A Dutch-Flemish view on international work

Interview about international work and the coming World Assembly

Paul Doth is the head of the international program of the Bible Society for the Netherlands and Flanders (BSNF), and former General Secretary of the Surinam Bible Society. Together with GS Rieuwerd Buitenwerf, he shapes the international work of BSNF. In this interview, they share some of their perspectives on collaboration and on the World Assembly.

What inspires you in international collaboration?

Rieuwerd: it is very enriching for me as a human being and as a Christian to meet such a variety of people – different cultures, different ways of expressing faith. And the beauty is that we all share the same goal: the Bible for everyone.

Paul: There are moments when I really experience that we as Bible Societies have more impact because we collaborate. When we work together in projects, share content and share knowledge, it is inevitable that we reach more people. And we have the best jobs in the world: engaging people with God’s Word!

What is the value of being part of a global fellowship?

Paul: When we travel, we meet so many people in Bible Societies with great qualities. Everywhere in the world, colleagues are working very hard to carry out our mission. I always learn a lot when I meet them!

Rieuwerd: As a fellowship, we can cherish that quality and bring it together, so that together, we are stronger. As Ecclesiastes 4:9 states: “Two are better off than one, because together they can work more effectively.” (GNB)

Paul: And it still feels special to me that within UBS, you can make friends all over the world!

How would you like to cooperate with other Bible Societies?

Rieuwerd: For us, it is very important to work on the basis of equality. Bible Societies share the passion for the Bible and share the mission – only the context differs!

Paul: In UBS, we should avoid to emphasize differences, for example between big or small Bible Societies, grant-making and grant-receiving… Our joint goal should be that all Bible Societies are as strong as possible, and our cooperation should help to achieve that – because strong Bible Societies will have most impact!

Rieuwerd: We like the idea of “think global, act local” which is on the UBS homepage. We are convinced that Bible engagement should be contextualized, and local Bible Societies are best equipped to understand the local context and the local needs.

When would you consider the World Assembly successful?

Paul: That is a difficult question! There are so many aspects… Perhaps I should mention fellowship first: time to meet and time to reconnect, and celebrate and pray together, after so many years!

Rieuwerd: Of course it is a huge opportunity to look back and talk about our impact, and look forward and discuss where our time and effort is most needed the coming years. And I would lie if I would not add: if all practical things went smoothly…

What should be a focuspoint for the fellowship in the coming years?

Paul: The first thing that comes to my mind is sustainability: Bible Societies should become as strong and resilient as possible. I appreciate that there are more and more programmes within UBS, and bilateral projects focusing on that aspect, which hopefully will make us all more futureproof.

Rieuwerd: An obvious one is also digital. As a Bible Society, we quite substantially invested in digital in the past years, and also shared our resources in the fellowship. Nevertheless, we should collaborate more, and bring more resources together, to fulfill our mission also in the digital world, without losing sight of our future sustainability.

What touches you personally in the international work?

Paul: I’m always very happy when I meet people whose life has changed through the Bible. A grandfather in Honduras comes to my mind whose grandson had received a Family Bible and now admonished his granddad to read God’s Word together with him!

Rieuwerd: It is really special to meet colleagues all over the world, and in no time feel like brothers and sisters. The Bible is really a very special book, that unites us all!

We pray that we as Bible Societies and Global Mission Team will meet in accordance with 1 Peter 3:8: “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” (ESV)

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