Africa (MNN) — First, a wee bit of history on Biblica, a 200-year-old group committed to providing God’s Word around the world. Specifically, we’ll look at one arm of the group, Biblica Africa, because the new CEO of Biblica, Dr. Carl Moeller, just wrapped up a week in Nairobi, Kenya.
The ministry was first registered in Kenya on 9 September 1976 as Living Bibles. By 1983/84, the organization had begun its maiden work of Bible Translation in Ethiopia, Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, and Democratic Republic of Congo.
Currently, Biblica Africa distributes a wide variety of Bibles across Africa through partners and through the 12 National Offices in Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. The distribution arm has grown to become the main source of income for the ministry’s operations.
Since the 70s, governments throughout Africa have risen, some have fallen. Drought, famine, and war have plagued different parts of the continent. Still, with the advent of the Arab Spring, something shifted permanently. What does ministry like this look like in the day and age of groups like Boko Haram, the Islamic State, al-Shabaab, al-Qaeda, and Ansar al-Sharia? From what Moeller observed of the Biblica team, “We’re praising God for increased distribution and Bible engagement in places like Nigeria. In places like Somalia, it’s still very difficult to actually get large-scale Bibles involved. But our teams here in East Africa are engaged with working with Somali refugees in Kenya, Ethiopia, and in other places.”
Moeller draws on the years of work with Open Doors USA to explain the level of commitment shared by Biblica Africa partners. “I’ve had years of experience in working parts of the world where Christianity is persecuted and Christians are harassed, and in some cases–in Nigeria and Somalia, Christians have been put to death because of their faith.”
That’s especially true in the parts of North Africa that border the Middle East, where the Islamic State terror group has established a caliphate. Their success has been attractive to groups sharing similar ideologies. Nigeria’s Boko Haram took a leaf from their playbook and established a caliphate of their own.
Oddly, Moeller says he’s told that when pressure increases, so does the search for Truth. That means that despite increasing risk, “We’re still capable, at Biblica, of distributing hundreds of thousands of Bibles in vernacular languages, into areas where Christians are persecuted, and we’re still seeing the Bible readership in these areas go up.”
Getting to know the scope of Biblica’s work in Africa in just a few days is like drinking from a fire hose, Moeller adds. Biblica Africa ministry focuses on five areas: Bible and Church Engagement, Children and Youth Ministry, Scripture Outreach, Specialized Ministry Outreach, and Translation.
Challenges sometimes come in the form of corruption. Many times, though, says Moeller, the problems faced by the African Church are similar to those faced by the Church in North America. “Christians aren’t reading their Bibles as much as they should. We’re very committed to everyone having a Bible [and] actually being able to feed deeply from it.”
Technology is one way to increase Bible engagement, and it’s especially useful because it is mobile, especially at a time when people are facing the kind of trouble that prompts large shifts in population due to war or religious violence. Mobile technology allows them to be discreet in their Bible engagement and is small enough to be part of what survives an escape with just the clothes on their backs.
What it boils down to is this: the more things change, the more things stay the same. People in distress look for hope. They find it in God’s Word. Moeller urges, “Continue to pray for our translators, and pray for our Community Bible Experience so that people who have Bibles will be challenged to read them in a new way.”