David Eastwood offers insights through this account of how the Taiwan team was steered into developing the series of mini-Bibles to spread the gospel to the working class in Taiwan.

David Eastwood has served as a church-planting missionary with OMF in Taiwan for twenty-three years. Last year he became the OMF Taiwan Field Director. He is a graduate of All Nations Christian College (UK), Singapore Bible College, and Spurgeon’s College (UK).

david-eastwood

Mini-Bibles

Mission Round Table vol. 11 no. 1 (January 2016): 28-29

What resources are needed to spread the gospel to the working class people in central Taiwan? That’s one of the questions asked by the members of the newly established OMF/ Word Team ministry in Chiayi City back in 2002. Members of the team had attended the Jonathan project in Thailand and were challenged to think creatively about what might need to be developed. We recognised the power and relevance of Bible storying within the local culture but also realized that Taiwan has a very high literacy rate. We therefore longed that, in addition to hearing Bible stories, people might read the Bible themselves.

The team had started a working class men’s group that met around a traditional tea set. The men—very unchurched—smoked, chewed beetle nut, and drank tea while the missionaries built relationships and told Bible stories. It was hard to imagine such men showing an interest in reading the Bible, but as they became familiar with the stories some did ask about reading them for themselves. There was a problem though, made clear by one of the men who picked up a large, thick Chinese Bible, flicked through it dismissively and pointing to the thin paper and small characters said, “No one would want to read that. It’s too boring and has too many words!” His actual words were less polite, but we got the point! He then suggested that we should have “smaller” Bibles and pointed us to some of the literature being distributed in the local temples. These were all pocket-sized booklets with large print, not too many pages, and featured a few pictures or illustrations.

This experience led to the production of a series of mini-Bibles. Working with the Taiwan Bible Society we first printed a small Bible portion of Genesis 1–4. This was an obvious choice as we frequently used these stories in evangelism.  Selecting a contemporary version of the Chinese Bible made it much more readable to working class non-Christians (though somewhat less acceptable to established Christians!). There were no changes or additions to the text, but chapter and verse numbers were omitted (which again ensured these Scripture portions would not be so popular with established churches). The first cover was designed by a local artist, but later versions featured a Chinese-styled design that was devised by one of our own missionaries. The mini-Bibles were non-intimidating for less confident readers—including the missionaries—and were easy to use in a more casual setting. Furthermore, the Taiwan Bible Society has been very positive about our taking the initiative to produce new materials.

Over the years more mini-Bibles have been printed and some have been reprinted. Each is around 25 to 40 pages long and 10 x 15 cm wide and high. Generally they are Bible portions—in some cases selected so that whole stories are told with repetitions and other material removed. Subjects include Creation, Abraham, Moses, the exodus, the early stories from Daniel, the birth narratives of Jesus, selected parables from Luke, and the crucifixion. Each is given a culturally relevant title such as: “Who understands my pain?,” “The dream interpreter,” and “Finding a benevolent Father.”

One booklet is a “Where to find help with …” guide, similar to what is found in Gideon Bibles, except that the relevant texts are written in full. Topics include: “help when you are looking for peace,” “help in financial crisis,” and “help when experiencing sexual temptation.”

As the booklets have been paid for by project donations, we can make them available for free or a small donation. They are published by the Taiwan Bible Society on behalf of OMF/World Team. The Moses story was recently sponsored by Send International. This is a very simple but practical way of making Gods word accessible to those who would never dream of opening up a full Bible or even New Testament.

Mini-Bible covers

This experience led to the production of a series of mini-Bibles. Working with the Taiwan Bible Society we first printed a small Bible portion of Genesis 1–4. This was an obvious choice as we frequently used these stories in evangelism.  Selecting a contemporary version of the Chinese Bible made it much more readable to working class non-Christians (though somewhat less acceptable to established Christians!). There were no changes or additions to the text, but chapter and verse numbers were omitted (which again ensured these Scripture portions would not be so popular with established churches). The first cover was designed by a local artist, but later versions featured a Chinese-styled design that was devised by one of our own missionaries. The mini-Bibles were non-intimidating for less confident readers—including the missionaries—and were easy to use in a more casual setting. Furthermore, the Taiwan Bible Society has been very positive about our taking the initiative to produce new materials.

Over the years more mini-Bibles have been printed and some have been reprinted. Each is around 25 to 40 pages long and 10 x 15 cm wide and high. Generally they are Bible portions—in some cases selected so that whole stories are told with repetitions and other material removed. Subjects include Creation, Abraham, Moses, the exodus, the early stories from Daniel, the birth narratives of Jesus, selected parables from Luke, and the crucifixion. Each is given a culturally relevant title such as: “Who understands my pain?,” “The dream interpreter,” and “Finding a benevolent Father.”

One booklet is a “Where to find help with …” guide, similar to what is found in Gideon Bibles, except that the relevant texts are written in full. Topics include: “help when you are looking for peace,” “help in financial crisis,” and “help when experiencing sexual temptation.”

As the booklets have been paid for by project donations, we can make them available for free or a small donation. They are published by the Taiwan Bible Society on behalf of OMF/World Team. The Moses story was recently sponsored by Send International. This is a very simple but practical way of making Gods word accessible to those who would never dream of opening up a full Bible or even New Testament.

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