God’s Word: A Drop of Water in Dry Land

This article was adapted from materials from the Iranian Bible Society in Diaspora.

"For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground..." – Isaiah 44:3a

Generally speaking, in the northern hemisphere July’s climate is very hot! Especially if you are in the Middle East. The heat might attract tourists but it scatters the locals. In some parts, the fields are so dry that one would wonder if there has ever been a drop of rain!

Yet, this summer in Turkey, while serving among Iranian refugees, I witnessed a different dry land; a land that has gone through many challenges and trauma; a land that has tasted the pain of homelessness, and the fear of hopelessness; a land that cannot imagine a brighter future in its horizon; a dry land that is thirsty; thirsty for the Word of God.

While their tomorrow is uncertain, in their pursuit of finding an answer, many of them meet the Lord of Hope! The God whose Words are hope-giving, purpose-defining, and thirst-satisfying for the dry lands of our hearts. 

aspire-persia-sep-2016-nt-distributionWhile visiting numerous Iranian refugee Churches in Turkey, I heard the same request over, and over again: “we need more Enjil!” As a drop of water in this dry land, the Iranian Bible Society started a movement of distributing free New Testaments in Turkey. Several thousands of NTs were distributed among Iranian Churches in Izmir, Istanbul, Ankara, Eskishehir, and Denizli. It made a difference, yet the difference between the demands and our limited supplies is as deep as the Grand Canyon! We need a lot of hands to close the gap.

aspire-persia-sep-2016-nt-recipientsBeloved friends, there are many who cannot afford to purchase a New Testament, yet long to have their very own copy. Would you please consider joining the Bible Society in prayer and partnership to make the Word of God more available worldwide?

“The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor.” – Proverbs 22:9

Join us in praying for Iranian Christians:

  • Remembering the victims of terrorist attack 15 years ago on this September 11th.
  • School-aged children of Iran who are about to start another school year. May the Lord continue opening the eyes and hearts of Iranian students with the Light of His Word!
  • Safety of Christians who live inside Iran.
  • God’s provision for the safe delivery of Farsi Bibles in some restricted nations.
  • More New Testaments and Scripture portion to be made available for distribution.


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)

Children Refugees Continue to Learn, Thanks to SAT-7 KIDS

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.

Bible ministry in Syria continues amidst war

This article was originally written by United Bible Societies.

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.

Risky Journeys

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.