Table of content
Volume 1: Issue November 2015
- Letter from Michael Perreau
- The great need for Bibles in Cuba
- When Bible translation completes a language
- Record number of Bibles distributed by Bible Societies in 2014
- Rural Chinese Christians go the extra mile for their faith
- Project Esther: fighting against the sexual exploitation of girls
- Bibles for China’s millions
- Bible campaign plays role in ‘Guatemalan Spring’ in election year
- Prayer and celebration
There are many of us, but we are each part of the body of Christ, as well as part of one another (Romans 12:5, CEV)
The Bible Societies that make up our Fellowship are proud to play their part, alongside other organisations working for the Bible cause, in making God’s Word accessible and known around the world to people living in many different circumstances. The Bible has words of guidance, comfort and challenge for everybody, and we all share the same mission: to make these words available to those who wish to receive them.
United Bible Societies operates in over 200 countries and territories. Together, our Societies are the biggest translator, publisher and distributor of the Bible in the world. Each Society works both with other Societies and with a wide range of other partners. Translating, publishing and distributing the Bible are the core elements of our work, but the holistic context is vital. Ministries such as literacy training, HIV/AIDS prevention and supporting those who are marginalised all help to ensure that people are able to fully hear and understand God’s Word and to find comfort and hope in it.
The UBS Newsletter will bring you regular updates about the many aspects of Bible Society work. Alongside translation, we will offer an insight into many other projects. We hope that you will find it both informative and inspiring. There are many ways in which you can support Bible Society work. Contact details for your local Bible Society can be found here. Above all, we encourage you to pray for the Bible cause. Ask that, through the work of those whom God has called around the world, his Word may be known and glorified.
Yours in Christ,
The great need for Bibles in Cuba
Historic opportunity for our generation of Christians to resolve the shortage. The Biblical Commission of the Cuban Council of Churches (BC-CCC) started work in 1978, but was officially constituted in 1983. Since then it has become a bridge for the reception and distribution of thousands of valuable materials, not only Bibles in different versions and formats, but also New Testaments, magazines, booklets, and other materials.
United Bible Societies together with the Biblical Commission of Cuba is inviting you to partner in the meeting the thirst for God’s Word in this strategic island nation. Would you be the one to whom this applies?
How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news (Romans 10:15)
Would you respond to this invitation and join in this work with us by donating for Bibles to be distributed? In 2014, 194,000 Scriptures were distributed by the Bible Commission in the context of the project One Million Bible Mission.
The Rev Alain Montano, General Secretary, Biblical Commission:
“We must continue while the doors are open to spread God’s Word in our country.”
Making it possible for every Cuban to own a Bible
The Rev Alain Montano, General Secretary, Biblical Commission of Cuba, said: “In recent years the Cuban Church has grown noticeably and because of this, demand for Bibles has increased, too. We are providing literature for the Christian community. However, we are also thinking about those new souls that are coming to Jesus every day, in generations which do not know about Jesus yet, in non-Christian institutions, and about all those who are interested in reading the Bible, moved or not by faith. We are thinking about making it possible for every Cuban to own a Bible.”
Lic. Alysney Rodríguez Galán, Project Coordinator for Biblical Commission of Cuba, writes: “Cuba is living through a special time. In the midst of it, some people are expecting ‘changes’ in the political field, many are interested in commercial exchange, others in social development. Their viewpoints are diverse. As the people of God in Cuba, the Cuban Council of Churches and the Biblical Commission of Cuba look towards the spirituality of the human being and to the need to consolidate Christian values, based on the Word of God. If this is a moment of “changes”, then it is a moment to depend more on God and his Word because we believe the Bible changes lives and prepares us to better face the challenges that come during every special time.”
Click below to see the emotions on the faces of those who received their new Bible in Spanish.
When Bible translation completes a language
Imagine a language that you use every day having no written form. Imagine no newspapers or books. It must feel as if part of your identity is missing. As if your world isn’t important. There are many millions of people around the world who feel like this. Did you realise that Bible translation can often be the first step towards reversing this situation?
Nagamese is spoken by around 30,000 people around Dimapur, the largest city in India’s northeastern state of Nagaland. It’s not their first language – they speak many different varieties of Naga – but it’s a vital contact language, allowing them to do business with other groups. Yet not having a written form of Nagamese means that there has been no chance for it to develop, to become a ‘complete’ language like those which have a standardised alphabet and grammar and a rich variety of written texts.
What has Bible translation got to do with languages like Nagamese? The work that translators of languages with no written form have to do in order to produce a translation – like deciding on an alphabet – makes it possible for lots of other texts to be written. So it’s the foundation for the emergence of a whole literature!
Thanks to the Bible Society of India and its partner the Nagamese Baptist Church Association, there are now very good prospects for literature in Nagamese.
‘Nagamese is widely spoken, yet there is almost no literature in this language,’ says translator Insutoshi Jamir. ‘We’ve had to start completely from scratch when it comes to things like spelling. What we’re doing is more than a translation, even more than bringing people God’s Word. It’s a complete work of literature!’
It’s a big responsibility, says Rev Along Jamir, the Bible Society’s Translation Director. ‘Translation is all about identity. We need to approach this work in a spirit of openness, being sure to respect all cultural backgrounds that make up Nagamese. This Bible will be the first piece of literature in this language and it will speak directly to the development of all kinds of other Nagamese literature.’
About the Bible Society of India’s translation work
India’s 1 billion-plus people speak an estimated 3,372 languages, of which only 216 are spoken by 10,000 speakers or more. So far, the Bible Society has provided full Bibles in 65 of India’s languages and the New Testament in an additional 75 languages.
Record number of Bibles distributed by Bible Societies in 2014
2014 saw the highest number of printed Bibles ever distributed by Bible Societies around the world. Nearly 34 million full Bibles were distributed, a rise of 6% over 2013’s figures, and 14% higher than the number distributed in the first year of the decade.
The figures are taken from the United Bible Societies’ Scripture Distribution Report, produced annually, which compiles Scripture distribution figures reported by Bible Societies.
In total, 428.2 million Scriptures were distributed by Bible Societies in 2014, including full Bibles, Testaments, Gospels and other smaller Scripture items – representing a 7% and a 17% increase over 2013 and 2010 respectively.
The region reporting the highest distribution in 2014, consistent with previous years, is the Americas, with 341.5 million Scriptures, including 14.4 million full Bibles. This region has seen significant year-on-year increases in Scripture distribution in the first five years of the decade, its 2014 figure nearly 20% higher than 2010’s.
Far more Scriptures were distributed in Brazil than in any other country in the world. Its 7.6 million full Bibles account for more than half of the total Bible distribution in the Americas, and more than a fifth of last year’s global Bible distribution. In total, the Bible Society of Brazil distributed 288.7 million Scriptures – more than two thirds of the global total.
FIFA World Cup
Although Brazil’s distribution figures have always been high, largely due to the Bible Society’s comprehensive program of social outreach and its good relationship with all churches, last year’s figures were partly boosted by the many thousands of Scriptures handed out during the FIFA World Cup.
“Brazilians are football mad, and the World Cup was a wonderful opportunity to share God’s Word with the many football fans who were celebrating the tournament,” comments Bible Society Executive Director Dr Rudi Zimmer.
Cuba’s figures tell a story of rapid church growth, which is fuelling an enormous demand for Scriptures. Last year, 1.5 million Scriptures were distributed there – more than double the total distributed in 2010. And four times the number of full Bibles were distributed there last year compared with 2013, thanks to the United Bible Societies’ Cuba Million Bible Mission project, which aims to provide one million full Bibles to Christians in Cuba.
Africa’s overall Scripture distribution figures fluctuate from year to year, but it has seen a steady increase in the distribution of full Bibles since the start of the decade. The 7.3 million Bibles distributed there in 2014 represent a 31% rise over the number distributed in 2010.
Nigeria and South Africa continue to be the Scripture distribution giants of Africa, at around 4.5 million and 1.5 million copies respectively, but some notable increases are taking place in smaller countries. The troubled Central African Republic, for instance, has seen its annual Scripture distribution triple from just under 9,000 in 2010 to nearly 29,000 in 2014, most of which were full Bibles.
In Europe and the Middle East, the 7.9 million Scriptures distributed last year represent an increase of almost 12% over 2010. The number of Testaments being distributed has been rising particularly fast. (The vast majority of the Testaments were New Testaments.) Last year, 2.8 million Testaments were distributed in the region – 23% higher than in 2013, and 126% higher than in 2010.
The rises happened in some surprising places. More than five times the number of Testaments were distributed in war-torn Syria in 2014 than in 2010, before the conflict began. And, in the midst of one of the most difficult years in Ukraine’s recent history, last year the Bible Society there distributed nearly 70,000 New Testaments – 48% more than in 2012 and 10 times more than in 2010.
Asia – the world’s most populous region – saw a 6% increase in Scripture distribution between 2013 and 2014. Some notable increases have taken place over the first five years of the decade in several Asian countries, including the two giants – India and China, which distributed 22% and 10% more in 2014 than in 2010. The Philippines – Asia’s largest Christian nation – distributed 42% more Scriptures in 2014 than in 2010, and Myanmar an impressive 45% more.
In addition to distributing a record number of printed Scriptures in 2014, Bible Societies also reported significant increases in the distribution of non-print Scripture items. (These include Scripture-based products on CDs, cassettes, DVDs, mp3s, texts and internet downloads, but do not include Bible Society Scripture texts accessed through apps such as YouVersion or BibleSearch.) More than two million Scriptures were distributed in that way in 2014, 8% more than in 2013 and three times the figure for 2010.
Rural Chinese Christians go the extra mile for their faith
Very early very Sunday morning, Simei Tong sets out from her small house in the mountains. She walks for two hours, along narrow, winding pathways and village lanes, until she gets to the home of her blind friend, Zhou Maoying. Taking hold of her arm, she carefully guides her as they walk for another hour. (Watch the video below.)
When they reach Luo Shui village where their little church is located, they have one more hurdle to overcome: they have to cross a stream by wobbling across a series of stepping stones. Their friend Yang Jinying, who also takes two hours to get to church, recently slipped and broke her arm while crossing the stream.
Li Yue Ying, 47, makes her long journey to the church each week carrying her two-year-old niece, Li Si Ling, on her back. She says the journey is worth it because she is nourished in her faith through the Christian fellowship there. She became a Christian in 1998, through a friend, Wu Qiang Jin.
“When I became a Christian I started reading the Bible and attending this church,” she says. “But it’s two hours walk from my village, so, when some people invited me to attend a church closer to my home, I agreed. But then I realised they weren’t teaching the truth. They use the Bible but they have strange rules and beliefs, one of which is that Jesus has already returned.
“Because I read my Bible regularly I knew that what they were saying was wrong, so I left and came back to this church.”
Luo Shui church has around 70 members, many of whom came to faith through Wu Qiang Jin. They are all farmers who need to work the land, so only around 30 people – mostly women – are able to come to church each week.
Wu Qiang Jin is described by her fellow church members as a ‘born evangeliser’, but she shrugs off this praise and sighs.
“The sects around here are attracting many people,” she says. “I’ve been to meet some of their leaders to invite them to our church but they won’t come.”
Nevertheless, she and the other faithful church members continue to meet together each week to sing, pray and read their Bibles together, under the leadership of Tong Xin Jun, 40, a quiet man who serves his little congregation with kindness and concern.
“I went to church because I was looking for comfort,” says Wu Xiu Ying, 58, who became a Christian in 1983. “I was in great distress because I was ill and couldn’t afford treatment. In church, people prayed for me and I immediately felt peaceful and released by God’s love for me.
“Wu Qiang Jin took me to the church in town to buy a Bible soon afterwards. To my surprise, it was affordable! My favourite part of the Bible is Psalm 47. Unfortunately my eyes are failing but I can still read a little.”
Like Wu Xiu Ying, many members of the congregation bought their Bibles years ago and they are now well-used and, in some cases, falling apart. That is why they were delighted to receive new Bibles when members of United Bible Societies visited them in their church.
The Bibles were provided through the Bibles for China’s Millions project, which keeps Bibles affordable by funding the cost of Bible paper for the distribution of Bibles by the Church in China.
Project Esther: fighting against the sexual exploitation of girls
Beneficiaries: Teenage mothers, rape victims, vulnerable girls.
Around 40% of girls in Cameroon, aged 9-20, are victims of sexual exploitation. Many fall pregnant at around 15. They drop out of school, are ostracised by their families and communities, and are vulnerable to physical violence and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS. Many go on to have several children before the age of 30, bringing them up alone. Ill-equipped to protect their children from the same fate, many of them watch their daughters fall into the same destructive cycle.
What we’re doing about it
The Bible Society of Cameroon, through Project Esther, is helping to break this cycle, using the Bible as a tool. Trauma healing, counselling, Bible studies, training in income generation and other activities are offered to girls and young women who have experienced sexual abuse. The project also delivers training in schools and other places to help make very young girls aware of the dangers and how to avoid them, and how to build their lives on biblical values.
The African Counselling Centre, Femme en Action, Lutheran Hour Ministries, the Good Samaritan Program, churches, women’s and girls’ associations, and others.
The difference it’s making
Many of the project workers are former beneficiaries who have rebuilt their lives and are helping others do the same. Hundreds of victims of sexual abuse are helped each year, and thousands of young girls are given life-saving information and guidance to help them avoid becoming victims. Many project beneficiaries go on to complete their education, find work and become active church members.
How you can help
Please pray for this project. Give thanks for the difference Project Esther is already making in the
lives of thousands of girls and ask God to continue to bless this work. Pray for the girls in
Cameroon and around the world who suffer abuse. Ask God to comfort them and help them to find
a way out so that they can rebuild their lives.
Bibles for China’s millions
Beneficiaries: Chinese Christians – particularly in rural areas.
Chinas Christian population is growing rapidly. Official estimates put it at 40 million but it is thought to be more like 100 million. Most of China’s Christians live in rural areas and are very poor. Many yearn to have their own Bibles but struggle to afford them. The shortage of trained church leaders – on average each ordained pastor in China looks after around 6,000 Christians – increases the risk of Christians falling prey to the false teachings of cults. This makes it even more vital for Christians to have their own Bibles to read.
What we’re doing about it
China Partnership, which oversees Bible work in China, is providing affordable Bibles so that ordinary rural Christians can buy their own copies. It is also providing free Bibles for the very poor. These Bibles are all printed at the Amity Printing Company in Nanjing – one of the world’s largest Bible printers.
The difference it’s making
Hundreds of thousands of Chinese Christians, who otherwise couldn’t have afforded Bibles, now have their own copies. If the required funding is received, the project will provide more than 2.5 million affordable Bibles and 50,000 free Bibles. Having their own Bibles is helping Christians to grow in faith and understanding, enabling them to reach out to others, too.
How you can help
Pray for the millions of rural Christians who still don’t have their own Bible. Pray for each Christian who receives a Bible, that they will be nurtured in their faith. Also pray for non-believers who come into contact with the Bible, that their hearts will be opened to God’s Word.
Bible campaign plays role in ‘Guatemalan Spring’ in election year
Something positive is happening in Guatemala, one of the world’s most violent countries. In the 20 years since the end of its long civil war, it has been crippled by widespread corruption and impunity, and its homicide rate has spiralled to five times higher than the global average. There has been so much bad news to report that many Guatemalans have become almost indifferent to it.
But there are signs of change in this year of general elections – an awakening dubbed ‘the Guatemalan spring’. The Bible has had a prominent profile at this important moment, thanks to a campaign by the Society of Guatemala called Un Gobierno como Dios manda (A government as God commands.)
“In April, one of the worst ever corruption scandals was uncovered, implicating some of the country’s most prominent businessmen and politicians, including the president and vice president,” explains the Bible Society’s Director of Programs and Projects Marco Vinicio Martinez. “This caused national outrage and Guatemala finally woke up as a country and saw the urgent need for change. A peaceful protest movement began to grow, using social media and rallies to call for change.
Dawn prayer meetings
“Churches got involved by organising dawn prayer meetings in Central Park, the place at the heart of the protests. Prayers were said before each rally.”
With massive demonstrations taking place across the country, the vice president resigned in early May. It was in this context, and with general elections due on September 6, that the Bible Society launched its campaign in July.
“We wanted to remind all citizens that it is everyone’s responsibility to vote wisely in order to help transform our nation,” says Mr Martinez. “The campaign presented Bible verses about leadership, and invited people to reflect on these and pray, asking God to help them elect the right leaders.”
More than two million reached
More than two million people were reached by the campaign, which was carried out in the national media, including newspapers, television and radio, on social media and on public billboards in various cities. Audio messages about the campaign were translated and broadcast in the five largest indigenous languages, and more than 100,000 leaflets were distributed, including Braille versions.
“The message was so well received,” says Mr Martinez. “August was Bible Month, and more than 300 churches enthusiastically joined in the campaign, with sermons, Bible study groups, and social outreach activities such as debates and meetings with politicians to discuss the biblical model of leadership.
“This was all taking place amidst unprecedented solidarity in our country. People of different indigenous groups, religions and backgrounds united to call for an end to corruption and the resignation of the president. On August 27, the largest peace march in the history of Guatemala took place, attracting more than 120,000 people. Altogether around 200,000 people across the country took part in peace marches that day.
Not a single drop of blood
“What is incredible is that, in a country where violence has become a way of life, not a single drop of blood was shed.”
A few days later, just before the elections on September 6, the president resigned. Election day saw the highest turn out of voters ever recorded in Guatemala. Its result wasn’t decisive, so a run-off is due to be held on October 25.
“We are grateful that so many people have been reached by our campaign so far,” says Mr Martinez. “It has been wonderful to see how the Word of God is changing the hearts of many Guatemalans at this key moment in our history. We pray that our next government truly will be a government that practises the biblical principles of leadership – justice, peace, compassion and integrity.”
Prayer and celebration
- World Assembly is a gathering, of representatives from all Fellowship Bible Societies in the world, that only occurs every six years. Please pray for the team responsible for all the event preparations.
- Bible Societies translators and staff all around the world.
- Record number of Bibles distributed by Bible Societies in 2014.