In Ukraine, One Girl Found Hope in Tragic Circumstances

This article was adapted from one originally posted by the American Bible Society.

Iaroslava lived a typical Ukrainian childhood. She wandered through the woods behind her home to pick berries and mushrooms. She used scrap materials to make dolls, handkerchiefs and aprons. And, during the winter months, she watched wild dogs play in the snow.

But as Iaroslava grew older, her childhood began to fall apart.

For most of her life, Iaroslava lived with her mother and grandfather in Borzna, a large town in northern Ukraine; she never knew her father, who abandoned her when she was an infant. To provide for her family, Iaroslava’s mother was forced to work increasingly long hours. This left Iaroslava under the care of her grandfather, who had gradually developed an addiction to alcohol.

For years, the family hung together by a thread—until Iaroslava’s mother grew ill. Unable to pay her medical bills, she fled Ukraine in search of a steady job and sent Iaroslava to Borzna Secondary Boarding School. The experience drastically altered Iaroslava’s life.

“So I often imagine this as just a dream, where I will eventually wake up and be with her.”

“My mom told me [she was leaving] a day before she left, which was unfair because I had no time to change her mind,” Iaroslava says. “So I often imagine this as just a dream, where I will eventually wake up and be with her.”

When she first arrived at the boarding school, Iaroslava relied on the support of her classmates—all orphans and abandoned children—to find hope. As time passed, she also became curious about God.

“She always wanted to know more about God and asked a lot of questions to everyone around her,” says Olha Serhiinko, Iaroslava’s school leader. “But in most cases, she didn’t receive answers.”

One Sunday, when her curiosity had piqued, Iaroslava visited a local church with her classmates. She learned “lots of interesting things”—and immediately began to dream of holding her own Bible. But when she finally received a copy from her local church, she struggled to comprehend the old church language printed inside. So she began to dream of holding a Bible she could read and understand.

Eventually, Iaroslava’s dream came true. In partnership with the Ukrainian Bible Society and generous donors, churches from around Borzna hosted an event at Iaroslava’s school to distribute children’s Bibles. Anxious to uncover the hope found in God’s Word, she immediately flipped open her Bible and began reading.

“When she saw us handing out children’s Bibles, she couldn’t contain her emotions.”

When the program ended, Iaroslava asked Serhiinko and representatives of the Ukrainian Bible Society to sign her Bible, leaving their mark on the book she once dreamt of holding.

“When she saw us handing out children’s Bibles, she couldn’t contain her emotions,” Serhiinko continues. “She started hugging and kissing it and proclaimed, ‘This is the best gift I have ever had!’

Now 11 years old and trying to make sense of her broken childhood, Iaroslava has made a life-changing discovery: even in the midst of abandonment, addiction and poverty, she has a father in heaven who will never leave her side.

A Day in the Life of a Bible Translator

This article was originally posted by the British and Foreign Bible Society.

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.

1999-2002 University

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.

Scripture distribution remains steady around the world

This article was first published by United Bible Societies.

Bible distribution tops 34 million in 2015

The number of Bibles distributed by Bible Societies around the world has topped 34 million for the first time. Altogether, 34,396,611 full Bibles were distributed across the Fellowship in 2015 – an increase of just under 1.5% on 2014’s distribution total.

Including Testaments, Gospels and other smaller Scripture items, Bible Societies distributed a total of 418.7 million Scriptures in 2015. That’s slightly down on last year’s total – but still up 14% from distribution efforts back in 2010.

The figures are compiled from annual Scripture distribution numbers reported by Bible Societies around the world, and include local sales and exports of Scripture material*.

* Data was collected between February and March 2016. 79% of Bible Societies responded. In the case of non-respondents, the previous three years’ average data was given as their 2015 distribution data.

Global Scripture distribution in 2015


Meeting demand in the Middle East

Scripture distribution in Europe and the Middle East soared in 2015, up by nearly 50% compared to the previous year. It’s the region that’s seen the biggest rise in global Scripture distribution, reflecting the tremendous effort to meet demand for God’s word among those affected by war, violence and conflict.

In total, 8.4 million Scriptures were distributed within the region during 2015, including 1.8 million Bibles. That’s double what Bible Societies distributed in 2013, before so-called Islamic State began its brutal campaign in Iraq and Syria.

In particular, Bible distribution across Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey – the five countries affected most by conflict and the resulting migration of people – rose by a staggering 88% between 2014 and 2015.


Bible Society’s bookshop in Syria is always full of people wanting Scripture material, particularly young people.
Bible Society’s bookshop in Syria is always full of people wanting Scripture material, particularly young people.

There’s been a surge in demand for smaller Scripture items, like calendars and booklets, which can be transported and distributed easily by Bible Societies’ network of volunteers. The total Scripture items distributed in Iraq alone has gone up seven-fold in 12 months, and Bible Society in Jordan distributed three times the number of Scriptures in 2015 than in the previous year.

The director of Bible Society in Syria, whose name remains confidential for his safety, said, “The thirst for Scriptures among Christians here has only increased with the unrest. The past five years have been very traumatic. Every family has a sad story. With this loss of hope, people are turning to God’s word for comfort and encouragement.”

More than 44 million Bibles for Brazil

More Bibles continue to be distributed in Brazil than in any country in the world. In 2015, 7.6 million Bibles were distributed here – more than twice the number distributed in China, the country with the second-highest figures.

Since 2010, more than 44 million full Bibles have been made available in Brazil, enough for almost a quarter of the population.


Millions of Bibles have been given out through Brazil’s large-scale and effective outreach work. Photo: Drew Hood
Millions of Bibles have been given out through Brazil’s large-scale and effective outreach work. Photo: Drew Hood

RS5972_BRA05DJ-16-scrRudi Zimmer, Bible Society of Brazil’s Executive Director, said, “Our Society has always been characterised by the outreach work it develops for populations facing situations of vulnerability and social risk, where the Word of God comes as a breath of hope and solace.”

Brazil is also home to one of the largest printing plants dedicated to producing Bibles and New Testaments – and in 2015 this Bible Press celebrated its 20th anniversary.

Scripture distribution in the Americas outstrips Scripture distribution across the rest of the world by a long way. A third of a billion Scriptures were distributed in this region in 2015; that’s 10 items every second. In fact, it’s slightly less than 2014, but an increase of 15% since 2010. The distribution of full Bibles in the Americas has been consistently around 14.5 million for the last three years.


Focus on full Bibles in Africa

These villagers in Ghana received Bibles during 2015, thanks to Bible Societies’ commitment to providing full Bibles.
These villagers in Ghana received Bibles during 2015, thanks to Bible Societies’ commitment to providing full Bibles.

More than three-quarters of Scripture items distributed across Africa in 2015 have been full Bibles, demonstrating Bible Societies’ commitment to making the complete Bible available to people on this continent.

By comparison, across the world 8% of all Scripture distributed by Bible Societies have been full Bibles.

Scripture distribution overall in Africa was at its lowest point since 2010. But the distribution of full Bibles has never been higher than in 2015 – climbing 36% since 2010.


Fuelling the Church in Asia

Scripture distribution in the world’s most populous region, where only 6% of people are Christians, has been steady. India and the Philippines both achieved their highest ever distribution of Scripture in 2015, with 30.8 million and 15.5 million Scriptures made available respectively.

China remains the world’s second-largest distributor of Bibles, providing approximately 4.5 million Scriptures in 2015.

Download Global Scripture Distribution Report 2015 Annual Progress Report (pdf 2 MB)