What is it like to be an Arab Christian woman in Israel? How do you make the Bible available to people in the world’s most linguistically diverse country (Papua New Guinea with 800 languages), which also has a very low literacy rate? And how do we get young people in increasingly secular, wealthy countries interested in the Bible?
These are just a few questions that I heard explored in some of the meetings, seminars and informal conversations, which took place last week during our annual event, the United Bible Societies Roundtable Exchange. The event is designed to help Bible Societies share ideas and expertise as they plan and shape their projects to make God’s Word available, known and loved in their countries. This year, it was held in a small coastal town in the Netherlands and was attended by 200 Bible Society staff from 90 countries.
God brings people together
Amidst the daily worship, meetings and coffee discussions, and as friendships were formed or strengthened and fresh ideas sparked, it was encouraging to see how God brings people together to work for his kingdom. It was also wonderful to see how he equips them with the courage, creativity and wisdom they need to carry out this work in very diverse contexts.
Ismail, the Bible Society leader in Sudan, shared with some of us how he keeps going in his work, despite the increasing pressures that Christians are facing there – a situation that was brought to the world’s attention with the arrest and death sentence of Meriam Ibrahim. (Thankfully, Meriam has now been released.) At the other end of the spectrum, we heard about the increasing openness in Cuba, where churches are growing rapidly and where there is a huge demand for Bibles. Many Bible Societies are raising money to provide one million Bibles to Cuban Christians over the next three years. (For example, the Bible Society in Northern Ireland, Bible Society Australia and American Bible Society.)
And, as we gave thanks for the 200th anniversary of the Netherlands Bible Society, our thoughts also turned to the heartbreaking situation faced by our youngest Bible Society – the Bible Society in South Sudan. Only two years into its ministry, it finds itself in the midst of a bitter civil war, ministering to refugees and carrying out trauma healing projects for those struggling to recover from the previous war.
Support each other
Although the Bible Societies work in vastly different contexts, it is truly inspiring to see us all coming together to pray for and support each other – and this will continue as we all return to our ‘day jobs’.
The Bible readings for the week came from Nehemiah. This prayer from Nehemiah 1 reminds us of why we undertake the work we do together – to bring glory and honour to God. We hope that our friends and supporters will join us :
“Lord God of Heaven! You are great, and we stand in fear of you. You faithfully keep your covenant with those who love you and do what you command. Lord, these are your servants, your own people. Your rescued them by your great power and strength. Listen now to my prayer and to the prayers of all your servants who want to honour you. Give [us] success today…”