It’s a new mission to bring back the old. “In the early years of the church, before the advent of printing presses, copy machines and computers, people copied the Bible by hand to ensure that a faithful record of Christ’s teaching would be passed on to future generations. Throughout the Dark Ages, monks carefully copied biblical texts in order to preserve a written record of the Word of God. As they wrote down each word line by line, the process itself drew them into deeper meditation about the meaning of the Scriptures, thereby enriching their own relationship with God. Though largely abandoned in our fast-paced, multi-tasking society, the practice of copying the Scripture has proved a valuable tool in mission settings like Botswana.” – Jennifer Smith, local missionary who has served in more than 50 different countries.
Smith attends Lincoln Avenue Baptist Church (LABC) in Jacksonville, where the congregation has previously welcomed Minister Kelly Carruthers and his wife, Ann, as guest speakers for the Botswana Baptist Mission. The Carruthers’ (Americans) are in their 13th year as a missionary family in Francistown, Botswana. Jennifer Smith and Carol Stewart, both of LABC, were the first small group to travel to Africa and spend time in the mission field with the Carruthers. This past November, a second small group took the almost 22-hour (and that is only the flight portion) journey to copy the Scriptures and have fellowship with the Carruthers and people of Botswana.
They were my parents Michael and Jamsie Hurt. I wrote that day, “I am proud of them for their altruism. They are giving sincerely of themselves to these African families, children, and people in need. May they make an amazing impact on many lives through their great attitudes, knowledge, and love of the Lord. Godspeed.” Once they had arrived, they jumped right in to what Minister Kelly Carruthers calls write, discuss, listen – increasing learning by using multiple ways and methods of studying the Bible, literally writing down every word and every verse of your preferred Bible translation. The end goal of this method is prayer, allows prompting the writer to think about what they are writing and what the words mean to him or her. So, they copied. They copied in homes, under thatched roofs, below cover of mango trees, in the downtown Francistown church where Kelly Carruthers preaches, or anywhere – all the while giving encouragement to those truly devoted to copying. Michael Hurt said, “I think our presence in the various copying groups and Bible study groups helped to validate the power of copying the Bible and also how it brings them a fuller and more complete understanding of the Word.” “They were very touched that Americans were also doing the copying,” added Jamsie Hurt. She said also of Michael that the Africans “called him a blessing,” noting that they loved his white hair (she giggled). There is a respect for age in the culture of Botswana, so his light locks actually carried clout.
Even without the grey, there was a connection felt between my parents and the Africans during the mission trip. Jamsie Hurt said, “I loved bonding with the women in the thatched huts in Zimbabwe. We talked about the Scriptures. There was singing, hugging, praying — we were Sisters-in-Christ. The mission was very God-filled. It was awesome and unique.” Michael Hurt joined in, saying he was inspired by “sharing personal testimony with the people in Botswana and Zimbabwe and realizing on one hand how different we are, while on the other hand, we all face our trials and tribulations. Still, we remain close as Brothers and Sisters in Christ.”
Minister Kelly and Ann Carruthers continue to spread the old/new discipleship method in southern Africa with support from the Southern Baptist International Missions Board. Lincoln Avenue Baptist Church hopes to have a few small groups travel as missionaries to support the Carruthers’ Botswana Baptist Mission each year. Both Michael and Jamsie Hurt hope to return to Botswana and are still copying daily. “This simple strategy is effectively raising up dynamic, mature followers of Christ who know what the Bible says and try to live it out in their daily African lives.” – Jennifer Smith