BIBLE SOCIETY NEWS | Suzanne Schokman
Friday 19 June 2015
Suzanne Schokman was at the United Bible Societies (UBS) Roundtable Exchange (RTE) in Ethiopia last week, and recounts her experience.
It’s 7.15am and breakfast meetings are taking place all around the dining hall. Bible Society representatives from the 100 nations gathered in Addis Ababa sit at the dining tables, meeting one on one. On this morning I find myself opposite someone from Latin America. He takes just two mouthfuls of his breakfast and then puts his spoon down, and proceeds to tell me about the literacy needs in his country.
Primarily the Roundtable is held so that Bible Societies can exchange information and learn best practice from one another, and that happens at the main “roundtable” discussions. But these breakfast/ lunch/ dinner meetings are opportunities for those Bible Societies seeking support to present their projects to the “funding Bible Societies” – those with a donor base large enough or strong enough to provide funds for work internationally.
By the time the gentleman opposite me gets into details of his country’s needs – in some places, even for the most basic things like clothing, medicine and education, I put my own spoon down. How could I tuck into sweet creamy yoghurt when someone was so keenly trying to make me understand the dire need in his nation?
My bowl of soggy cereal accompanies his unfinished meal by the end of the session.
I go into the day slightly disturbed. By this point in the 4-day Roundtable I have met quite a few different Bible Societies, each one with a sound project proposal reflecting areas of need.
There’s the Bible-based pre-school project in South Africa, that would help underprivileged children get one year of prep before starting school, just like their more privileged counterparts.
There’s the Albanian initiative to restore playing fields, which would help youth get involved in sports and pre-event Bible activities.
Bible Society Taiwan wants funds to help distribute the Chinese study-Bible materials.
The Arab Israeli Bible Society wants so much to keep working among women, the “influencers” of tomorrow’s leaders.
The brother from the Palestinian Bible Society is happy to be videoed in a quickly-snatched moment in between seminars.
The five or so delegates from the Balkan countries – a group full of cheer during dinner breaks – tries so hard to carve out a few minutes to talk about their projects, and about the possibility of fundraising among the Balkan diaspora in Australia. But between the meetings, discussions/ seminars and the video work I’m there for, the opportunity just doesn’t arise. I feel disheartened at not being able to even hear them out.
Bible Society Australia’s CEO, Dr Greg Clarke said, “I find the Roundtable a bit distressing! There are so many needs, and we have limited resources to help. We need to become more generous, more efficient and effective, and more persuasive in telling the story of these needs. I only have a Bible myself because others cared enough to do the work to make it available to me. It is sobering and motivating.”
My personal prayer is that in the months to come, many of the projects listed in the UBS “project registry” will be supported in 2016 by the funding Bible Societies.
That of course means extending an invitation to “come alongside” to the lifeblood of every Bible Society – its donors, volunteers and prayer partners.
Which is when, dear reader, we will turn with hopeful hearts, to you.
You can start helping meet the needs of Bible Societies and their important work around the world right now!