“It’s been incredible to get God’s word not into people’s hands, but into their hearts,” said a former director of Bible Society Queensland Steve Davies at a celebratory morning tea last week.
Five former directors of the Bible Society Queensland gathered together, along with about 60 long-term supporters of the Bible Society, at a lunch last Friday in Brisbane, to rejoice in the distribution of Scriptures.
“A highlight has been the privilege of being able to share God’s word,” said Davies. It was a comment reiterated by the other directors: Mark Owen, Kevin Bird, Ray Jones and Keith Bricknell.
The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 opened up “unprecedented opportunities and challenges for the distribution of Scriptures.” – Ray Jones
Of course, the method of sharing God’s word has evolved over the 162 years since the Auxiliary Bible Society of Moreton Bay (now Queensland) was established in 1855.
The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 opened up “unprecedented opportunities and challenges for the distribution of Scriptures,” said Jones, who served as director of Bible Society Queensland from 1990-95.
Following the fall of the Wall, several states of the former Soviet Union gained independence, and for the first time in many years people in the Eastern bloc were allowed to read and own Bibles. In a campaign to raise money for Bibles for Russia, Bible Society Queensland raised well over twice what they were expecting.
About the same time, China was opening up to the Bible, and the establishment of Amity Printing Press featured heavily in the reflections of the directors.
“There was suddenly an incredible hunger for Bibles in China.” – Ray Jones
In the 1980s and 90s Bible Society Queensland helped raise money to establish Amity Printing Press, which is now the largest Bible printing facility in the world. Forty years ago printing a Bible in China was illegal, but as the country opened up, Bible Societies around the world raised US$7.6 million to set up the Amity Printing Press. In 2012 they celebrated printing their 100 millionth Bible.
“There was suddenly an incredible hunger for Bibles in China,” said Jones. “It was a great challenge to raise sufficient funds to get scriptures to places that had been closed.”
By the late 1990s, Bible Societies around the world were asking what it looked like to partner with the church, empower the church, in a world that is not interested in God.
“We strengthened our partnership with army chaplains, with Scripture Union, with whoever was seeking to engage with non-Christians and asking them how we could support them,” said Kevin Bird, who served as director between 1998 and 2004.
At the end of Bird’s tenure, in 2004, Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ was released, and Bible Society Queensland partnered with Gibson’s production company to put Scriptures in the hands of people. One hundred thousand copies of a special edition of Mark’s Gospel were distributed to cinemagoers across Australia.
The Passion of the Christ Scripture was the one of a series of targeted Scriptures published by Bible Society Queensland. Along with the other state-based Bible Societies in Australia, they helped produce a backpackers Bible, Bible magazines for teens, and footy Bibles, all on the premise that “the Bible can change your life if you read it – that’s when it is powerful.”
The group gave thanks to God for all that he had accomplished through the work of Bible Society Queensland, but all the directors also wanted to thank the generous long-term supporters of Bible Society for enabling the work.
Bird told a story of an elderly lady who made a significant bequest to the work of Bible Society, which generated a profound opportunity to wholly support two Chinese women who were completing PhDs in England. Those women intended to return to China to teach the Bible, and today they are both still teaching people how to teach the Bible, reaching China with the gospel of grace.
Some prayer points to help
Thank God for the faithfulness of Bible Society supporters, and for all God has accomplished.