Child’s Bible Report
In the rural diocese of Potosí, Bolivia, 40 all-but-forgotten villages are scattered among the lonely and isolated hills and valleys. Daily life is tough for young and old, complete poverty prevails and illiteracy is widespread, according to the local missionary Sisters.
It is to people like these that Aid to the Church in Need’s now famous Child’s Bible – God Speaks to His Children – is vital, both educationally and as a gift of hope and faith.
“We appreciate the advice to charge a little for the book,” the Sisters wrote, “but the children and adults live in truly incredible poverty, and so just to enable them to read the most important Word in life, we give the little book out free among the children – with its pretty pictures, it also works well among the semi-literate.”
God Speaks to His Children – 99 Bible stories from the Old and New Testaments – was first printed in 1979, the International Year of the Child. Twenty-three years on, it has been translated into more than 120 languages, and over 37 million copies have been distributed around the world, changing lives from East to West.
Amongst the 3,000 letters a day ACN was receiving just before the fall of the Iron Curtain - requesting the book - one came from Natasha, a little Russian girl. “I used to sit on my Granny’s knee and she would tell me stories from the Bible, but she died two years ago,” Natasha wrote. “My mother doesn’t know the stories... so please send me one of your little Bibles.”
Yet even today, poverty and religious persecution are still depriving thousands of children around the world of the chance to learn about the history of their redemption – and the book is eagerly welcomed wherever it is sent. Not long ago, a catechist in communist Cuba received a consignment of 6,000 Child’s Bibles to distribute among the local children, for years deprived of the Word of God. “No sooner had the Bibles arrived than children were coming and asking me for the ‘little book’,” she wrote. “When I explained to them that it was no ordinary book they replied ‘Yes, it’s a book about God.’
“Hundreds of children came, in threes and fours, even in sevens and eights. They all begged me: ‘We want the little book about God’. It went on like this for days. In the end I wrote on the door: ‘I am not at home’, but the children still kept coming to me asking for the little book.”
But God Speaks to His Children is more than simply a means to learn Bible stories. It also arouses in children a lasting interest in the Faith from an early age; sometimes they use it to evangelise amongst their own friends. One nun in South America said: “Often individual children wish to purchase a copy to give to a little friend whom they wish to bring into the Church.” And as in Potosí, it is often used to teach adults as well - as a nun in Cameroon reported: “This time it is young prisoners who have profited from them. I was able to give 40 copies to a Sister who ministers to these prisoners.”
The many letters we receive are a testament to the importance this book plays in people’s lives. For those who will be working to send more than a million copies around the world again this year, 11-year-old Akvile from Lithuania summed it up touchingly: “I wish that all Catholics could have a copy and would love this book and God.”
Cecilia Bromley-Martin works for Aid to the Church in Need
Photo:Some women in one of Potosí diocese’s literacy groups. First they study the pictures in the Child’s Bible, and with time they learn to read and study the texts.