In the last six weeks alone, the Austrian Bible Society has made available more than 500 Bibles in Farsi to churches ministering to refugees from Iran. It is receiving reports from churches across the country of refugees showing growing interest in God’s Word, and some seeking baptism. One message in particular, an email sent to Bible Society General Secretary Dr Jutta Henner, touched the hearts of the Society’s staff team:
Dear Dr Henner!
On behalf of the Lutheran Church of Voitsberg, but especially on behalf of the many asylum seekers, I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to you and the Austrian Bible Society.
At the end of March two Iranians turned up in our church. They had visited us before to attend German classes, but now they wanted to attend the Sunday service. Shortly afterwards they asked us for Bibles in Farsi. So I wrote to you asking for help. I was very grateful to receive 20 Farsi Bibles. I thought these Bibles would be sufficient for quite a while. We also received from you the On the Road Bible Study booklet for refugees. The Bibles and the booklet have been a blessing for our friends! I do not know how thank you!
You should have seen the eyes of these young men and women. I have never before seen such gratitude. They have been hugging me and I had to write dedications in the Bibles. Now, for the first time in their lives, they can read the Good News of Jesus Christ without fear of persecution.
The number of people attending our Sunday service has been increasing ever since! Two weeks ago, the Austrians were in the minority for the first time. There were 23 Austrians, joined by 25 new Iranian friends!
During the Long Night of the Churches on June 10, we celebrated a so-called “Thomas mass”. There was no question that our Iranian friends should read from the Bible and pray in Farsi. This was a very touching moment for the entire congregation.
Again and again there were questions about the Bible. So we started a “Bible School”. We worked according to the guidelines for baptism candidates of our Lutheran Church in Austria. We started with the Bible, Old and New Testament. But our friends were not satisfied with information about the Bible: they wanted to read the Word of God! Therefore we selected Scripture passages and these were read in Farsi as well as in German. I have never seen people so deeply moved. Also the ‘homework’ to read the entire book of Proverbs brought them great joy. Everybody looks forward to the next Sunday: they are so eager to learn more about Jesus and to read more of the Bible together.
All of this is such a special experience. I don’t know how to express what is happening. It is such a joy for them to be able to study the Word of God together. It is a privilege to be part of such a great thing! The only sad thing is that I do not speak Farsi and our friends are not yet fluent in German. But thanks to the Holy Spirit we overcome this obstacle!
Again, heartfelt thanks – and our friends can’t wait for the next delivery of Bibles. Warmest greetings and God’s abundant blessings!
Dietmar Boehmer, Church Warden, Lutheran Church of Voitsberg, Styria
Please pray for the Austrian Bible Society’s ongoing work to serve refugees from many different countries and backgrounds.