Ending Bible poverty in rural areas

Working with church planters in the least evangelised areas of Zimbabwe, OM was inundated with requests for Bibles from pastors leading new church plants. “The Church is growing rapidly yet lacks the basic tool: the Bible. They need sufficient quantities to strengthen existing and new Christians in their faith,” explained Webster Dungwa, outreach coordinator for OM in Zimbabwe.

OM in Zimbabwe has seen a marked growth in the number of new believers in the country over the years, but a shortage of Bibles is resulting in congregants having stunted spiritual growth, while others, for lack of understanding, end up being wooed into false doctrines, sects and cults. In a move aimed at easing Bible poverty in Zimbabwe, OM has started sourcing and distributing Bibles to people in rural areas. 

“By making Scripture available to the churches in Zimbabwe, we allow each Christian to own a copy of the Bible and give them the opportunity to reach out to others with the Word of God,” added Pastor Israel Farai, an OMer and church planter.

The first Bible in a Zimbabwean local language was published in the Shona language in 1949. Another major language, Ndebele, had a full Bible translation in 1979, while several other smaller languages remain without a Bible in the mother tongue.

Though English versions of the Bible are available in select city bookshops, the same cannot be said in rural areas. Furthermore, Bibles in the local languages are more expensive than English ones. “On average, one can buy the cheapest English Bible for 6 USD, but the Shona or Ndebele sells above 21 USD,” Webster explained. “Some Pastors and church leaders in rural areas do not even have a Bible in their mother tongue. The same leaders may not even have proper theological training, yet they are forced to preach using the English Bible, thus increasing the margin of error in preaching effective messages.”

OM’s Bible distribution effort started in the village of Hoya in Muzarabani, where 20 church leaders received the Bible in their local language. OM had already started distributing audioBibles, focusing on people who were functionally blind, illiterate and elderly, as far back as 2015. Now, providing a hard copy to those who are able to read is the next step for OM.

OM, through its outreaches department, will continue sourcing more local language Bibles and distributing them to empower church leaders and other needy people in the many rural areas of Zimbabwe.

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