When working to reduce Bible poverty among the least reached, no system is without flaws, as OM worker Matthew* in Zimbabwe has learned.
Matthew and other members of his OM team had always given out Bibles to committed new church members, at the direction of church leaders. On this particular day, Matthew was with a church leader distributing Bibles to members showing the most commitment and promise, as usual. However, despite this seemingly good approach, one encounter left him convinced that no method is infallible.
Bibles have always been distributed in the heart language of the local people by local church leaders or missionaries working among them.
“We always thought this was the best way to give away Bibles,” said Matthew. “But ever since I met [a particular] young boy asking me for a Bible, I’m not so sure about this anymore.”
Matthew has his priorities challenged
After one church service, Matthew was chatting with people when a young boy approached him, asking to see his personal Bible.
Unsure why the boy had asked, Matthew handed the boy his Bible without breaking his focus on the conversation he was immersed in.
It wasn’t a minute later that Matthew heard the boy let out a yelp of joy: “I have found it, I found it!” At this, the boy was joined by two others who rushed over, and the three of them sat down to read a Bible passage.
Intrigued, Matthew asked them, “What have you found? What is so special about this passage?”
One of the boys answered, “Our teacher told us the story of Jonah. He did not finish it but asked us to go and read it at home. But none of us have a Bible at home!”
Matthew was shocked but managed to ask if any of the boys’ parents had received a Bible when they were given out at church.
“The encounter with these boys was like a reprimand…This reprimand just re-ignited my passion.” – Matthew
“None of our parents attend church,” replied one boy.
Matthew gave them his own Bible.
“Billions of people have never had a chance to read God’s Word. That’s why I am passionate about fighting Bible poverty and raising funds to buy Bibles and distribute them to the needy,” said Matthew.
“However, the encounter with these boys was like a reprimand to never overlook anyone. This reprimand just re-ignited my passion.”
Church leaders become church planters
While the Bible remains the most popular and most read book across the globe, more than three billion people have no access. That’s why OM in Zimbabwe is making an effort to reduce Bible poverty among the least reached.
In 2018, OM made available—free of charge—more than 500 Bibles to 58 different new, up-and-coming churches in some of the least-evangelized communities. After learning about this, church leaders started approaching OM to get Bibles for their own established congregations. But OM’s mission is to help church leaders and missionaries working among the least reached.
With this new understanding, some church leaders who originally wanted Bibles for their own churches had a change of heart and were inspired to share the Word among Zimbabwe’s least-evangelized and least-reached communities.
Reverend Edmore Tshuma is one who was inspired to plant a church, with the knowledge that OM would help him with printed and audio Bibles. The result is an increase in church-planting programs among least-evangelized communities. The Church giving of itself in order to multiply itself is the method set out since the time of the apostles. If not infallible, it comes pretty close.
*name changed for security