In the highlands of Thailand, a mother tucks her child into bed and pulls out a Bible story book to share a bedtime story with her daughter. On Nias Island, Indonesia, a pastor reads Luther’s Small Catechism for the first time in his ministry. And in Vietnam, a young boy slips A Child’s Garden of Bible Stories into his backpack, so he can read about Jesus during break time at school.
All of these people – the mother, the daughter, the pastor, the young boy – are learning about the Savior, Jesus Christ, in their own languages through the mission mites of the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League.
In 2013, the national LWML adopted “Telling the Next Generation,” a mission project of the Lutheran Heritage Foundation (LHF) in Michigan. To date, the project has provided for the translation and publication of more than 20,000 good Lutheran books for families throughout Southeast Asia – a region where less than one percent of the people are Christian.
It’s difficult for Americans to comprehend what it’s like for Lutheran churches in less-affluent parts of the world where Christianity is considered a relatively new religion, reflects Rev. Ted NaThalang, LHF’s coordinator for projects in Southeast Asia.
“We take books like Luther’s Small Catechism for granted because we use them all the time,” he said, “but overseas, they have never seen a book like this before. For many of them, the Bible is a very big book and isn’t always easy to understand. For a new believer, the catechism breaks the Bible down into small, more understandable pieces and clearly explains what Scripture means.”
A Child’s Garden of Bible Stories, a Bible story book of 60 Old Testament and New Testament lessons, is another book that Christians in Southeast Asia are gratefully embracing.
Although it’s a book intended for children, people of all ages are learning about their Creator through this colorfully illustrated book.
“For new Christians – or for that matter, all Christians – A Child’s Garden is a great overview of God’s love and grace for people everywhere,” said Rev. Kou Seying, a missionary to Hmong immigrants in California. “It is a great resource to quickly find a Bible story to share with children and grandchildren, and the adults actually benefit the most. A good example: recently a Hmong grandfather shared that one of his granddaughters asked about the story of Moses. He quickly turned to the children’s book and it was much easier for him than to try to find it in the Bible with the long narratives of the Old Testament.
“The greatest compliment that we received for the Hmong is, ‘It is easy to understand,’” concluded Rev. Seying. “This is a profound statement for new Christians. Without the help from LHF, it would be very difficult for us to produce and provide these resources.”
In many Southeast Asian countries, the Bible book is one of the few books children own, and they are precious. Dinh Au Hai is director of Lutheran Hour Ministries in Vietnam, where all 2,000 of the Vietnamese-language Child’s Garden of Bible Stories were claimed within less than two months!
Dinh said he has seen, in a very personal way, how important the Bible story books are to children.
“My son Danny is 8 years old,” he said. “He has already read the whole book, but he still takes it to school to read again at break time. When I asked him whether he liked it, Danny said, ‘Of course, but I am so sad and a little disappointed.’ When I asked him why, he said, ‘Because I wanna read more stories about what happened after Paul [the last story in the book]!’ When I told him I would talk to the authors about writing more of these interesting stories, he shouted, ‘Yeah!’”
“I hope our sisters in the LWML can see how mightily the Holy Spirit is working through their mission mites,” said Rev. Matthew Heise, LHF executive director. “People in Southeast Asia are so hungry to hear about the one true God. Through LHF’s partnership with the LWML, 20,000 families are receiving books in their languages that introduce them to the Savior – and we’re just getting started!”