Saturday, 11 May 2013

Send a Bible, a Bible a Month ~

Author Sophie Neville in China

I learnt about Bible a Month in about 1984, as my flatmate had joined the scheme. I thought, 'That's a nice thing to do.' I wish I'd found out more. I didn't realise how inexpensive it was and went on my own merry way without joining.

In about 1996 I spotted some new Bibles, in the Tswana language, on a shelf in a junk shop where I lived in South Africa, selling for £1 each. I bought the lot to take with me to Botswana. They proved ideal gifts and I was asked to return with more. This was difficult as there were no longer any for sale in my town. I had to persuade a farmer, I knew was a Gideon, to let me have a box of New Testaments. Some were in Tswana. Some were in English –at the front - and Afrikaans at the back. One had a gold cover. 

As I was travelling into the Okavango Delta, on the back of a lorry, an American tourist asked me what was in the heavy box. 

'They are Bibles,' I explained. 

She was horrified, disgusted. But as soon as we arrived all the Botswanans rushed up, asking me, 

'Did you remember the Bibles?' 

The scathing expression on the American woman's face dissolved as she realised how much they had been longed for. Everyone wanted the one with a gold cover. I apologised as I gave the English/Afrikaans versions to those who spoke English. 

'No problem,' one Tswana lady told me. 'I shall use it to learn Afrikaans' and she did. 

Many of those Tswana people have now died of AIDS. I am very glad I took the Bibles to them. I fear the next box I took up was not received by those who really wanted them, and I couldn't keep going.  

Instead I started sending £10 a month to Bible Society, discovering that it was a much easier way to distribute Bibles than going into the Okavango on a lorry. It was only when I reached China that I understood that supporting Bible Society is probably one of the best investments you can make. When I was going around the Amity Printing Company in Nanjing I realised that my meagre gift had been able to subsidize a substantial amount of printing. I stood in front of a great stack of about 300 Bibles thinking, 

'Those are my Bibles!' 

Each one will be read by about five adults. That is a total of 1,500 people, all thirsting for the Word. They estimate that 10,000 a week are converting to Christianity in China, many in the poor rural areas where people only earn about £1.60 a day. It's imperative that they have access to Bibles in their own language. And these Bibles are so treasured, so appreciated, used by many who are learning to read. When we went up-country to help distribute the new Bibles were we heralded with trumpets and fire-crackers, welcomed by crowds of people. I walked up to the village with tears in my eyes, saying to myself, 'All I've done is to give £10 a month.' 

Is a Bible a life changing gift? Yes.

Is giving Bibles a matter of life and death? It can be. Providing Bibles for Prisoners in South Africa will save lives. Giving Bibles to the Military in Zimbabwe will save lives. Subsidising Bibles for the people of China could be more important than we can ever imagine. I believe lives will be saved.  

How do you impact a nation? Give a Bible a Month. It's not just 'a nice thing to do'.

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