The Bible is the world’s most read book, but it is not yet accessible to everyone in their native language or at an affordable price. There is important work to be done in advocating for the Bible, translating the Bible including into indigenous languages, and enabling people to engage with it in new ways.
Literacy programmes hold great opportunity and potential for people both practically and spiritually. For literacy programmes to expand and reach more people, there is a need for new facilitators to be trained, new course materials to be created, and for more Listen and Learn MP3 players to be provided.
In Cambodia and Laos, illiteracy rates are high, particularly in rural areas where there is low access to quality education opportunities. Schools can be too far or too expensive for poor families to send their children who may be expected to work in the fields to provide for the family. The inability to read can be a major hurdle and add an extra level of difficulty to life.
In Pakistan, 3 out of 5 (42.73%) adult women cannot read or write and this is one of the lowest literacy rates in the world for women (UNESCO). Low literacy limits work and other opportunities for women and for Christian women, being unable to read hinders access to the Bible.
Bible Society Australia is committed to giving access to the Bible across the world and as a Sisterhood we have the opportunity to support their work in Cambodia, Laos, and Pakistan through Bible-based literacy programs.
Cambodia & Laos: Bible Society trains church volunteers in remote areas of Cambodia to facilitate literacy classes. All the literacy teaching is contained in an MP3 player, so volunteers can be quickly trained to use the audio devices to facilitate a literacy class and bring change to a village. Even in remote and often mountainous areas, many are willing to attend literacy courses. Course material and Scriptures are made available in local dialects so that ethnic minorities in Laos or Cambodia are able to think, pray and learn in their heart language. People who previously were unable to read signs or labels – let alone God’s word – now have a life skill that boosts their sense of self-worth, and helps them navigate daily life with greater ease. Non-Christians are introduced to the gospel and for those who are already Christian the course gives them confidence to speak clearly and knowledgeably about Jesus.
The programme has been running for over ten years, reaching more than 46,000 Cambodians who have learned to read and write through these Bible-based literacy classes. Pastors and church leaders have been empowered to bring change to their remote, isolated communities, and hundreds more have put their hands up, wanting it for their villages.
In Laos, a pilot program has been running since 2015, using the Cambodian model and there is great potential for expansion in this country.
Pakistan: The Bible Society is providing literacy skills to Christian women in Pakistan, with a focus on those in rural areas. Students learn from literacy textbooks, which incorporate Scripture texts, so they not only gain literacy skills but also develop Bible knowledge. Scripture portions for new readers are provided to students after they complete the literacy course.
Literacy has wide-reaching benefits for women – their self-esteem is boosted, they can read labels and signage, and they can demand a fair wage for their work. Women are central to the family in Pakistani culture, so for every woman who learns to read and receives Scripture, an average of six additional people will be reached with God’s Word. There is a ‘Beacon of Light’ effect as these women shine God’s light through their families and communities, creating a wonderful ripple effect.
Pastor Koy Kang juggles riding a reumork (like a tuk-tuk) for an income whilst pastoring a growing church in Cambodia’s Saang Distric. Koy is thrilled with the results of the Bible Society literacy programme in his church and the impact it has had on the community. Na-Rong Sochea Ta, 13 is in one of the classes, and says cheekily: “Pray that I would get a good education so that when I grow up I can work in an office, and people can bring documents for me to sign.” With that confidence, we can only imagine where Na-Rong will be in 10 or 15 years’ time. In the meantime she’s quietly pleased to be able to read her very own New Testament. “I can read whenever I want to. I don’t need to borrow it from my mother anymore.”
Azra is the mother of five children and her husband labours in a mine and earns just enough to feed their family. Azra’s pastor encouraged her to join the Bible Society literacy classes and she worked hard over six months and was soon able to read and write. ”Now that I know the merits of education,” she says, “I want to send my children to school to also get an education. I am so delighted that I can read the New Testament in Urdu fluently. Now we read the New Testament, and pray every day as a family before we go to sleep.” Azra is one of thousands whose lives have been impacted through the Bible-based literacy programme in Pakistan.
$500 AUD can teach 12 women to read using Bible-based materials and provide them with a New Testament to share with their families.
$500 AUD can equip 7 literacy classes with a Listen and Learn MP3 player and provide 40 New Testaments for graduates.
For those learning to read and discovering God through His Word. Pray for women and families in Cambodia, Laos and Pakistan as they encounter God in the scriptures. Pray for women to know their value and discover their place in God’s story. Pray for the Bible to reach people everywhere.
LOCAL CHURCH AWARENESS.
If you are part of a local church please be mindful of your local church vision and be sure to graciously submit and share your heart with those in leadership in your life. We believe we should see this as an ‘above and beyond’ endeavour that has the capacity to reach out and build bridges into our unchurched communities and ultimately be a blessing.
Check out our handy little tips on various ways to raise funds. Please see the financial guidelines document online for more practical information. Please note that if a project is completed we reserve the right to transfer any excess funds to another project.t.
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