It only takes a spark to get a fire going
And soon all those around can warm up to its glowing
That’s how it is with God’s love
Once you’ve experienced it
You spread His love to everyone
You want to pass it on
One of the pressing concerns among churches today is the subject of the next generation. In a world that is becoming increasingly individualistic, consumerist and secularist, some have even termed them as “the goodbye generation”. Nevertheless, God is still at work. Some of our most heart-warming stories are precisely about those in the next generation who, despite their young age, take up the legacy of their predecessors and continue the work of faith.
Eleaner Victoria Teo is one such young person. She was only 12 when she went on a mission trip to Myanmar in 2016. Burdened by a desire for the children in Myanmar to have their own Bibles, she embarked on a fundraising campaign all by herself and raised $1,000 in the span of four months. In the following interview, she recounts her experience.
Can you tell us more about the mission trip to Myanmar that started it all?
EV: My church has been working with a local church in Yangon, Myanmar for quite some time. We usually do yearly checks on them to see how they are growing, and how we can help them. This trip was mainly to see how they are doing on the ground. My sister and I were the only children in the team. It was also my first time going to Myanmar, so I was pretty excited.
What did you see during this mission trip?
EV: I love children, so I was assigned to the Sunday school to take care of the kids and conduct a lesson with them. While I was teaching the lesson through a translator, I saw that they did not have Bibles to use for Sunday school. It really affected me as a Bible is something really important in our walk with God.
Why do you think the Bible is important to the children in Myanmar?
EV: The Bible is important because it is physical proof that God and His Word are real. It’s also a form of communication between God and us. When I read the Bible, I get assurance and strength. I believe the children especially need such physical proof that their teachers are not making up all they are teaching, and its message is something very real. So I thought if they could do devotions on their own with a Bible in their language, which they can understand, it would be really helpful to their walk with God
What did you do after seeing such a need?
EV: When I came back to Singapore, I started looking into Burmese Bibles. At first, I planned to buy some from stores and take them when I visited Myanmar the next time. However, I found that this option proved to be costly. I wouldn’t be able to get enough Bibles to make any real impact.
In March 2017, during one of the team’s post-mission meetings, our leader suggested that I contact The Bible Society of Singapore to check if they had Burmese Bibles. That same day, I visited the Bible Society’s website and emailed them, stating that I was 12 years old and I needed Burmese Bibles for children. The Bible Society wrote back, challenging me to raise funds for the Bibles, with the promise that they would match every Bible I could afford with another Bible. That was the deal-maker for me. I realised I would still need to do some fundraising anyway since I could only do so much with my own strength. Yet with this arrangement, I could essentially get two Bibles for the price of one, which would enable me to get more Bibles.
How did you go about meeting the challenge?
EV: The need in Myanmar is really great! So I set myself a modest target of raising $1,000 by August 2017. I read up on the terms and conditions for fundraising in Singapore. I learnt that I could fundraise among my family and friends without a permit, so that’s what I did. I sent emails to my uncles and aunties. I also printed out a sheet where people could write their names, the amounts they donated, and their email addresses so I could contact them, as well as keep track of all the donations. I brought this sheet to my school, church and Sunday school class.
Within two months, I hit $225. I saw how people were really donating to the cause, and was motivated to continue. I campaigned more, more people came in, and I eventually reached my target in July 2017—
one month before the deadline I set.
So I contacted the Bible Society and told them that I hit my goal of $1,000. While I could get around 200 Bibles immediately with the money, I got 50 Bibles first. I wanted to see the response of the people in Myanmar and, depending on that, I would return in 2018 to get more Bibles.
How were these Bibles used in Myanmar?
EV: I gave 10 Bibles to the local church. The remainder went to the boarding house where most of the church’s attendees came from. At the boarding house, there are teachers who can monitor the children’s reading time and help them with any questions, so I thought it would be more impactful to put most of the Bibles there. Right now, I am still monitoring them—if they like the Bibles, what their reading patterns are, what their devotional habits are—to see how many more Bibles I need, and where I should put them when I get more.
So far, what feedback have you gathered from Myanmar regarding the Bibles?
EV: The children don’t exactly read much, so I was pleasantly surprised to hear that they are often seen using their free time to read the Bible. Some of them even read it every day for devotions. It was really positive feedback; they are really responding to the gesture.
What are some lessons you have learnt from this exercise?
EV: I learnt that you don’t have to do a lot to make an impact. When I went back and saw the children reading the Bibles, I realised that it did not take much, but if I didn’t do anything, they wouldn’t have all these Bibles. All I needed to do was write emails and go around opening my mouth and asking. I would say that if you have something you want to do to help someone, all you need to do is act on it, and something will change.
I feel that we are really, really blessed in Singapore. We can just go to a store and get a Bible easily, but the people in Myanmar don’t have these kinds of resources. So I feel that we should bless others with the blessings God has given us. And if we could give just a little bit, it can really help spread the living hope of all peoples, which is the Bible.
For her tenacious faith, commitment and grit, The Bible Society of Singapore (BSS) awarded Eleaner the Young Sower of the Year Award in August this year. BSS also donated US$1,000 in her name to meet the Bible needs in a country of her choice. It is our prayer that Eleaner’s example will inspire us to contribute our own little sparks to get the fire of God’s Word and love burning bigger and brighter, till all the nations are filled with the knowledge of His glory!