E.S.V. Study Bibles for Malawi

The 2015 Story of the E.S.V. Study Bibles (from The Global Coalition) – for (Pastor Alick Banda) of Peace Ministries Malawi.

Randburg – Bible study Group

1. In the Beginning:

The start of this story begins a few years earlier in about 2012 when my wife, Jeanette, and I were browsing in Cum Books Cresta for “Silly Santa” presents for our home groups’ Christmas Dinner. During my search I came across a large pile of the E.S.V. Study bibles that were on a special introductory offer at R200-00. This E.S.V. Study Bible (English Standard Version) was published by Crossway Bibles Wheaton Illinois. This was a really good bargain and as I did not have a study bible, I decided to make the purchase. I decision I have never regretted. Included in the bible was a card inviting purchasers to subscribe to their web site as well as a host of other study facilities that are also available from them online. I subscribed and indicated I would like to receive their monthly newsletter. I must confess I was very wary about this as I had no knowledge of Crossway at all, never having come across them before.
Over the next few years I continued to receive their regular newsletter and updates. I had only been using the study bible on and off, but had started to realise what a super tool it was becoming in my daily worship. I had on a few occasions taken it to our bible study group. I was starting to become a bit more familiar with it and all that it had to offer. The seed had been planted.

“Some background to the ESV Study Bible:
The vision for the ESV Bible began in the early 1990s as many evangelical Christian leaders saw a need for a new “word-for-word” Bible translation—one that would be characterized by precision and literary excellence, in the classic stream of the Tyndale New Testament and the King James Version Bible.
The ESV was created by a sixty-member team of the finest evangelical Bible scholars from around the world, with additional review and input provided by the sixty-member ESV Advisory Council. A twelve-member Translation Oversight Committee, with Dr. J. I. Packer as the General Editor, carried out the overall work of revision, review, and final approval.
In the years since its initial publication, the ESV has become the translation choice for many churches, denominations, ministries, and families around the world. It is one of the fastest growing English translations and continues to be published in new editions both in the United States and internationally.
The fall of 2008 marked the next significant step in the development of the ESV with the publication of the ESV Study Bible. Created by a team of ninety-five evangelical Bible scholars and teachers, the Study Bible includes twenty thousand notes and two million words in over 2,700 pages. It became a bestselling Bible and was the first Bible to be named the “Christian Book of the Year” by the ECPA (Evangelical Christian Publishers Association.)Some background to THE GOSPEL COALITION (TGC).
“As a broadly Reformed network of churches, The Gospel Coalition encourages and educates current and next-generation Christian leaders by advocating gospel-centred principles and practices that glorify the Saviour and do good to those for whom he shed his life’s blood. A biblically grounded and united mission is the only enduring future for the church. We desire to champion the gospel of Jesus Christ with clarity, compassion, courage, and joy – gladly linking hearts with fellow believers across denominational, ethnic, and class lines. We invite all Christians to join us in an effort to renew the contemporary church in the ancient gospel of Christ so that we truly speak and live for him in a way that clearly communicates to our age.”
Signed: Don Carson President & Tim Keller Vice President.”

2. The Germination:

I received an email from Crossway early in June 2015 but as is my custom with non-business or non-urgent emails it remained unopened for a few weeks. Then I received another follow-up letter the same as the first one. When I got round to opening it, I was initially investigating another offer, when I accidentally came across a link their article about their 2014 December fund raising efforts and the success of the fund raising to cover the full cost to print 250,000 bibles. They were also looking at getting these bibles into the hands of church leaders in about 60 countries other than the Americas. (“We had over a 120 partners request over a 330,000 Bibles to be distributed in 88 countries.”)
The offer was subject to three conditions:

  1. The bibles must be distributed within six months.
  2. The bibles must be given away free – they are not for sale.
  3. The bibles may only be given to church leaders.
“The ESV Global Study Bible is for “Global Christians” in every corner of the
world—especially in places where there are few resources available for accessing and
studying the Bible. It has been designed from beginning to end to be highly accessible
for distribution on a global scale.”

I followed up on a contact reference they had provided with a very brief (and I must say casual) motivation about Peace Ministries and their needs, unfortunately I mentioned that the new converts and existing church members had a great need for bibles. I must confess I was not very optimistic about hearing from them. When I did get a reply within a few days, I was cut very short and advised that these bibles were for church leaders only. I suspect they understood from my initial motivation that my interest was for bibles for the church members, and I can’t blame them for this because I had only mentioned the new church members, and said nothing of the church leaders. I immediately responded to the writer, Tom MacAdam with a more detailed explanation of what Alick Banda’s and Peace Ministries’ work was all about.

My reply:

“Dear Tom,
Thank you for your prompt response – it is much appreciated.I was rather concerned that my first letter may be too long so I tried to be as brief as possible to convey some indication of the work being done in Malawi. It seems I was too zealous. Alick now has as his prime role the training of the future pastors of each of the churches he has established. He has grown the Lord’s work amazingly over a wide area physically in a rather uncivilised area. His challenges range from devoting about two thirds of his time to teaching and training the new church leaders, with the balance of his time being spent evangelising and on administration. He comes to South Africa to our church about twice a year (time permitting) to have a breather and to give us feedback. I fully understand where you have placed your priorities; however each of these new church leaders also needs training/education themselves. Alick and Peace Ministries have established over eighty (yes 80!) new churches, so we are looking at growing leaders for each of these new churches, as they are very wide spread. Presently one of his younger, earlier church leaders (Ronald Jere) is here in South Africa studying full time so that he can return fully qualified to assist with the training. He has no regular income and our church group helps where we can i.r.o. his transport and other needs here, if we can. Our church does the same for Alick on his trips to South Africa. I have not touched on these new churches needs i.r.o. places of worship etc. I have also not mentioned the persecution they suffer from the Muslims.

They have a steep road to climb indeed, however it is wonderful that so many are being given the opportunity to hear God’s word.”

3. The Maturity

This must have put their minds at rest, as they then sent me the link to complete their application form to request some of the bibles, the problem however, was that it was close to close-off in three days. The application should have been submitted by Alick Banda, however he was away on a mission trip somewhere near Lake Tanganyika and could not be contacted for about ten days. The problem was that the cut-off date a mere three days hence and I also needed to discuss it with our bible study group first. I must confess that the group thought I was crazy to attempt this, not being able to have contact with Alick and the close off only days away. It was suggested that I request that our application be allowed to be submitted late.

However, the distribution of bibles has always been a concern of mine right back to the days of the cold war when every effort was being made to get bibles into the communist bloc, not just Russia. As our group meet on Thursdays and we had until the Sunday I had to decide on my own, I would submit an application prior to the group’s meeting. However I could not complete it as there were a couple of bits of information I needed to clarify. In the end I managed to submit an application on the final day of the close off, even though it was still incomplete. In the meantime I had been gathering as much information about Peace Ministries as possible (thank you to Len Tindell and Steyn Bronkhorst for their help) to attach to my correspondence explaining why I was applying in my name, on behalf of Alick, and not Alick himself. I was advised I would hear within thirty days. Then the praying really started in earnest!

I heard about three weeks later that our application had been successful. I had requested the minimum quantity they would consider which was sixteen boxes or 128 bibles. The problem now hit me that we would need not only to cover the cost of the transportation to their nearest hub – Cape Town, the $200, transportation to Cape Town, mentioned above, but we would also need to organise for the transportation from Cape town to Blantyre Malawi.

It was clear that the bibles were for free, however the cost of all transportation not only to our selected hub (Cape Town), but also from Cape Town to Malawi would be at our own expense. They did however indicate that one could apply for “transport bursaries” and if successful all or part of the transportation to the hub, could be waived. After much prayer, we were advised that our application for the travel bursary was not successful. The cost for the first leg was $200 (or about R2,500) needed to be paid before the shipment was to be forwarded to our nearest hub (Cape Town). I shared this with our home group and everyone else I had informed of the project and asked them all to pray about it. I was not in a position to pay this personally, and asked our home group if they had any ideas. Most offered to contribute what they could afford. We were however still short. Eventually one of the members of our church indicated he was prepared to cover the cost of the initial transport (USA to Cape Town) which he did in full the day before the shipment departed. This meant we had some funds left over for the balance of the transportation from Cape Town to Malawi.

By this time I was having sleepless nights – with much prayer, as I was concerned we would not be able to get transportation at a reasonable cost, and the quotes that I had obtained were excessive. I had contacted as many people as I could about this including two churches in Pretoria. Michael Phillip had placed a notice in the RUC (Rosebank Union Church) weekly church notices – but we got no response whatsoever from this.

I had by now been advised that our shipment would arrive towards the end of October at the Cape Town hub. We were also advised that only the applicant could collect the bibles in person from the hub. I immediately emailed TGC to explain my predicament that I had applied on behalf of Peace Ministries and Alick Banda, and there was no way he would be able travel from Malawi to Cape Town to receive the bibles in person. I was advised to contact the Hub manager Keith of the Christian Book Discounters. I gave him a call and was thrilled to find out that our bibles had arrived some weeks earlier, and they were waiting for us to collect them. I explained the situation to Keith who had obviously been informed by T.G.C. about our collection dilemma. He was very understanding, so we started discussing how to move the sixteen boxes to Johannesburg some 1,300 kilometres away. When I told him we were in Johannesburg, he said they had a branch in Rosebank Johannesburg. I indicated that that would be wonderful as it would be no problem for us to collect the boxes from Rosebank, which is not far from our church. Keith said he would need to get a quote for the courier they use to deliver to their Rosebank branch to also take our boxes.

Keith sent me the quote which reflected the address of their Rosebank branch as exactly the same as our church! Yes, it was our own church “In the Street” book shop. I was flabbergasted. The hub in Cape Town was in fact the Head Office of our in-church book shop. The quote was for R771-00 which I gladly agreed to as the boxes would be delivered to the church. They arrived on Monday 19th October at our church book shop. The following day I moved the boxes into a safer storage location in the administration offices thanks to Michael Phillip’s generosity in making space available.

What I did not realise when I started this whole project, was that the most difficult part of the whole transportation issue would be getting the bibles from Rosebank Union Church Johannesburg, to Peace Ministries in Blantyre Malawi.

One of the major issues to be attended to, would be the crossing of the border into Malawi with the bibles. For this we needed to obtain a letter from the donors, The Global Coalition, addressed to the Commissioner General Malawi. I then needed to get this letter to Alick so he could then make application for the bibles to be allowed into Malawi free of customs and excise duties. He had four days in which to do this as Ronald Jere, would be arriving there on the bus. Alick obtained the letter and left early for the two hour drive to the border to collect Ronald. However the excitement was not over yet, the border officials required payment of 10,000 Kw handling fee (about R250-00). The problem was, he had no cash on him. It took Alick and Ronald about two hours to resolve this, with Ronald eventually paying the Handling fee. The result being that they got back to Blantyre rather late that night.

From the funds collected we had about R700-00 left over. The quotes obtained for this leg varied from R8,000 to R12,000 which was just not an option for us. As the days started to tick by I was getting more and more worried about this last stage. Ronald Jere, who would be returning home after finishing his exams had indicated that he may be able to take the boxes with him on the bus. My concern was that there would be additional costs involved for the boxes, and the bus fare would probably also be higher. Ronald was due to write his last exam in the first week of November and was busy with his preparation for his final exam. If we were to consider this option we needed to obtain a quotation of the costs involved. Unbeknown to me Len had been busy and Ronald had already obtained a quotation. The cost to transport the boxes was an extra R680-00. Before I knew what had happened Ronald had taken the boxes and booked them in and departed for Malawi. At the time of writing I have no idea what the extra cost for the bus fare was if any, but I suspect it was paid by the church. As the project had now been completed I was able pay the remaining R700 to the church to cover the cost of the R680-00 which they had paid for so that Ronald was not delayed.

4. The CONCLUSION:

The bibles were presented to attendees of the Peace Ministries training course in November 2015.

I want to thank our dear Lord for answering our prayers on so many occasions.

My sincerest thanks to all who contributed so generously, and assisted with this project to get the bibles to Alick Banda successfully. A special thanks to my home group for their prayers, interest, financial support, and encouragement.


Letter from Alick Banda:

Peace Ministries
7th January, 2016

Dear Members of the Sending Cell,

A LETTER OF THANK YOU

It is with gratitude that I write you this letter after looking back to 2015 where we have come from that together we did a lot of things which stand as a testimony that God was with us and that God was glorified.

As I thank God for each one of you, I also feel it right to personally thank each one of you for your wonderful ministry of love to me and Peace Ministries. I want to thank you for carrying me on your shoulders by giving me the moral support, prayer support and financial support. You made me stand strong in the harvest field knowing that am not alone but I have people backing me in every area of my life.

Thank you so much for supporting my visits to Joburg. You made sure that I had all the food and that I also have a good rest. I want also to thank you for making it possible that the Bibles come to Malawi and we reached and impacted many lives with those Bibles. I always get encouraged when I hear that you pray for me. May God bless you.

Last year of 2015 we made eleven outreaches to reach out to Muslims and non-Muslims and we have fruits that remain. All this was possible because of your financial support and prayers. Besides this, God led it upon my heart to close the door of the growth of Islam by ministering to the chiefs. This was the climax of ministry to Muslims because these chiefs are keys of everything that happen in the society.

Your lives are a blessing to the nations and through your support you are reaching and touching many souls. May God bless you abundantly.

And lastly I wish you God’s grace and favour to be upon all what you do and touch in this 2016.

Your fellow Christian Soldier in God’s Vineyard,

Alick.