Breaking Free

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Breaking Free

As Lifewords gains access to prisons in Nairobi, the good news of the Bible is bringing light into dark places. Jess Bee reports.

Screen Shot 2018-09-28 at 16.09.22Industrial Area Prison is home to hundreds of boys. It’s a tough environment. The old, worn out buildings are heavily guarded and overcrowded. Inmates lack supplies of basic necessities such as soap, toothpaste and underwear. The inmates in the boys’ remand section of the prison are arrested for minor offences: stealing, breaking and entering, drug use. Even those who have been involved in school riots, truancy or unruly behaviour at home find themselves here. Many young people spend their childhood in these institutions, some on remand for months or even years, waiting for their case to be heard. “Here it’s tough for them,” says Joyce Mutuku, head prison chaplain for the Nairobi

area. “Because of the prison system, they can be here for three years, up to seven years, as they wait for their cases to be heard.”

A WRONG TURN

Screen Shot 2018-09-28 at 16.09.34For these boys, it’s often a bad decision that has led them here. “They have rebelled, succumbed to peer pressure, got into the wrong ways and end up in the wrong groups,” says Joyce. “They end up in bad company because they have nothing else: they haven’t gone to school, they don’t see the value of life, they get into crime because of that. And it is devastating.”

But, here lies a window of opportunity for Joyce and others like her to speak truth, hope, peace and comfort into their lives while they are under their care. Chaplains in prisons across Nairobi, together with the Lifewords Kenya team, are bringing good news to these boys and others who are in prison. Through God’s Word inmates are discovering a different way to live and hope for the future.

A NEW PATH

Screen Shot 2018-09-28 at 16.09.42The prison system offers rehabilitation and career skills through schooling and courses.
“The institutions have courses to train inmates in technical skills, like farming, sheep-keeping and cow- keeping, so that when they leave, they have something that they can stand on,” says Margaret, chaplain at Kamiti prison. “Sometimes the prisons even contact their families on their behalf, for reconciliation. To make it easier for them to reintegrate in society.” However, this is a relatively new way of thinking for Kenyan prisons, only recently have prisoners even been permitted to have visitors from the outside.

Prison chaplains are also offering rehabilitation through building relationships, counselling and the power of God’s Word. Most of the boys they meet are dealing
with some sort of trauma or life circumstances that have led to their incarceration. They struggle with peer pressure, and their relationship with their families and society, often blaming them for their current situation. “They have their own lives in their hands,” says Monica, another chaplain. “It’s the decisions that they make that make their lives better or worse. So we do a lot of counselling, even before we start sharing the Word of God.”

It’s in these situations that Choose Life is helping boys learn how to make good choices. The curriculum-based programme is about trying to empower people to ask themselves, “What choices do I have?” and “what are the consequences of my actions”; “who is the person I want to be and what values do I want to live by?”

Choose Life helps the boys express their anger and helps them talk about their return to life both in prison and outside. They want to make good choices like keeping themselves clean, not fighting with each other, and deciding to keep the right company once they get out of prison. “They are great lessons,” says Monica. “We were teaching about 95 boys, and 18 men … many of them gave their life to Jesus … they are transformed … most of them changed because of Choose Life.”

Last year, while on a visit to Nairobi, Clenir dos Santos, Lifewords Pavement Project Director, visited a prison in Nairobi that is using Choose Life. “The image of those young boys sitting on their beds and listening so carefully to the message presented by the Choose Life facilitator is still very clear in my mind,” she says. “Choose Life can help enormously as they have the time and opportunity to think about their life, their environment and how they can choose better.” She continues with a story about one boy: “I clearly remember one boy who very sincerely asked us to pray for him to get out of there. I was touched by looking at him, so young and so lost. I had the opportunity to tell him Jesus is in prison with him. He is not alone. Every night when he lies down he can be sure Jesus is there, that he accepts them the way he is, and wants to walk with him there and outside.”

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BREAKING THROUGH BARRIERS

Alongside using Choose Life with young people, the Lifewords team in Kenya has been visiting adult inmates in prisons across Nairobi, as they introduce chaplains to the Bible resources. Clara Ngobolia from Lifewords Kenya talks about the first time they visited Kamiti, a medium security prison for men: “We were led to the segregation section where the dangerous inmates are locked up. It was scary to even get close to them, let alone share the Bible with them. Their faces looked angry, some with bitterness, some with shame and guilt. We gave them Who Cares About Me? and at first some looked uninterested. But as we proceeded, they began to show interest, opened up and shared their feelings of anger, bitterness and shame as a result of what they were going through. Some broke down and cried, asking us to pray with them to receive Jesus Christ as their Saviour. Others wanted prayer for their families and some wanted prayer for the cases they were having in court. As we ended the session, they were very thankful that we had visited them and asked us to return. The prison officer who had accompanied us told us that the booklets had spoken to the men.

‘I have never seen them respond like that before,’ he said.”

The Lifewords team are planning to go to prisons around Nairobi once a month over the academic year, as part of the school education that the prisons offer to inmates. The programme will offer Picking Up the Pieces to adult inmates to share and talk about together.

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FUTURE PLANS

In March this year the Kenyan government recognised Lifewords’ work in prisons and gave them authority to reach 12 institutions within Nairobi. This opens up opportunity to reach more and more people. And, it’s the Kenyan team’s hope that they will be able to equip many more chaplains to use Lifewords resources. “The results after one year of prison ministry have been amazing and we are excited at the change of hearts and transformation of lives as we share good news with the inmates through the programmes and literature,” says Sammy Kamore, from Lifewords Kenya. “Every time we visit different prisons, we get to hear great stories that confirm to us the importance of this work. It has been a beautiful journey getting involved with the inmates and witnessing the transforming power of God through the Bible’s life words.”

PRAY

Praise God for the work of chaplains in prisons, and the opportunity they have to offer spiritual care and share life-changing good news.

Pray for the Nairobi inmates who have received Lifewords Bible booklets, that they would be comforted and transformed by God’s Word.

Pray for children in prisons around the world. The number is enormous, and many are living in harsh and uncomfortable conditions.

MAKE A GIFT

If you would like to partner with the Lifewords Kenya team in their vision to reach prison inmates with the Bible, you can make a gift online at lifewords.co.nz. Thank you!

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Escolha Vida!

Jess Bee HeadshotWhen political institutions fail and rates of violence, crime, and drug use soar, young people need a new and better story to live by. Jess Bee reports on the first pilot of Choose Life in Brazil – helping to shape lives through the Bible’s life words.

In southern Brazil a group of children play a game as part of a lesson. They’re talking about how they can do things for other people. one child suggests giving a food basket to their friend’s family where the father is unemployed and the mother experiencing health problems. The rest of the class agree, excitedly planning to gather items from their own homes to fill the basket. Another child has an idea to take their guitars and visit an elderly couple, to play them music and to pray with them. The next morning the class go out and visit the two families, putting what they’ve talked about into practice. “It was wonderful,” says Eunice Deckmann, the class coordinator. “Everyone was happy. I was really emotional as the children knelt in the elderly couple’s home and prayed so spontaneously, thanking and asking God to bless them.”

These children attend classes at Missão Criança Jardim Paraiso, a children’s mission in Joinville, in the Santa Catarina region of Brazil. The mission works with 330 children and has two groups of 10 between the ages of 9 and 12 working through the Choose Life curriculum in the afternoons.

A New Context

Initially developed for use in East Africa, Choose Life (a values-based curriculum teaching positive decision-making) is now being piloted in teaching settings in Brazil. Choose Life has always been about empowering young people to make good choices for themselves and their communities. Now in this new setting, it is offering an alternative perspective for young people growing up in an increasingly unstable nation. Over the past few years, Brazil has seen huge political and economic turmoil with widespread corruption, loss of trust in politicians and austerity measures that have turned the clock back on improvements that had been made in poorer communities.

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I was really emotional as the children knelt in the
elderly couple’s home and prayed so spontaneously”

The crime and violence which had been significantly reduced in the past ten years through various programmes and interventions are on the rise again, leaving young people with few values on which to model their lives. Crime, violence and drugs are again becoming a part of everyday life. Clenir Santos, from Lifewords Brazil, has been observing Choose Life (Escolha vida, in Portuguese) being used in these new places. “Choose Life helps children to talk about these things,” she says. “when I spoke to the facilitators everyone said, ‘wow, this is really what we need now’.”

Changing Attitudes

Joinville has a population of 600,000 people and proportionally is as violent as Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo – every day someone dies or is shot. It has the highest number of homicides in the state of Santa Catarina. The children in the class experience violence in their homes and most have siblings who have a different father to them. One of the girls in class has an 18-year-old brother in prison because he stole something to give to his mother on Mother’s day. Cristiane Santos, one of the facilitators, explains how Choose Life is making a difference to the children and the way they view the world. In the past, the children would always talk about guns and death because this is their experience of everyday life. “The Good Samaritan re-telling was brutal,” she says. But now they use more positive role-play scenarios to demonstrate the values in the Bible stories they are reading.
The programme’s interactive and collaborative approach is also making a difference in the lives of the teachers as they see the children consider what life words mean for them. “I expected to teach but I see we learn much more with what the children bring,” says Cristiane. “Usually we expect to pass things on to them but in fact, I am receiving much more than I expected. The choices I make day-to-day reflect what we are learning here. I need to make some decisions that choose others. The children and I are learning together.”

Shaping Values

In another project in Joinville, César Oliveira facilitates Choose Life with two groups of children aged 6–13 years old. The project, Ecos de Esperança has three shelter homes and a community centre for 300 children. César grew up in this project and is now helping the children he works with consider how God’s values can impact the way they live. “I am enjoying Choose Life, especially for reflecting on how we think,” he says. one of his classes has been looking at the Choose Others booklet and as a result, brainstormed ideas of how they could demonstrate their gratitude to the project through raising money. Some collected cardboard with friends and sold it. others made a piggy bank from a shoe box and asked for change in school and the project. “I learned with Choose Others that we need to choose others and always help,” said rafael, one of the children. “we collected cardboard and things to raise money for Ecos as they have been helping us for many years. It is very cool here. They give us this space and we can only say thank you.”

Impacting Lives

Missão Morro do Meio, another project, is developing Choose Life in one of the schools they work with in Joinville and also through a church community programme. A popular part of the Choose Life lessons the role-plays – a device used throughout the teaching to help young people explore how values shape choices, and to rehearse their own decisions. “In the first lesson they were ever so timid,” says Julita, one of the facilitators, “but in the second they all wanted to talk. They now tell us things like: ‘I always lost my patience having to help my little brother but now I am helping,’ and ‘I helped a lady in the supermarket pick up her shopping’.” The children are even becoming examples in their homes where the pattern of a father who drinks and physically abuses the mother is very common. “These children are making a difference through their attitudes,” says Julita.

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The openness and confidence demonstrated by the children in the role-plays is also allowing them to build deep relationships with each other and the facilitators. one day, after class a girl came to Julita and said she needed to talk. It was about a situation at home with her father who was drunk. As the girl opened-up to her Julita realised the bond of trust they now have with the children.

A New Path

“In observing the lessons I saw a real enthusiasm from the children for a different way of thinking,” says Clenir. “They were excited and talkative, offering their ideas and keen for more lessons. For these children guns and violence are an everyday reality but Choose Life is offering them a new path, one which they are walking with enthusiasm. Instead of death they are focussing on life and hope.”

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Pray

Pray with us for Choose Life in Brazil, that God’s truth, love and hope would inspire children, teachers, families and communities to reframe their thinking and the story that they live by.

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House by House

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Danielle Welch reports on the rural church-planters who are risking persecution as they take the gospel house-by-house across India. Read how you can help pray and equip these evangelists to share the good news.

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Pastor Suresh is showing me around one of his 23 churches. We’re standing on top of a hill, sheltering from the wind, behind a small Hindu temple. This open piece of land is where Suresh and his assistant first started inviting people to meet with them and hear about Jesus. The local community consists of a series of small two-room houses, stepping down the steep hillside to the main road below. We passed some shops and market stalls a few miles back, but up here on the hillside there is nothing but a few families and views of the countryside as far as I can see. We’re invited into one home to meet some of the families here who have become Christians and are eager to learn about Jesus. As we drink chai, more women and children arrive, and I think what an unlikely gathering we are – drawn from such different cultures (as true for my Indian colleagues as for me) by the story of Jesus.

Screen Shot 2017-11-02 at 1.34.25 PMSuresh is a church-planter and evangelist with a heart full of vision for reaching communities across Karnataka (one of India’s southern states) who have never heard of Jesus. He and his team try to get to know people in the local villages, where the population is a mix of Muslim and Hindu. Talking about this community Suresh says, “The first time I came here I saw this temple. I had a vision, a challenge, to come and share the gospel here. After much prayer I came to visit individual houses, sharing Bible portions. So I made one friend – and after that, it multiplied. And now we have nearly 40 people here. We have a church – a small house church.” “Making friends” is not easy – and Suresh says they are often chased out of villages when they talk about Jesus. He’s been beaten up many times and threatened with arrest. Two days after we meet, Suresh goes to help an assistant who has been seized by police. Both of them are held in a police cell for several days before someone secures their release. “Still, people are brave about evangelism,” Suresh reports. “They have accepted Jesus as their Saviour and they are brave enough. We see many miracles here.”

ONE AT A TIME

In a context where Christian witness is under increasing pressure, and sharing the gospel brings with it a real threat of persecution; there are whole networks of pastors like Suresh, sharing the gospel house-by-house and village-by-village across India’s vast rural landscape. SGM Lifewords has been meeting with pastors, asking what they need for their work, and where the resource gaps are. The message is always – whatever else you do, please pray. Suresh asks: “I request you all to pray for Indian pastors who are being persecuted a lot. I work with 22 pastors in Karnataka and other states – and most of them have been persecuted. Please pray for us, and for our vision – let the vision come true, that we will reach each and every home in this state with the Word of God.”

FROM SOUTH TO NORTH

The message is the same when we meet Pastor Richard and his wife Priya in Rajasthan. They moved to this, one of India’s most northern states, in 2010 – and now leads a small team of pastors and church planters. Richard explains, “It’s been very hard. When I was at Bible college, we were clear that we wanted to be somewhere where there is much need for the gospel. Rajasthan is geographically a dry place – a desert. And spiritually I would also call it a ‘dry land’. North India has been hard ground for the gospel right from the beginning. We have had many missionaries from the south of India, and from all over the world, but still, we haven’t seen a big result here. North India is the place (in our nation) the gospel seems to have least reached.”

UNDER THREAT

Screen Shot 2017-11-02 at 1.35.07 PMAnd here, perhaps even more than in the south, persecution is a daily and a dangerous reality. Richard talks of fellow pastors who have been attacked, two even left for dead – their families also attacked, churches were broken into or burnt, and services disrupted. Claiming the name of Jesus here takes courage and great faith. “Rajasthan is the least-reached place – Haryana next. In Haryana you cannot distribute Bible booklets in some places, you can’t share and pray for a person in the street. We cannot use the name of Jesus openly because there are restrictions by the law. We cannot put up a cross or use the word ‘church’ – when we are trying to build a church we have to call it a ‘prayer house’ or something else, or we will not get permission.” Public rhetoric boasts that Christianity will be wiped out in these northern states by 2020, stoking up fear, hate and opposition in local communities. Richard says Christians have to look to their own conduct too. “We have to be people of good testimony. There are reports of ministries exaggerating conversions and numbers, for funds; or attacking and condemning other people’s beliefs in a way that only stirs up more hatred.” As Priya explains, “When we carry the name of Jesus, we are looked on as a ‘religion from the outside nations’ – there are so many barriers to overcome.” Richard points out that for every person that a pastor shares the gospel with, “there are ten people back at home to discourage them. And to turn the good news into bad news in their lives.”

CHALLENGES TO GOOD NEWS

Priya knows this experience first-hand. She became a Christian at the age of 20: “Immediately my whole family, my entire community, the whole society around me came against me. I kept telling them, ‘I cannot leave Christ’. For months I was kept under house arrest, under guard. There came a day when my father told me if I have to follow that faith, then I have to walk out of that house. So I left my house in 2004, and since then I have been following and serving Jesus.” Priya now works with women and children in the local area. She considers the culture about women and children one of the biggest barriers for Christian workers to overcome if people are to experience the good news of the gospel. “In many communities, women are looked down upon, considered lesser to men; the girl-child especially is a burden.” This view of women opens up space for all kinds of violence, abuse and neglect towards women and girls. Even in the absence of outright abuse, many girls have very low self-esteem, and consider themselves of little value.

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AN OPPORTUNITY FOR LOVE

In a culture dominated by strong religious, political, and societal divides – perhaps epitomised in the caste system – here then is a great opportunity for love, and therefore for the gospel. Richard explains: “Here in north India, I would say the culture is generally very rigid. We don’t hear much about love – it is absent in most religion, in the caste system, in many homes. People are hurting because they are growing up in a harsh world. So when we talk about God as a father of love, giver of good gifts, this is a great thing for people to hear. It is something they have never heard or understood before – that God is love.”

VILLAGE-BY-VILLAGE

And just as with Pastor Suresh in Karnataka, Richard says the church is growing village-byvillage, house-by-house. “There is lots of work to be done. There are villages and tribal areas where name of Jesus has never been spoken or heard. But we have also seen lots of doors opened to the gospel in villages, and in tribal areas. North India is definitely a place that needs God to move – and I believe this is the time.”

PRAY WITH US

  • Give thanks for Suresh, Richard, Priya and others like them. Praise God for their commitment to reaching people who don’t know Jesus. n Pray for the pastors who are persecuted.
  • Ask for God’s protection and comfort as they meet opposition and barriers to the gospel.
  • Pray for those who hear the good news and decide to follow Jesus. Pray that their faith would be accepted by their families and that in turn loved ones would respond to the gospel.
God Speaks my Language

God Speaks my Language

Jess Bee Headshot

Jess Bee discovers how SGM Lifewords’ publishing legacy still brings life to many, through an archive of a thousand-plus translations of the Bible’s life words, re-imagined for a digital age.

“I know it’s not easy to follow Jesus’ road. People mock believers. But that’s ok because when you follow Jesus you know your sins are forgiven, that you have righteousness and that you’ll go to heaven.”

Pilgrim* lives in Niger. He is Fulani, one of the largest and most widely spread ethnic Muslim groups in West Africa. He meets with others in his community to learn about the Bible and discover more about Jesus. He speaks Fulfulde and he is able to read the Bible in his own language thanks to a copy of SGM Lifewords’ Jesus Saviour of the World given to him by Ruth*, a Canadian missionary. Ruth lives and works with the Fulani people, serving the community and building relationships. She offers the Bible to those she ministers to so that they can read and understand God’s Word in their own language. As well as the booklet she gave to Pilgrim she also has copies of Jesus Christ: Saviour of the World in Ajami, a language that uses the Arabic alphabet. “These booklets are particularly of interest to those who can read the Arabic alphabet because they have studied at the mosque,” she says. “They may or may not have understanding of the Arabic language, but can read it phonetically. They start reading the Jesus Christ: Saviour of the World booklet not expecting to understand it and are surprised to find that it is their own language in letters they can read.” Reading or hearing the Bible in your own heart language (mother tongue) is not a luxury, it is an experience that carries with it the profound message that everyone is included in God’s kingdom. God speaks your language.

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MAKING THE BIBLE ACCESSIBLE

Ruth and other on-the-ground missionaries are able to offer the Bible to minority language speakers all over the world thanks to SGM Lifewords’ extensive archive database which allows for reprints of titles in many languages. In the 129 years since the founding of Scripture Gift Mission (now SGM Lifewords), thousands of different titles have been printed in a huge variety of languages. The majority of those booklets are stored in an archive of physical copies. In 2016 – thanks to your generous support – we completed the long and painstaking task of creating an archive database. This makes our language and reprinting data much more accessible, and new possibilities have already emerged – Jesus Christ: Saviour of the World in Fulfulde was published in partnership with Serving in Mission (SIM) and now Ruth is sharing it afresh with the Fulani people in Niger. The archive database holds a vast array of treasures – over 22,000 items. SGM Lifewords printed the first ever Scriptures in over 200 languages, in partnership with organisations such as Wycliffe/SIL. Some of those languages had never been written down until Bible translators did their work, which means that our archive holds examples of the first ever publications in that language – items of historic significance. But the archive and database hold much more than texts of historical importance. They hold the key to people all over the world being able to read and understand the Bible in their own language – and therefore know and experience the love of Jesus for themselves.

“Our archive holds examples of the first

ever publications in that language”

WORKING TOGETHER

Some of those archived titles are reaching new audiences, including our older titles in Romani languages. There are several dozen Romani languages and dialects spoken across Western Europe, and they are often highly localised. None of them have a translation of the full Bible, but various missionaries and Bible agencies have translated different stories or key passages in the past, SGM Lifewords among them. In partnership with the (British and Foreign) Bible Society, we have been able to scan in our Romani booklets, some of them dating back to the 1910s, and make them available through the YouVersion app – a free Bible app for phones, tablets and computers. The Romani may not have a full translation yet, but everything that has been done in the past is being drawn together in one place and made much more accessible. Another recent enquiry has come from the Albanian Bible Society. Uniquely, Albania declared itself to be an atheist state during the Soviet era. This pushed the church underground, and the country’s Christian heritage was suppressed. Today Albanian Christians are rediscovering the story of the church in Albania, and historians and linguists are filling in the gaps in the history books. SGM Lifewords’ part in that story comes in 1937 when the mission recognised that the door was about to close in Albania and made the country a priority. Tens of thousands of booklets were shipped, including Sunday school materials. A year later, missionaries were forced to leave the country and religious freedom was not officially restored until 1990. We were delighted to be able to locate and scan in some booklets from the time, a small contribution to this reconstruction of the Albanian church’s legacy. Another key partnership is with Wycliffe/SIL with whom we’ve worked – and still work – to make Bible booklets available in minority languages to low literacy communities through our Power to Save series. In 2013 we helped publish 400 copies of Jesus Christ Has Power to Save – which features verses from Mark’s Gospel – in Mpumpong for SIL Cameroon. Charlotte Nanou, working with Wycliffe, took the booklets to Yokadouma in south-east Cameroon to share with Mpumpong communities. SGM Lifewords remains committed to new language partnerships, as translators continue to take forward the task of making the Bible available to every tribe and tongue. As Scripture is translated into “new” languages, our resources can provide people with a way into the Bible for the first time.

Digital

DIGITAL FUTURE

The digitalisation and archiving of booklets and translations ready for printing is just part of the treasure we thank God for. The archive that we’re building also looks to the future as we research and produce new projects, and disseminate the Bible through digital formats such as Life Changing Words and VerseFirst. This year is the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, where the arrival of the printing press allowed many more people to read the Bible. Now, in a digital age, we have more and more opportunities to help people access and share the Bible. Last year we were able to partner with translators working in a “closed” country, to make the Life Changing Words app available there, in a local language. In a context where distributing physical copies of the Bible is difficult, this daily Scripture tool gives local believers a new way to encounter life words, and share them safely with others.

LANGUAGE OF THE HEART

For the almost 20,000 young people reading VerseFirst each day in their social media feed, and deepening their experience of the Bible through VerseFirst blogs and web content, experiencing the Bible in their “heart language” is about more than the literal language in which they read. In a post-literate culture, images, words, and cultural form combine to communicate truth and meaning for this new generation. We are excited about what comes next, as we think about how we continue to offer people ways into the life-transforming words of the Bible, and its message of love and salvation through Jesus. Whether in print, via “live” programmes, or through digital resources, our passion is that everyone, everywhere should have the chance to read, hear, and experience the good news of the Bible.

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Latest Interact Magazine

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God speaks my language
For almost 130 years, SGM Lifewords has played a large role in making the Bible accessible to all. With over 22,000 archived resources in more than 200 languages, our new issue of Interact discusses the incredible impact this is having around the world.

To receive a posted copy of this latest Interact magazine, simply pop an email to newzealand@sgmlifewords.com

Note: If you normally receive Interact in the mail, it should arrive shortly. You can still read the online version linked above.

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War, wounds and words of life

Bishop John Taylor Smith was the Chaplain General to the British Forces during the First World War. He was often to be found at the front line talking to officers and their men. He wanted to understand the conditions in which they lived, fought and died.

Taylor Smith was deeply concerned for the spiritual and moral welfare of soldiers, both in the training camps and at the front. “His job”, writes his biographer, “was to see that no man went into the trenches without having close at hand some word which would help him in the hour of danger and in the close approach of death…”. His chief question to prospective chaplains was: “What would you say to a man fatally wounded but conscious, and with only ten minutes to live?”

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Bishop John Taylor Smith at the War Office, 1915

Bishop Taylor Smith had been a member of the council of the Scripture Gift Mission (SGM) since 1910, and later was to become the President of the mission. During the War, he ensured that each soldier was given two pocket-sized, durable booklets: one a copy of the Proverbs and the other a copy of the gospel of John. They were well received and valued by most troops.

As they read the life-giving words of the gospel, “written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing, you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30-31), many found the Saviour.

Forty three million items of Scripture were distributed during the course of the war. Each New Testament and each gospel concluded with a decision form based on the words of John 1:12,

‘Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”

As the war proceeded and tens of thousands of men were killed, their simple belongings, as far as practicable, were returned to their loved ones. Many letters were received at the office of SGM indicating that men had written their names at the end of the decision form with the date, in some cases only a few days, or even a few hours before their death.

For the 2014 – 2018 centenary years of WW1, SGM Lifewords has reproduced a replica of the gospel of John that Bishop Taylor Smith shared. Over half a million copies have been distributed in the UK as the nation paused in sombre remembrance of the sacrifices made a century ago.

It is our hope and plan that as we remember the Gallipoli landings, and the epic battles on the Western Front in the years following, that we may be able to get a copy of this gospel booklet into the hands of many who may not otherwise read it. You may find our article on “7 ways to use the War Gospel” helpful in sharing it in your own context.

If you would like a sample copy or to order multiple copies, please order them here.

Blessings,

Rob Reeve
Chairman SGM Lifewords Australia and New Zealand

Chairman Rob Reeve with wife Lorna

Chairman Rob Reeve with wife Lorna

 

ANZAC

7 WAYS TO USE THE REPLICA WW1 GOSPELS

1. ANZAC DAY SERVICES

RSA, churches and many others have been ordering these Gospels to give away at Anzac Day services.

2. CHURCHES

ANZAC day is a commemoration of great sacrifice made for our benefit, so is a great opportunity to point people to the greatest sacrifice for our benefit – the Lord Jesus.

If your church is open to visitors, leave some WW1 Anniversary Gospels on a display rack for people to take away, especially if your church is connected to local armed forces or is close to a war memorial.

3. SCHOOLS

Schools throughout the country will be marking the anniversary of the great war in various ways. Bible in school teachers can give out the Gospels and use corresponding lesson plans from Scripture Union to learn about the WW1 Gospels and what they meant to those who received them.

4. YOUTH GROUPS

There are some tools around these WW1 Gospels that would make a great youth night. Show our short film ‘Hill 63’ to raise the question of what people would be prepared to die for. Then read the story of ‘Singing Jim’ that’s in the WW1 Gospel as a real-life example. Each teen could be given a Gospel.

5. SCOUTS, GIRLS & BOYS BRIGADE

These groups are often involved in Anzac Day and other military or civic events. We’ve already heard from cadet chaplains planning to present young people with a WW1 Gospel.

6. ARMED FORCES CHAPLAINS

Navy, Air Force and Army chaplains are using thousands of these Anniversary Gospels with those in active service. Pray for them and encourage them! And if you are involved in chaplaincy work, order your copies online for your mission.

7. SHARE JOHN’S GOSPEL

The scriptures provided such great hope for so many in a brutally dark period of our history. Read through those same life-giving words with family, friends, or colleagues who need to share in that hope.

Order yours for FREE

Lord Robert's Message

Lord Roberts’ words

Lord Roberts’ words – WW1 and the Bible 100 years on

It has now been more than 100 years since the outbreak of WW1 – let’s consider some words from Lord Roberts, last Commander-in-Chief of the Forces.

On the 4th of August 1914, the British Empire entered what was to become the First World War, and her allies soon followed. To remember WWI is not to celebrate war or to glorify it, but to mark and honour great loss of life and sacrifice, and to say (against the backdrop of a world still in conflict today) “no more” and “never again”.

When war broke out in 1914, a cry went out across Europe for bibles, testaments, and gospels to share. Scripture Gift Mission (now SGM Lifewords) began a “mobilisation” of its own printing an Active Service Gospel to provide hope for our troops. These Gospels were given freely at training camps and recruitment halls and more. Chaplains passed out pocket Gospels to men crossing to France, and soldiers slipped them into their tunic pockets to carry. Later, copies were printed for the YMCA and Church Army, and different covers were printed for the different Armed Services. There are endless different editions, only some of which have survived for archives. Gospels were also printed in Russian, with the help of the Tsar and his family, as well as German and Flemish Gospels. Forty-three million booklets of scripture were printed and distributed during WW1. An astonishing number that demonstrates the great effort and urgency with which countless people took up the challenge of sharing the Bible.

What all these Active Service Gospels had in common was a message on the inside cover from Lord Roberts, former Commander-in-Chief of the Forces. SGM Gospels can be identified, whatever their cover and however they were used, by the appeal made by Lord Roberts in the front:

“I ask you to put your trust in God.
He will watch over you and strengthen you.
You will find in this little book guidance when you are in health,
comfort when you are in sickness, and strength when you are in adversity.” 

Lord Roberts recognised that the gospels offer guidance, comfort, and strength. The cover instructed recipients, “Please carry this in your pocket and read it every day.” Read the story of God with us every day. Read the words of The Evangelist promising the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:5 | NIV. Read about the kind of love that goes all the way to death. Read about the promise of “life from above” for those who “put your trust in him”. These Gospels didn’t come with a sermon inscribed in the front, or instructions on doctrine and belief, they were given out in the darkness and horror of war as “guidance, comfort, and strength”.

We are offering a replica edition of the Active Service Gospels as “guidance, comfort, and strength.” Almost one million copies of the Gospel have been given around the world, offered as words to make of what you will, and what God will. Words that speak directly to hearts today, just as they did 100 years ago. Without comment, without a sermon, simply the story of Jesus told by John, offered as the most important story we could tell.

Will you join in making the same appeal Lord Roberts made?

“I ask you to put your trust in God”

Order your Active Service Gospels today here – FREE to all

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Indonesia | Confronting

My first day in Indonesia can be summed up with one word – confronting. Confronting because of the wonderful colour, joy and enthusiasm everywhere. Confronting also because of the great poverty and suffering many have endured.

“Selamat Pagi” (good morning in Indonesian) are the words that started our day. We are in Indonesia this week to encourage and support the great work over here. I was so encouraged to join a class of around 45 students who have just started at Pelita Dunia Theological Seminary. They will study for five years, preparing for a lifetime of gospel ministry. Many of these students come from poor villages spread across Indonesia’s 922 inhabited islands, and arrived in Jakarta not knowing how they will pay for their study. It was a real delight to see their enthusiasm in singing, studying the scriptures, and learning how to share the message of Jesus in a context where many are illiterate.

Later, we visited a church service in a leper colony also in Jakarta. I was struck by how the gospel has transformed the lives of people who have suffered so greatly as outcasts in their society. Imagine living for over 40 years without any physical contact from another human being!!! That has been the reality for some here, yet to sing with them, and hear them talk of the love of Christ they have, paints such a beautiful picture of what hope in heaven looks like in this desperately broken world!

I am so thankful for your partnership in the gospel that means this valuable ministries continues! Join with me in praying for these dear brothers and sisters in Indonesia, and for the many here who do not know that hope!

Tuhan memberkati (God Bless),

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Pohutukawa red flowers blossom on the month of December over a sandy beach with a small fishing boat doubtless bay New Zealand.

7 WAYS TO BE MISSIONAL THIS CHRISTMAS

Christmas presents a great opportunity to share God’s word and the real meaning of Christmas. Here are 7 ideas on how you can make this Christmas bigger and better for others around you:

1 | Share a Meal

Sharing a meal with someone is such a good way to really get to know them, so why not invite people to a meal or a BBQ at your place. Look for opportunities to listen to their story, and share together what Christmas truly means. At the heart of Christian hospitality is welcoming and loving strangers – you don’t need to serve an ornate meal, just invite people into your home and life.

Christmas_a little story2 | Share God’s Word

God has spoken powerfully in his Word, revealing himself and giving life to his people through it. Give the gift of God’s word at your Christmas event, church service, or even in Christmas cards. I would love to send you some copies of  “A little story about something big” as one option. Order copies here for FREE!

3 | Pray for People

We have a wonderful and loving God who delights in answering our prayers! Pray for God’s mercy and love for people this Christmas. Offer to pray for people who are sick, stressed, lonely or tired throughout the Christmas season. Most people will see it as kind & caring.

4 | Serve Those in Need

We have received so much as people dearly loved by God, so it is fitting for us to find ways to practically love others who are in need! Serve the poor and needy in you area by helping at a local aid organisation, or getting involved in a soup kitchen or shelter.

5 | Celebrate Christmas Together

The gospel breaks down cultural and social barriers, uniting us in the love and hope we have received. A great way to express that is to organise a Christmas party and invite those who are on the outer – try to include people who don’t have family, are single mums, or people away from home.

6 | Visit People

Christmas is a time we share with friends and family we love, but it can also be such a lonely time of year for some people. Even the small act of visiting a retirement village to sing carols or share some Christmas cake could be such an encouragement. Take time to sit and read the story of Christmas with those who are often forgotten and neglected.

7 | Give God’s WordSGMLW7253_Silent Night fc

Another way to give God’s word this Christmas could be the “Silent Night” booklet from SGM Lifeword’s. It details the amazing Christmas Truce story from WW1 – putting down weapons in a rare moment of peace. Isn’t that what Christmas is about? Order copies for FREE here.

What are Your Ideas?

I would love to hear your ideas of how to share God’s life words over the Christmas period. Let us know in the comments section below.