Excited to have her own Bible, a 15-year-old learns more about God...
Doeun Chin Lan has experienced a lot of loss.
"My mother died when I was little," explains the 15-year-old. "I don't even remember her face. All my older siblings left me to work in Thailand. My father is very elderly and poor.…I want to see my whole family together again."
When the message of God's love came to the small village where Doeun lives, her heart finally began to heal.
"I am very happy that God loves me," she says. "Whether I am in the countryside, in the forest or anywhere, God still loves me."
Doeun says she enjoys hearing stories about God at church. "But sometimes I don't understand," she admits. "When I heard they were going to give out Bibles, I was very happy."
"My Bible is small and easy to carry around and the writing is easy to understand. I believe this Bible will help me know God better. My father can't read so I want to read to him so that he can also put his faith in God."
For many Cambodians, especially poor farmers living in rural areas, obtaining a Bible requires much sacrifice. It takes months to save money for a Bible. But thanks to generous donors, Doeun and others have Bibles of their very own!
Please pray for others like Doeun who still need to know about God and engage in His Word in Cambodia. Ask that Scriptures will be made available in different media so that the entire population, especially the youth, will understand and experience the love of God.
Though Christianity had been part of their culture for 100 years, there was no Bible in the Beembe language. It took 20 years of dedicated translation work for them to get a Beembe Bible – but when they did, they showed us how to party…
Imagine fumbling through a dense, tricky text in a second language. You can read it, but it’s hard. You understand in part, but you can't quite capture the meaning. This was the case for the Beembe people of Congo Brazzaville, who only had access to Bibles their second language: French.
Lost in translation
‘For me, the problem with the Bible in French was that I had trouble understanding certain concepts and words. So I didn’t read the Bible very often,’ 54-year-old farmer, Pierrette, explains.
Pierrette’s experience isn’t rare. For many people reading the Bible in a second language, the challenge of understanding is significant. But not only that, they’re not experiencing the message of the Bible in the words they can relate to; the words they use in their thoughts, their hearts.
A word in season
More than 1,000 people gathered for the ceremony to launch the first ever Beembe New Testament in early 2014. Elders banged drums and shook rattles. Young dance troupes performed energetic routines. People cheered.
Though Christianity has been part of the Beembe culture for 100 years, this was the first time the community had Scripture in their language. And the joy was palpable.
‘Now we have our own Beembe New Testament, I am very happy,’ Pierrette says.’ It will help us strengthen the faith of our children, who will discover a deeper relationship with God.’
Decades of dedication
Jacques Mberi is the man behind the Beembe Bible. He has spent decades poring over Hebrew and Greek, considering the best ways to convey the meaning of each verse – especially when there’s not always a direct translation.
He smiled through tears as he said, ‘I am like Simeon, who waited years and years until he could see the Lord Jesus, and then once he did, he could die. I have worked hard to see this translation finished. It is my child, my pride and joy.’
Completing the task
Now the Beembe people have asked to have the Old Testament translated into their language and Jacques is already on the case.
But until then, we’re celebrating that this people group are now experiencing the New Testament in the language they most love and truly understand.
62-year-old Mbambouloulu Evelyne clutched her Beembe New Testament and said, ‘I am delighted with this New Testament. It touches my soul. It allows me to feel closer to God, and I give thanks to God for this precious gift.’
Oldi Morava is translating the Old Testament into Albanian. We asked him about his average day.
A typical day
On a translation day, I’ll try to work from home and not open any emails. With translation, you need to be in the mood. If you are bombarded by requests for something else you’re not really in an environment where you can be very productive.
I start by reading through the passage that I’m going to translate in the original language. Then I begin writing the translation, one verse at a time.
If it’s not a simple translation — for example, there isn’t a direct equivalent for the Hebrew word in Albanian or the original Hebrew is unclear — then I do more research. I spend a lot of time reading commentaries and look at the Hebrew context, as well as how other translators have handled the same verse in other languages.
It can be very repetitive, especially when you’re translating building instructions
After hours and hours of collecting all this information, I come to a conclusion. And then I move on to the next verse! Depending on the difficulty of the text, I translate between 12-20 verses a day. It can be very repetitive, especially when you’re translating building instructions.
Poetry is always fun to translate. Not only are you trying to understand Hebrew poetry – which is very compressed – you’re also trying to generate something in your language that can sound like poetry. Being faithful to the text and generating something poetic can be quite difficult but you get more satisfaction out of it.
An atypical day
I meet with my translation team for one week five times a year. We all live in different countries so we meet somewhere we can all travel to. We’re all working on different books.
We’ll go over our work, reading it aloud verse by verse and making suggestions. We tend to have very fiery interaction but we’re good at coming to an agreement in the end. I learn so much from hearing how my colleagues view the Bible.
The other part of my job…
I’m also part of Bible Society’s International team, where I look after our partnership with Bible Societies in the West Balkans — Albania and Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia and Macedonia — and also with Congo Brazzaville. This involves working with budgets, selecting projects and seeing how those projects are doing.
I love visiting these Bible Societies. They’re often very small — perhaps five or ten people in one office. You encounter their passion and see what they are trying to do in their country, with very few resources and yet great ideas. Trying to help them is a very satisfying part of my job.
Oldi’s career path
1994-1999 High school
Majored in Business and Finance, with hopes of becoming a banker. Volunteered with Bible Society in Albania.
Studied BA in Applied Theology at Redcliffe College, England.
2003-2006 Work and ministry
Worked with local churches in London.
2007-2008 Language study
Received an invitation from the Albanian Bible Society to join the Old Testament translation team of new Albanian Bible translation. Studied MSt in Classical Hebrew at Oxford University.
2010 Translation begins
Working as part of a three-person team from across Christian traditions, books are assigned and translation begins.
Arati* was a cotton picker in rural Pakistan. She worked long hours to earn around S$2 a day. She was being cheated out of payment but didn’t know it – she couldn’t read the scales that weighed her cotton.
But at our literacy class the Bible changed Arati’s life for good. As she read the Bible for the first time, she met Jesus, discovered His love, and learnt that her life mattered.
Arati said, ‘Jesus died for us and there’s no one in the world who has died and rose again. We appreciate this love.’
Now I am literate, I feel empowered.
Today Arati teaches young children in her village to read. And since learning to read she’s realised the cotton traders were cheating her and others out of their wages.
She said, ‘After studying I read the scale and I knew the actual weight of the cotton and now the men can’t cheat us. Now I am literate, I feel empowered.’
Seven families in Arati’s village have become Christians since our literacy programme started.
‘There’s a big change in our village since the start of our literacy class’ Arati told us, ‘We are very happy and my family is very happy.’
Nearly a year after three earthquakes devastated Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, and surrounding areas, Tej Jirel, General Secretary of the Nepal Bible Society, has been reflecting on how Christians have coped with the tragedy.
“I was in the middle of preaching at a church on April 25 when the first earthquake hit,” recalls Mr Jirel. “I stopped preaching, held onto the pulpit and prayed for the earthquake to stop. Some people dropped to their knees in prayer, and others stood to call out to God.
Shaking really violently
“That first quake went on for a while. The pulpit fell over and hit the Communion table. The pillars in the church were shaking really violently. As soon as it was over we evacuated the whole congregation and made sure everyone was standing safely away from the building.”
The congregation joined hundreds of people who had come out onto the streets. Some were weeping as aftershocks continued. Mr Jirel and other church leaders reassured people as best they could.
“I felt that, in the midst of all this, we should honour God by going ahead with taking Holy Communion, as we had intended. Between aftershocks, some of us went into the church to bring out the Communion table. So there, outside the church and beside the river, we took Communion in remembrance of what our Lord did for us.”
Powerful and memorable moment
For those present it was a powerful and memorable moment, and typifies the reaction of many Christians to the tragedy caused by the earthquake. Scores of churches were damaged or destroyed in the earthquake, and there were around 500 Christians among the 9,000 people who died. Those who survived have remained strong in their faith, according to Mr Jirel and his team, who have travelled to many of the affected districts.
“Church services in all the affected districts resumed almost immediately, despite the fact that they had nothing to shelter under,” comments Mr Jirel. “A lot of them still haven’t yet been completely rebuilt, due to lack of funds, and services are held with no roof, using tarpaulins or roofing sheets to protect worshippers from the sun or rain.
“But people are holding onto their faith. I remember one elderly man I met, Padam Bahadur Bhujel, who had been buried alive, along with other worshippers, when their church building collapsed on them. They were all eventually rescued. Mr Bhujel told me he’d remained calm because he had complete faith that God would save them. He said, ‘If you have great faith in God, He will do great things for you.’ I felt very inspired by that.
“It was quite a shock to see that church reduced to rubble, along with the rest of the village. We’d run two programs there a few years back, one for leaders and another for youth and career development, and I remembered how nice the church building had been. When we visited after the earthquake we found the pastor and his family living in the middle of a field, with no proper food to eat.”
Having witnessed the urgent humanitarian needs of people in the various affected districts, the Bible Society began working to bring them the items they most needed. Over the past year, they have helped provide roofing, tarpaulins and other materials to hundreds of families who lost their homes, most of them non-Christians.
“We as a Bible Society are seen as a neutral platform, and we had excellent co-operation with all sorts of different churches, parachurch organisations and government officials,” notes Mr Jirel.
Much of this material was delivered to people living in remote areas that are hard to access, with Bible Society staff and volunteers walking up mountainsides with the materials on their backs, or transporting it across rivers on small rafts.
“So many people were thankful for the help we brought, because they hadn’t received any other relief materials like this,” says Mr Jirel. “I remember one widow in particular, who thanked us with tears in her eyes. We told them we were Christians. We pray that one day all these people will come to know and accept Christ.”
In addition to offering practical help to everyone who needs it, the Bible Society has also been helping Christians to replace the Scriptures that they lost in the earthquake. Many hundreds of Bibles, Children’s Bibles and Scripture booklets have been distributed to churches and individual Christians.
“We didn’t want Christians to be without their Scriptures as they came to terms with what had happened,” says Mr Jirel. “They greatly appreciated the Bibles and other materials we brought them, which helped them to hold onto hope in the midst of their grief and struggles.
“Without God there is no hope, and we continue to pray for the many people in Nepal who still don’t know Him. Please join us in praying that many good things will come out of this disaster, and that many more people will come to know the true God and Creator.”
This article was written by The Bible Society of Singapore.
In environments where education seems almost impossible for many children in the Middle East, SAT-7 KIDS breaks through physical boundaries and makes learning possible through satellite television.
As the first and only Arabic Christian channel exclusively for the children of the Middle East and North Africa, SAT-7 KIDS shares God’s Word and Christian values with children using entertainment, culture and knowledge. They aim to make the gospel meaningful to a generation that needs to feel God’s love, especially as they mature and take their place in a society where the future is so uncertain.
In December 2015, our team from The Bible Society of Singapore was blessed with the opportunity to visit the headquarters of SAT-7 Lebanon in Beirut. We were encouraged to hear how they were impacting many lives in difficult circumstances. We were particularly excited to know that our contribution to the programme Madrasati, also known as My School, has been helping children refugees to learn.
The idea first started when war erupted in the Middle East, which resulted in a refugee crisis. To address one of their needs, SAT-7 KIDS decided to provide education to children refugees through the television. Almost every family in the Middle East owns a satellite dish and these satellite dishes can be found in refugee camps as well. It was the best means possible to reach out to people.
“We thought that we needed a change in this generation and this change can be spiritual through SAT-7 KIDS; it can also be through My School by giving them basic education,” said Andrea Elmounayer, Broadcast Manager of SAT-7. “How can the children read the Bible if they don’t know how to read?”
Andrea shared a story of how a Syrian refugee family is learning together by watching My School. The testimony was sent by the mother.
“It is a sacred time for my kids when My School airs and no one is allowed to visit us – not the neighbours or the family – no one is allowed to call us either.”
Only their uncle and his children can visit so that they can watch the programme together. Her kids force them all to sit and watch and learn, and they forbid anyone to talk or move. They sit as if in a classroom and learn from the teachers in the episodes. Then, they would write down what they learn. They even got their mother, an illiterate, a work book. The kids said to their mother, “Here is your workbook. You must learn to read and write – go ahead now and start writing.”
My School is not only teaching the children but also educating adults who are illiterate. They are looking into widening the syllabus in their programmes as well as cater to the learning needs of a larger age group.
They asked us to keep their work in prayer as they make God’s love visible in the Arab world. The contribution we made has run out and they are not able to produce new episodes. They are currently re-running past episodes.
Nearly five years into the conflict in Syria, which has killed or displaced half the population, staff members of the Bible Society there are continuing their ministry to provide Scriptures for all who need them.
“The thirst for Scriptures among Christians here has only increased with all the unrest,” notes the Society’s director, who, along with other staff members, has stayed on despite the dangers. “The past five years have been very traumatic for Syrians in general, and for Syrian Christians in particular. Every family has a sad story. With this loss of hope, people are turning to God’s Word for comfort and encouragement.”
While nearly 4 million Syrians have fled their country, another 7.6 million have been internally displaced, leaving their bombed and besieged towns and villages to shelter in safer areas. Many are living in overcrowded houses and apartments with friends or family members, or with others who have opened their homes to them.
Demand Increased Tenfold
Amidst this immense trauma and upheaval, the team has received far more requests for Scriptures than ever before. In 2010, the year before the conflict began, the Bible Society distributed just under 15,000 Scriptures. By 2014, the demand had increased tenfold, and nearly 159,000 Scriptures were distributed across Syria that year.
The distribution takes place through its two Bible bookshops in Aleppo and Damascus, and through partner bookshops, churches, monasteries and volunteers. Incredibly, the Damascus Bible bookshop has remained open throughout the conflict, while the one in Aleppo only shut for two days when the nearby fighting became particularly intense. A rocket hit the second floor of the building in which the bookshop is housed, but it didn’t explode and there were no casualties or damage to the Scriptures.
Although life in Aleppo has become very difficult, most Bible Society staff based there have remained, risking sniper attacks as they make their way to work and carrying out their duties to the rattle of gunfire just down the street. They welcome many visitors to the bookshop each day, including a steady flow of young people who are being offered free Scriptures through a joint project between the Bible Society and local churches.
Transporting Scriptures around the country is a challenging task, especially to Christians in the more remote areas. But the Bible Society uses all means available – buses, trucks, church volunteers – to ensure that those who need Scriptures receive them. Staff members themselves often make risky journeys to encourage Christians and deliver Scriptures to them, sometimes getting caught in battle zones.
The Bible Society has also begun to equip churches to offer Bible-based trauma healing to the many Christian families who need it. Late last year a group of church representatives spent a week in a remote monastery in Lebanon learning from a Middle Eastern trauma healing expert and sharing their own experiences of trauma.
“Some of the participants were from Aleppo, which was being besieged at that time,” one staff member recalls. “They were so worried about their families and kept phoning them in the breaks.”
Please pray for Christians in Syria, for the churches and for the Bible Society as it works to make God’s Word available in the midst of war and trauma.
Sasha’s entire childhood was blighted by alcoholism. When he was five his mother froze to death, too drunk to find her way back home. Shortly afterwards his father was sent to an asylum after stabbing someone in a drunken rage. When he left the orphanage where he grew up, Sasha became dependent on alcohol, which led him into a life of crime. He spent most of his late teens and 20s in prison.
“Realising that my life was turning out like my parents’ I lost all hope,” he recalls. “My body is full of the scars of numerous suicide attempts.”
Slowly blossomed in his heart
But then, in 1992, a fellow prisoner gave him a New Testament. It didn’t immediately change Sasha’s life but it planted a seed that slowly blossomed in his heart.
“The first time I read Scripture I felt disturbed,” he recalls. “I read the first six chapters of Matthew and then couldn’t sleep that night. The next day I returned it to my friend, saying, ‘This is a holy book and I’m a sinful man. I’m not allowed to touch it.’”
That first encounter with the Bible helped Sasha to get through some dark days ahead. While in solitary confinement he found himself praying words from the Lord’s Prayer, which he remembered reading. Later, he wrote to ask for his own copy of the New Testament through a program called, ‘The Gospel for every prisoner’. Although he wasn’t ready to commit himself to Christ he read his New Testament, particularly in times of trouble.
It took a dramatic situation and a lot of help from his Christian friends in prison for him to understand and accept God’s love for him. He was baptised, along with 18 other prisoners.
Free for the first time
“It was a great honour to die to my old life and rise to my new life of service to God,” he smiles. “While in prison I became free for the first time in my life.”
When he was released from prison, with the support of Revival Mission, a church-run organisation that helps addicts and alcoholics, Sasha started to share his story with other people. Today, he pastors a church and works with Revival Mission to help others whose lives have been destroyed by addiction. The mission uses Scriptures provided by the Bible Society of Belarus, which is committed to helping fight the scourge of drug and alcohol addiction.
“Unfortunately, the tragedy of Sasha’s childhood is not uncommon,” says Bible Society Executive Secretary Igor Mikhailov. “Alcoholism affects many families and the number of drug addicts here has increased sevenfold over the past 10 years, particularly among teenagers and young people. And intravenous drug use is closely linked to HIV – around 80% of injecting drug addicts are HIV-positive.
“More and more churches and other Christian organisations are getting involved in tackling this growing problem. We are supporting them by providing Scriptures, which are a key tool in helping people to break their addiction and discover a fresh purpose for their life.”
This Scripture-based approach, which is used by Christian-run drug rehabilitation centres and church-run programs in prisons, hospitals and other settings, is proving very effective.
70% success rate
“70% of our patients who complete the full cycle of rehabilitation stop taking drugs, have families and actively participate in church life,” says Averyanov, who leads a Christian rehabilitation centre in the Gomel region. “Having experienced the power of God’s Word in their lives, many of them share the Gospel with friends who are still drug users. Also, the patients’ relatives see the changes in their loved ones and want to find out about the Bible for themselves. Thanks to the Bible Society we are able to give them a copy.”
Another organisation, Mothers Against Drugs, told the Bible Society that the young people they speak to in schools about how to avoid addiction react very positively to the Bible.
“Almost all the young people we talk to in schools, colleges and universities have tried drugs,” notes Lidia Kotikova who heads Mothers Against Drugs in the town of Gorki. “We use drama and lectures to get them to think about addiction from a biblical perspective, and they find this very interesting. They tell us that they never had much guidance from their families. Many of them ask us for Bibles so that they can read it for themselves.”
Igor, who has led this Bible Society project for a number of years, says that he has been “personally amazed” to see the dedication of those ministering to addicts and their families, or teaching youth how to avoid addiction.
“Many of these men and women working in rehabilitation centres and other settings have burning hearts, having once passed through serious trials themselves,” he notes. “They are able to speak from their wealth of personal experience and help people to find the right path again and turn to God. This ministry is having a stunning effect, which I would not have believed if I was not witnessing it myself, over and over again.”
Read the testimonies below of a few of these former addicts who are now ministering to others.
The Bible Society supplies thousands of Scriptures to churches and organisations working to help people avoid and recover from alcohol abuse and drug addiction, but many more are needed. Please pray that it is able to provide Scriptures wherever they are needed.
“I spent 11 years addicted to alcohol and drugs. I had a daughter but I wasn’t involved in her upbringing. I was too busy destroying my life and going to jail. I realised that I was going to die if I didn’t do something, so I went to the Christian rehabilitation centre I’d heard about. There I experienced God and any doubts I’d had about coming off drugs evaporated. I went through the rehabilitation and also the program to help me reintegrate into normal life. I have my daughter back and I’m now helping alcoholics, drug addicts and their parents with mental and spiritual recovery.” – Mila*
“My parents were very caring but I started taking drugs because I wanted to be rebellious. My addiction nearly killed me several times and I only avoided prison through the intervention of Mothers Against Drugs, who got me sent to a Christian rehabilitation centre instead. It was only through God’s power that I was able to break free from my addiction. I now go to church and work with the rehabilitation centre, visiting schools to tell kids my story and help them avoid the mistakes I made.” – Alexy*
“I grew up seeing my mother and father constantly drunk. I had so much pain inside, which I dealt with by taking drugs in my teens. My mother became a Christian and invited me to church but I thought, ‘How can you find anything in religion? I’m fine. I can take care of myself.’ But then my mother died of cancer and I was diagnosed with a severe illness. I was told I’d be an invalid. I realised I was standing on a precipice. I went to the ‘Right to Life’ rehabilitation centre and God immediately started working in my heart, destroying strongholds that had held me captive for so long. In Jeremiah 33:3 God says, ‘Call to me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things, which you don’t know about.’ I see it in my life. I am now working in the rehabilitation centre and have been blessed with a wife. I can testify that ‘He who promised is faithful’ (Hebrews 10:23). – Pavel*
“I grew up seeing debauchery, discord and death, and I liked it. I was cynical and constantly in conflict with other people. But at the same time I felt a void in my life, and drugs filled it. Everywhere I went I had plenty of money, women and drugs. I could find drugs anywhere. Then one day I injured myself and my mother asked me to please go to a rehabilitation centre. I didn’t want to disappoint her so I went. There I learned about Jesus and realised that he was exactly what I’d been missing in my life. I understood that drug addiction was not my only sin. I repented and, with God’s help, I am trying to become a new man. If it wasn’t for learning about God in the rehabilitation centre, I would be dead.” – Vitaly*
Click here to read a blog about a visit to a rehabilitation centre.
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