrant ministry. Some 200 Bibles and hundreds of Bible-based Hope booklets were given out. The Seed of Life Ministries organises weekly meetings for Filipino runaway maids in a safe house at the Embassy of the Philippines.
BSG visited this safe house, and shared with them an encouraging message from the Bible, and gave out Tagalog Bibles.
Voices of hope from Kuwait
“The BSG is a great supporter to our church and with them we have managed to reach a great number of migrants whose lives have been transformed and completely changed,” Pastor Tony, Seed of Life Filipino Church (Amharic)
“I come from a Hindu family and I followed our traditions. I accepted Jesus as my saviour and redeemer. After I participated in the seminar I found new things and the reasons why my saviour came to this earth. Now I am pondering on the love of Jesus. Ever since, my family and I have been attending church every Friday,” Barathi, Praise God Ministry (Telugu)
“Thanks for your explanation of the importance of the crucifixion of Jesus. I came to know that without his crucifixion, there is no salvation in this world. These words changed my life. Thank you,” Abraham, Habasha Church
Easy-read Scriptures helps U.A.E. migrants
Struggling, lonely and illiterate or semi-literate migrant workers form the vast majority of the workforce in the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E). Many are in debt to their employers who have facilitated their travel from India, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Nepal, and Pakistan. Moving to escape the poverty and hardship of their home countries, they now find themselves in an even worse situation.
Bible Society in the Gulf (BSG) wants to enable them to access the hope found in the Bible. They are currently concentrating on connecting with more than one million Telugu speaking migrant workers in menial, physically demanding jobs with minimum reading skills. Hrayr said the need to reach migrant workers with the Bible is continual. “There is a constant influx of migrant workers to the UAE. Many join a church as soon as they arrive.” To do this, BSG has developed an easy-read Scripture booklet based on the Sermon on the Mount, featuring large font and conversational Telegu with pictures. Migrant workers are also given an audio version on an app and a phone memory card. Last year BSG gave away 2,000 copies of this easy-read booklet. This year, because of the great need and overwhelmingly positive response from churches, 6,000 copies are being distributed.
“Week after week people come to our churches to hear sermons but we don’t have the tools to help our semi-literate church members read the Bible on their own. We deeply appreciate BSG for providing this excellent resource. We are grateful because the scriptures are changing lives by keeping these men away from alcohol, depression and other addictions.” Pastor Rao
Another way BSG is helping illiterate migrants access the Bible is the free distribution of children’s Bibles. Shankar is a construction worker, who said “Thank you for this book. I am now able to read on my own and learn stories from the Bible I have never known before.” Shankar didn’t finish school and can only read Telugu word by word, very slowly. He was so excited to receive a copy of the children’s Bible because the font is big, and it has nice pictures of the stories.
BSG believes these migrant workers will be empowered through their faith in Jesus Christ and their new ability to read the Scriptures.
You can help us bring the hope of the Bible to migrants in the Gulf States
Through the help of Bible Societies like New Zealand, Hrayr Jebejian and his team are able to deliver creative and impactful programmes like these in many of the Gulf countries on the Arabian Peninsula. Will you prayerfully consider helping us in this task? Your gift today will bring the hope of the Bible and the love of Jesus Christ to a migrant who desperately needs it.