Engaging views and analysis from outside contributors on the issues affecting society and faith today.

CP VOICES do not necessarily reflect the views of The Christian Post. Opinions expressed are solely those of the author(s).

How a teenage girl started a Bible revolution

Bibles sit inside a church pew holder.
Bibles sit inside a church pew holder. | American Bible Society/Douglass Nottage

Today, United Bible Societies (UBS) is a global, interconfessional fellowship of about 150 Bible Societies operating in more than 240 countries and territories, making it more expansive than the United Nations.  But it started with one 15-year-old girl who saved her money for 6 years and walked barefooted over mountains to purchase a Bible, of which there was none when she arrived.

When Mary Jones set out across the Welsh mountains in 1800 searching for a Bible in her own language, little did the world know that her journey would change history.

Mary traveled barefoot for more than 26 miles in hopes that her dream of purchasing her very own Bible would come true. But when she arrived at the home of the Reverend Thomas Charles to purchase her copy, she was too late. Every Bible had been sold.

Get Our Latest News for FREE

Subscribe to get daily/weekly email with the top stories (plus special offers!) from The Christian Post. Be the first to know.

The Rev. Charles took pity on her and arranged accommodations so she could stay in town until a new shipment arrived. Two days later, Mary’s persistence finally paid off when she received what she had desperately longed for: her first Bible. Mary’s hunger for the Word of God deeply impacted the reverend. So much so that two years later, he proposed to the Religious Tract Society the formation of an organization that would supply Bibles to people like her. During the meeting, Baptist minister Reverend Joseph Hughes noted, “Surely a society might be formed for the purpose; and if for Wales, why not for the Kingdom; why not for the whole world?”

In response to this challenge, on March 7, 1804, three hundred people—including abolitionist and philanthropist William Wilberforce—unanimously passed a resolution establishing the British and Foreign Bible Society (BFBS). This would be the first of a catalytic movement of Bible Societies that would be birthed in nations around the world.

As the demand for global Bible work began to grow, it soon became clear that Scripture distribution would be more effective if these organizations worked together instead of functioning as individual units.

In the spring of 1946, the world was still emerging from the trauma of World War II. During this dark season, representatives from 13 nations and the World Council of Churches came together with the sole mission of bringing the light of the Gospel to a world in desperate need. At England’s Elfinsward retreat center on May 9, 1946, United Bible Societies (UBS) was born. From its inception, this powerful coalition of Bible agencies was determined to bring the life-changing message of the Bible where needed most.

Through Bible Societies’ tireless efforts, there are now full translations of the Bible available in 704 languages, used by 5.7 billion people around the world. New generations also continue to engage with the Bible as the UBS fellowship has pioneered innovations in audio, video, and digital resources, bringing the Great Commission to life!

Dr. J. Samuel Escobar, professor emeritus of missiology at Palmer Theological Seminary, notes the following on the impact of UBS on the broader movement of Christianity: “The UBS has played a significant role in the changes Christianity has undergone in the past two centuries. Bible societies have had an influential presence in the practice of mission as an expression of the missionary thrust of the church. They have also made a decisive contribution to the theory of Christian mission, especially through the reflection of UBS agents and translators.”

During the 75th anniversary of UBS’s founding, we celebrate all that God has done through United Bible Societies and we challenge ourselves to keep pressing on. If communities in every corner of the earth are going to have the opportunity to engage with the Gospel, we must continue running with our eyes fixed ahead. During this pivotal time in our world’s history, American Bible Society (ABS) is proud to renew our commitment to this global fellowship, since we fervently believe that together we can fulfill the vision left for us in Habakkuk 2:14: that one day, “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”

Enid M. Almanzar is the director of Global Access Partnerships at American Bible Society.

Was this article helpful?

Help keep The Christian Post free for everyone.

By making a recurring donation or a one-time donation of any amount, you're helping to keep CP's articles free and accessible for everyone.

We’re sorry to hear that.

Hope you’ll give us another try and check out some other articles. Return to homepage.

Most Popular

More In Opinion