By Marija Birchard, Senior Advancement Writer
A few years ago, I sat on a wooden bench in front of a small middle-aged woman with teary eyes. Her name was Lenora. I was in a tiny one-room church with woven bamboo walls, a dirt floor, and about 10 handcrafted benches for churchgoers to use during service. This church is on Samal Island, a popular place for tourists to visit in the southern Philippines.
I had asked her a simple question, “How has Bible League’s Church Planter Training helped you?” Her touching response to my straightforward question surprised me. And even though she answered me in her native language of Cebuano, the tears streaming from her eyes didn’t need any interpreting.
Before she became a Bible League-trained church planter, her church only had one Bible. Lenora and two others shared it. “So we divided the Bible. We cut the Bible into three,” she said. Cutting a Bible? A lot of us would never think of doing something so drastic. But Lenora and the two other believers had no other choice.
They split it from Genesis to Psalms; Proverbs to Jeremiah; and Lamentations to Revelation. She revealed, “It’s really true. We divided it so that each one of us could have a Bible.” Despite having shared the Gospel many times and baptizing people, this woman still didn’t have a complete Bible.
Each day there are countless others like Lenora who are trying to serve God and spread the Good News of Jesus Christ in their communities, but they don’t have the Bibles or training to foster lasting growth.
Planting seeds on rocky ground
Have you ever tried to plant a garden on rocky ground?
Unless you were planting a cactus, it likely didn’t go well. Due to the harsh soil, your plants most likely struggled to grow deep roots. Unable to drink in water and nutrients to be healthy, they probably shriveled and died.
This is the same experience of many under-resourced churches around the globe. Believers like Lenora are desperately trying to plant seeds of the Gospel in their communities, hoping the roots flourish in Christ. But how can their plants take root when they are working with such rocky ground, especially when they don’t have what’s needed to cultivate growth?
Just as Jesus proclaims in the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13, only seeds planted in rich soil will grow deep roots and produce a bountiful harvest.
“But some of the seed fell on good ground. There it grew and made grain. Some plants made 100 times more grain, some 60 times more, and some 30 times more.” Matthew 13:8 ERV
Bible League International’s mission is to serve the under-resourced Church with Bibles and training to transform lives worldwide through God’s Word. Under‐resourced churches like Lenora’s in the Philippines are often small, remote, or isolated with limited access to Bibles. Some of these churches experience poverty, crime, persecution, injustices, and isolation. They also lack the training they need to help people understand God’s Word, grow in their faith, and share the Gospel in their communities.
Each under-resourced church deals with unique challenges and cultures. But they have one thing in common—the seeds they are planting lack the nourishment they need to produce a great harvest. As Jesus explains in Matthew 13:18-22 ERV:
So listen to the meaning of that story about the farmer:
What about the seed that fell by the path? That is like the people who hear the teaching about God’s kingdom but do not understand it. The Evil One comes and takes away what was planted in their hearts.
And what about the seed that fell on rocky ground? That is like the people who hear the teaching and quickly and gladly accept it. But they do not let the teaching go deep into their lives. They keep it only a short time. As soon as trouble or persecution comes because of the teaching they accepted, they give up.
And what about the seed that fell among the thorny weeds? That is like the people who hear the teaching but let worries about this life and love for money stop it from growing. So it does not produce a crop in their lives.
Instead of good soil that will produce a bountiful crop, most Christians whom Bible League serves live in places where the soil is hard and rocky. This is the case for those who call Sri Lanka home.
Thriving in the desert
Sri Lanka is a small island nation that relies heavily on tourism, which people simply couldn’t maintain during the pandemic. This, coupled with an already unsteady economy, has led to a steep financial crisis—especially for the many daily laborers and farmers. The situation may seem sadly familiar. For more than a decade, the world has watched as the country of Venezuela has crumbled. That nation is experiencing a humanitarian crisis with hyperinflation skyrocketing to 3,000%. People there are unable to buy food, medicine, or even get water.
Unfortunately, Sri Lanka could be heading in the same direction.
Christy, Bible League Sri Lanka’s National Director, says, “Those that are living here at the moment are really struggling. We can’t get gas for cooking or fuel for vehicles. And the price of all consumer items has skyrocketed. This is the first time in history it has ever been like this. Even the government says they have no money.”
A typical person in Sri Lanka makes only about $75 a month. Now with high inflation, the prices of even basic necessities have doubled. The people of Sri Lanka can’t feed their families, let alone purchase a Bible, which costs the same as a day’s wages. On top of these financial hardships, Christians represent only about 2% of the population. Most there believe in Buddhism or Hinduism, leaving many Christ-followers alone and without training or resources to grow God’s Church in their communities.
It seems like a desert. How could Christians produce a great crop in such a hard place? But the Bibles and training you help to provide are the nutrients they need to help their churches stay strong. Despite the harsh environment, churches there are thriving through Bible League’s Project Philip Bible studies and Church Planter Training. Right now, countless people know there is hope in Christ—even in the most hopeless moments.
Fighting the weeds
In other places, thorns plague the ground, choking out the healthy roots from local churches. When believers around the world don’t have access to Bibles and training, weeds like false teachings creep up, smothering the truth of God’s Word.
Pastor Vicente and his wife Maria are Bible League-trained church planters from Muhalaze, Mozambique. They’ve seen firsthand how weeds of false doctrine can infest a faith community if Bibles and training are unavailable. In the church they planted several years ago, a church leader began mixing biblical rituals with mutis. “Mutis is like traditional medicine—witch doctor’s stuff,” Pastor Vicente explains. This church leader created some rituals of his own, mixing oil symbolizing the anointing of the Holy Spirit with mutis and applying it to the church members. Unfortunately, the false teacher lured most people away from Pastor Vicente’s church with these practices.
This is not an uncommon story in communities worldwide, especially in parts of Africa. But it’s experiences like Pastor Vicente and Maria’s that make it so clear why having Bibles and training make all the difference in creating flourishing faith communities. It was only through Bible League’s Project Philip Bible studies that the couple’s church began to gather new church members.
Pastor Vicente reveals, “Project Philip is a powerful tool to spread the true Gospel of Jesus. Whoever follows the teachings of the Bible through Project Philip, is in the right way. Through the Church Planter Training, I’ve been equipped with the right things to do and to say.” Today, their church has more than 20 people.
Each day, Bible League’s ministry programs, materials, and training bring spiritual growth, inspiration, and encouragement to ordinary church members like those in the Philippines, Venezuela, Sri Lanka, and Mozambique.
Once they receive these vital resources of Bibles and training that they have lacked for far too long, joy flows from them. It’s as if rain has flooded dry land. Life springs up and roots grow strong. Just as Jesus tells in Matthew 13, the seeds they planted grow deep, lives are transformed, and an abundant crop is harvested.
Falling on good soil
Lenora from Samal Island knows this is true in her life. It’s the reason her eyes welled as soon as I asked her how Church Planter Training helped her. For five years, she tried starting a church on her own with only one-third of a Bible. It’s a difficult memory she would not soon forget.
Lenora described, “At that point, I had already shared the Gospel many times and baptized many, but my Bible had no Genesis. Because the Genesis section was given to someone else. That’s why when I remember it right now, I can’t help but cry. I remember what it was like.”
This woman’s life forever changed because of the training she received through your support of Bible Leauge International. Today, she has the resources she needs to plant seeds on good ground. Wiping away tears, Lenora said, “I am very thankful for Bible League International because now every one of us has a Bible to use.”
The needs of local believers around the globe can feel daunting. But they know there is still so much more of the Lord’s work for them to do. How many more people could they reach with the hope of Christ if their lives were enriched with the resources they’ve lacked for too long? Thirty times more? Sixty times more? One hundred times more?
[Jesus said,] “But what about the seed that fell on the good ground? That is like the people who hear the teaching and understand it. They grow and produce a good crop, sometimes 100 times more, sometimes 60 times more, and sometimes 30 times more.” Matthew 13:23 ERV
Marija Birchard, Senior Advancement Writer of Bible League International, has been with the ministry for almost 10 years. She has traveled to several different countries and seen firsthand how your gifts are changing countless lives.