Bible Advocacy

God’s Plan in Kumi’s Failure

Vakatawa Vetinia Kumi
Vakatawa Vetinia receiving Bible Society’s gift for her church.

THE wise man once stated that, “Many are the plans in a man’s heart but it’s the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21). This scripture rings loud and true for Lay Pastor (Vakatawa) Vetinia Kumi who twice flopped her English, Fiji Seventh Form Examination paper, to finally realize the purpose and call of God in her life. Her ambition whilst at high school was to have a successful career and support her family. However, despite scoring good marks and failing the most important subject – English, Kumi realized she had to change vocation.

Growing up in her village of Naruwai in the province of Bua in Fiji’s second largest island – Vanua Levu, Kumi always shares her dream to her parents, that one day she’d become a Deaconess or a pastor. Then, she enrolled into the school system. It was in this education stream that her childhood dream slowly faded and she thought, to pursue a successful career. But later into her final year at high school level, that God miraculously moved in a way, that looked otherwise in the eyes of man but it was His way of making Kumi realize the Calling in her life.

“I thought I’ll become a civil servant as I continued my high school education. I really wanted to have a good career so I can help my parents and my family. But something happened, I failed my English paper, despite two attempts. I passed my Form 7 exam in my first attempt, but I failed my English which is the most important subject. So, I thought to give it another try. I changed school and attended Labasa Muslim College. I passed with very good marks but I still failed my English paper. Right at this moment, God just reminded me of my childhood dream that I always wanted to become a deaconess or a pastor,” the 27-year-old says.

She was offered an opportunity to study at the Lautoka Teachers College and simultaneously, the doors to study at the Fiji National University opened. But Kumi knew the experience she went through at high school is a beacon that she had to change course.

“From this experience, I told my parents of my desire and the Godly reason why I twice failed my English paper. It was a bit hard for them to accept but I’m happy that they’ve supported me until now.”

Kumi then attended the Methodist Lay Training Center (MLTC) in 2013, graduated in 2015 as the only female graduate. She spent a year looking after her village of Naruwai before being posted to her first posting at Tavulomo village in the circuit of Dama in the Bua division under the Methodist Church of Fiji. She’s now into her sixth year looking after a congregation of 156 members.

The pandemic outbreak of Covid-19 was an obstacle that she approached as a challenge. It was an experience that she could only thank God for giving her the wisdom to make wise decisions. As the people were suffering, she attributed God for the ‘motherly love’ instincts inbuilt in a woman that kicked within and had great impacts in the lives of the people.

“Covid-19 changed how things work in the ministry,” Kumi explained.

“Most people were not coming to church because they were used to the lockdown norm of staying home during the pandemic. But I believe that ‘tender love and caring’ characters in a woman especially mothers who’d care for their children, birthed compassion in me. I begin to treat people with love. I can feel God strengthening me in this area to show genuine love to the people and it really impacted them,” she adds.

“Later, after the lockdown, people slowly began to come of out of this new norm of staying home on Sundays to attend church. Some members who haven’t entered a church in more than 10 years begin to come to church now.”

She drew a lot of inspirations and invaluable lessons from her congregation. “It’s my members that really taught me a lot in the ministry. I learned a lot of things from my visit to the members on a personal level. It gives me inspiration to see how people are impacted and have grown despite the challenges of this covid-19.”

She adds ministry is tough. “Its worth travelling this tough journey. It’s a joy to do ministry because I know that in those tough situations, I am not alone – God is with me. I often hear from my circuit Pastor, that ministry is not only about preaching – it’s getting to know the people on a personal level, building that strong relationship with them,” she adds.

Vakatawa Vetinia with her son, Naivalu.

Kumi is married to Olive Rasue, who has been a pillar in the ministry. She says her husband’s support has really helped her grown.

“I thank God for my husband who is very supportive and understanding. I have my roles at home as a wife and as a mother and then there’s ministry. It’s hard trying to balance them all. But my husband helps me fulfill all these roles. Its his support and understanding that motivates me in the ministry.”

Kumi who is the only female Vakatawa in the division of Bua is breaking new grounds in a male dominant ministry. She is the first female from her village to journey this vocation. Kumi is also the pioneer Vakatawa in the village of Tavulomo where she ministers.  

She advices, “Struggle and life’s challenges will keep coming at us like waves but the only solution is God. Fiji, let’s serve God faithfully, build a good relationship and fellowship with God, come away from living a sinful life and you’d witness the favour of God in your life.”

One of her favourite bible verses, John 14:6; “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” is always a reminder that it’s through Jesus alone that all problems could be solved. 

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Scripture Translations for 707 Million

Scripture translations for 707 million people completed by Bible Societies amidst pandemic

In Tanzania, brother and sister Gidufana Gafufen (left) and Udagayda Mudinangi celebrate the launch of the first Bible in their language, Datooga.

Amidst the challenges and disruption caused by COVID-19 in 2020, Bible Societies around the world completed Scripture translations in 66 languages used by 707 million people.

These include first Scripture translations in 46 languages, with a potential reach of 13 million people. Six language groups received the full Bible for the first time – five in Africa and the other in the USA, where the Deaf community celebrated the completion of the American Sign Language Bible.

American Sign Language, which is the language of around 408,000 people, is the only one of the world’s estimated 400 sign languages to have the full Bible. The dedication service was held online due to COVID-19 restrictions. (The American Sign Language Bible was translated by Deaf Missions with the support of various partner agencies, including American Bible Society.)

First New Testaments in another 11 languages used by four million people were also completed. Two of these – the Epie and Ogbia New Testaments – were launched by the Bible Society of Nigeria.

“As I receive this [Epie New Testament] today, I am the happiest person,” smiled Elder Iwo Samson Famous, an Epie speaker in Nigeria. “For a long time we have been struggling with the English Bible. We can now read and understand.”

“This New Testament in our mother tongue will aid literacy and encourage our youth and others to understand the Word of God,” said Ogbia speaker John Okolubo. “Without it, it was like we lacked God’s presence, but with it we have reached the promised land.”

In Vanuatu, one of the few countries almost untouched by the global pandemic, Hano-speakers on Pentecost Island welcomed the long-awaited first New Testament in their language with traditional songs and dances. (See video below.)

Translation work began four decades ago but was disrupted numerous times by cyclones, which destroyed homes, livelihoods and, on some occasions, parts of the translation work. In the wake of Cyclone Pam in 2015, the translators had to live in tents for months, but the translation manuscript was safe, having been secured in a plastic container just before the cyclone hit.

(See further down for more information about Scriptures launched in 2020 and the growth of the Digital Bible Library®.)

Reaching a milestone in global Bible translation

In August, the number of languages with the full Bible topped 700 for the first time; it was a significant milestone for global Bible translation that provided a rare moment of celebration during a difficult year.

At the start of 2021, the full Bible is now available in 704 languages used by 5.7 billion people. More than 70% of these full Bible translations have been provided by United Bible Societies.

Another 825 million people have the New Testament in their language, and 450 million people have some portions of Scripture.

The Bible translation landscape looked very different 75 years ago, when United Bible Societies was first formed in the wake of World War II, in 1946. According to ProgressBible, which compiles data from Bible translation agencies across the world, fewer than 200 languages had the full Bible, just over 230 had the New Testament, and 620 had Scripture portions. The number of languages with some Scripture has more than tripled since then.

And yet, today, despite this progress, more than half of the world’s 7,359 languages have no Scripture at all. All together, 1.5 billion people still do not have the full Bible in their language.

“As we look back at more than two centuries of Bible Society work and 75 years of working together as United Bible Societies, we give thanks to God for blessing our common mission of making the Bible available to everyone,” says UBS Director General Michael Perreau. “Each completed Scripture translation makes it possible for more people to access the hope and peace in God’s Word, which is especially needed at this time of global turmoil.

“Yet more than a billion people still do not have the Bible in their own language. They are without the comfort of Scripture as they navigate the storms of life. That is why the task of Bible translation is so urgent.”

The Bible Translation Roadmap: an ambitious vision

To reduce Bible poverty, Bible Societies are continuing to push forward with the Bible Translation Roadmap – a 20-year vision to complete 1,200 translations to make Scripture available in the languages of 600 million people for the first time. It builds on the increasing momentum in Bible translation, brought about by closer collaboration between Bible translation agencies, the generous support of donors and developments in technology.

Three years in, 80 translations have been completed, 312 are in progress, and another 808 are yet to begin. Around $30 million is needed each year to achieve the goals of the roadmap but less than half of that funding has been made available so far.

“Translating the Bible takes years of dedication and generosity, and is the first step in a community getting life-changing access to God’s Word,” says UBS Executive Director of Global Bible Translation Alexander M. Schweitzer. “The availability of mother tongue Scripture makes it possible to develop Bible ministry programs to meet the needs of the community, such as literacy or trauma healing.

“Bible translation transforms lives – that’s why we are committed to fulfilling the ambitious vision of the roadmap.”

Greater access through new and revised translations

Languages evolve over time, and it can be difficult for younger generations to understand outdated Scripture translations. Last year, Bible Societies published new or revised translations in 21 languages used by 694 million people, including nine full Bibles.

Among these were new Bibles translations in two of South Africa’s 11 official languages – isiZulu, spoken by 12 million people, and Afrikaans, spoken by more than seven million people. These two major publications formed part of the Bible Society of South Africa’s year-long activities to mark its 200th anniversary.

“The words contained in this book, when they enter the heart, are self-evidently true across any culture and language,” said Prince Dr Mangosuthu Buthelezi, 92, who represented Zulu monarch King Goodwill Zwelithini at the dedication service of the new isiZulu Bible.

The Bible has been available in isiZulu since 1883 but the most widely-used version today was published in 1959. Dr Buthelezi, who played a key role in the government of national unity led by Nelson Mandela, said that he felt blessed to have been able to read God’s Word in his own language throughout his life. He thanked the Bible Society for the new translation which, he said, would help more people “come to know the Scriptures and be led by faith.”

Study editions

To help people deepen their knowledge of Scripture, Bible Societies also published study editions in three languages – Chinese, Haitian Creole and Thai.

Socio-political turmoil and violence had delayed the Haitian Bible Society’s plans to launch the first Haitian Creole Study Bible in late 2019. Instead, the celebration took place in February 2020, just two weeks before COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic.

“We Haitians are a traumatised people,” said Haitian Bible Society General Secretary Magda Victor. “We need healing and are searching for a response to all the pain we have experienced. That’s why there’s a church on nearly every street corner. But very often, church leaders don’t really understand the biblical text very well. We feel confident that this Study Bible will support them in their ministry.”

Sign language translations open God’s Word for Deaf communities

“The completion last year of the very first Bible in a sign language – American Sign Language – after nearly four decades of work was a great encouragement to sign language translators and Deaf communities in other countries,” says United Bible Societies Deaf Ministry Coordinator Chris Dale. “After many years of being misunderstood, there is now new energy and urgency behind the task of opening up the Bible for over 400 sign languages.

“Despite serious challenges caused by the pandemic, Deaf translators found new ways to co-operate, supported by the very timely development of new software tools, which allowed them to make progress.”

As a result, 16 sign languages used by 2.1 million Deaf people received first or additional Scripture portions in 2020.

Can’t read or write

Like 99% of Deaf Mongolians, Javzaa can’t read or write and was frustrated at only being able to experience the Bible through the sign language interpreter at the Deaf church she attends. She is delighted to be part of the Mongolian Sign Language translation team, which completed five chapters of Matthew last year.

“There are many souls in need. The one help they need most is the Word of God in sign language,” signs Javzaa.

In December, the Paraguayan Sign Language translation team completed video translations of the story of Jesus’ birth and shared them on social media just before Christmas. The videos attracted great excitement among the Deaf community and were shared by many people.

Increasing Scripture access for People with Visual Disabilities

While COVID-19 hindered Braille Scripture distribution and engagement work in many countries, 2020 saw unprecedented progress in making the full Braille Bible available in more languages.

Five languages received the full Braille Bible, three of them for the first time, and Braille portions were published in another two. A total of 48 languages now have the full Bible in Braille.

“It has been amazing to see how technical developments with new Braille transcription software and a new Braille file archive in the Digital Bible Library® have resulted in a high number of new complete Braille Bibles published in one year. In former years this process would normally have taken five to 10 years!” comments Ingrid Felber-Bischof, who coordinates UBS’s global service for People with Visual Disabilities.

Saikhantsetseg, 19, who lost her sight as a child, has benefited from the new process, which enabled the Mongolian Union Bible Society to make the full Braille Bible available in Mongolian in record time. She read from the new Bible at the dedication ceremony and explained that although she enjoys listening to the audio Bible, being able to read the Bible for herself makes it “more interesting and alive”.

Digital Bible Library® puts Scripture at people’s fingertips

The Digital Bible Library® (DBL), which celebrates its tenth anniversary this year, is central to the goal of making the Bible available and accessible to everyone. It serves as a repository for Scripture translations in different formats completed by UBS and other Bible translation agencies, and enables the efficient sharing of Scripture through websites and apps, such as YouVersion.

By the start of 2021, the DBL® contained 2,696 texts in 1,721 languages used by six billion people, including 1,112 Bibles in 590 languages. 70% of the full Bibles in the DBL® are provided by Bible Societies.

Also stored in the DBL® are audio Scriptures in the languages of 5.6 billion people, and video translations of Scripture in 13 sign languages used by 1.8 million people.

In 2020, the first Braille Scripture files were added to DBL®, following the development of new Braille transcription software. The new software and the ability to store the files in the DBL® have made it much quicker and easier for Bible Societies to produce Braille Scripture in languages which have translations available. The DBL® now houses 53 Braille files in 41 languages, including 33 full Bibles in 27 languages.

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Visiting & Reaching Cyclone Ravaged Islands Through Trauma Healing Program

Visiting & Reaching Cyclone Ravaged Island in Fiji Through Trauma Healing Program

Corrugated Iron VS Coconut tree during Cyclone Harold’s Impact in Kadavu.
Bible Society Mission team after visiting Kadavu Island for 3 weeks in November, 2020.
After a Trauma Healing Workshop in Nukuvou, Nakasaleka, Kadavu (Fiji Islands).
Distributing Proclaimer Bibles in Kadavu, Fiji.

As the whole world closed its boarders and practiced social distancing, Fiji experienced one of the worst cyclones to hit the islands. Fijians flee to their islands due to corona virus and job losses from urban areas but were met by Cyclone Harold. It was a rude awakening for some as they interpreted the disaster as a punishment from God for their sins, but for Bible Society Fiji Mission, this was an opportune time to bring awareness of the WORD of GOD to them and also conduct Trauma Healing workshops.

The team visited Vatulele island in October 2020. The island is a flat archipelago 40mins away from Coral Coast, Sigatoka. Vatulele has one primary school and Methodism as the only Christian denomination.  It has four villages, Ekubu, Taunovo, Lomanikaya and Bouwaqa, with four teams conducting workshops and free distribution of scriptural materials. The islands main source of income, masi (tapa), was badly damaged from the cyclone.

In the same month of October, Beqa island was visited too. A little bigger than Vatulele, Beqa has eight villages and four schools (three primary schools & one secondary school). Three teams serviced the islands and visited its schools.

Mid November till the first week of December has the Mission team visiting the fourth largest island in Fiji, Kadavu. The island has seventy-five villages and the mission team was divided into five groups. Four teams travelled Kadavu while one team worked on Ono island. Teams spent twenty-four days teaching and ministering in Kadavu and was met with great reception from all the Christian churches on the island.

The teams main workshop were the Trauma Healing workshop and the Bible Society awareness session. They also conducted a number of workshops that is needed like the Translation workshop, the Sunday School Teachers training, the Hermeneutics seminar and staffs that were trained with YWAM, utilized the YWAM BELT material for kids when the need arise.

The trauma healing session was very helpful to most villagers as some carried a lot of hurt and trauma even before the cyclone. The practical exercise on drawing your trauma helped so many in expressing some of the hurt they’ve been carrying for years. Creating a safe space for everyone to speak in was new to most as tradition restricts certain people from public speaking. In some villages, the participatory way of learning challenges the culture of having a traditional spokesperson who speaks for the village.

The Translation workshop is an awareness session about translation work in Fiji and highlighting the Fijian New Version bible. In some places, most people still prefer the old version because they do not know much about the new version. So this prompt us to make awareness on the Fijian New Version bible and highlighting the slight changes on the translation as this will help make clear the gist of what the Word of God is.

Despite the closure of boarders around the whole world and social distancing becoming a new norm, Bible Society is in full swing with missions. People are hungry for the Word in this trying time.

As the year 2020 comes to an end, we are grateful for lessons learnt in visiting and seeing local communities and how they recuperate, months after Cyclone Harold. Even with their circumstances they were still willing to share their food and homes to our mission teams and this is where we can see God’s hands working in the lives of his people and how blessed we are, to do His will.

Special mention to our prayer partners and donors for the support throughout 2020 and we hope and pray that 2021 will allow us to reach those in need in the Pacific.

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Bible Week Booklets

Bible Week Booklets for downloading
BW English 2017
BW Fijian 2017
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Trauma Healing Train the Trainers

An equipping session to train new facilitators for the Bible Society Trauma Healing program was conducted at the St Christopher’s Home in Nakasi (Fiji) on 9-13 January, 2017. Participants at the training included trainees from Davuilevu Theological College, Operation Foundation, Pacific Students for Christ, and the Bible Society South Pacific. Everyone were certified as ‘Apprentice Facilitators’ including the Bible Society Finance Administrator, Mr Isikeli Sila, saying, “The workshop was indeed an eye-opener for me in that
I can see now the importance of healing people of their hurts and past trauma otherwise their hurts can impinge their behaviour negatively.” The Fijian iTaukei translated Trauma Healing booklet is almost ready for use and the Society aims to run some workshops in three areas affected by Cyclone Winston namely, Dawasamu, Ovalau and Savusavu. The translation of the Trauma Healing book into the other languages of the Pacific is still in progress. The Society will be glad to work with interested churches and people who wish to know more about this Trauma healing program should you make contact.
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