A student in my college-days Bible study wore jeans with holes before holes were in style and shoes that had too many miles on them, yet he spent his summer wages on a study Bible—quite expensive a few decades ago. He called it his “Cadillac Bible.”
These days, most of us in the West can afford a study Bible if we want one. Even our children file into Sunday school carrying student Bibles filled with insights that provide context to their reading.
Contrast this biblical wealth to empty-handed believers in Africa, Asia, and South America. Many of them—even pastors and church leaders—have no study Bible or supporting materials that would help them better understand God’s Word. For them, it isn’t a matter of choosing between a new pair of shoes or a study Bible.
Jumping on the Offer
Andrew Case is a Wycliffe Bible translator working with indigenous languages of Equatorial Guinea. He also makes yearly visits to the bordering country of Cameroon, where the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) has its main base for West Africa. His time there in the summer of 2013 included a few weeks in the rural northwest area of Bambalang, where he stayed with missionary families who work with Cameroonian translation teams. He saw the team members’ desire for biblical resources. One man mentioned seeing an ESV (English Standard Version) Study Bible, wishing he had one. “There’s no way to get one,” he said.
Back in Equatorial Guinea, Andrew saw an offer from The Gospel Coalition International Outreach (TGCIO) that he jumped on. TGCIO had partnered with ESV publisher Crossway to raise funds to print 3,000 copies of the ESV Global Study Bible in order to help supply the worldwide mission network—especially pastors in the global South.
These Bibles are in English, yet they can serve many impoverished regions of the world with a history of British colonization. “I never cease to be amazed at the dozens of countries for which we receive requests for English resources,” TGCIO director Bill Walsh says. “We are sending books and study Bibles in English to every continent.”
Two Cases for Cameroon
Cameroon’s official languages are French and English, though the country has 278 languages in all and at least 40 percent illiteracy, according to the 2010 edition of Operation World. English is well understood among the more educated, including many pastors. In the Bambalang region, English is used in the schools.
In late 2013 Andrew was “overjoyed” to receive two Packing Hope cases that contained 32 Global Study Bibles. He sent some copies to northwestern Cameroon in a SIL container for that ministry’s regional coordinator to distribute to translation team members. Recipients included pastors, missionaries, and church workers. Andrew also delivered other copies to English-speaking ministry friends in Cameroon’s capital city, Yaounde.
In Yaounde, with around two million people, there might be one poorly-stocked Christian bookstore and, in rural regions like Bambalang, such stores are “nonexistent.” “Prices for things like an ESV Study Bible are high, prohibiting average churchgoers from getting one,” Andrew explains. “The lack of books has created a vacuum that’s being filled 24/7 by extremely maniacal ‘Christian’ channels on television.”
A Wonderful Thing
The ESV Global Study Bible was designed to be accessible for distribution on a global scale, especially for those with limited means. It includes articles by global Christian leaders that apply the Bible to the role of government, the nature of the church, world religions, social ethics, and more. The one-volume resource contains a wealth of information, along with overviews and character profiles for each biblical book.
The recipients in Bambalang shared their appreciation in letters. One translation team member, Kingsley, expressed his joy in receiving a Bible that helps him better understand difficult verses. “You have done a wonderful thing to me by giving me this Bible,” he said. Another man, Marshall, said he badly needed a study Bible and is digging in to explore it for his own understanding as well as for lesson preparations for his ministry to youth and children in his village church. Another wrote of his encouragement in knowing that Christians in the West considered the needs of those in Africa, including his remote region of Cameroon.
Round Two Distribution
Those initial 3,000 Global Study Bibles were distributed to 28 countries over a 13-month period. Donors have since responded to a round-two effort to raise funds for another 5,000 copies. The $16,500 project is finished—100 percent funded. These copies are now ready for distribution, just waiting for interested individuals and mission teams to jump on the offer.