For many years the Bible Society of South Africa has had a long-standing relationship with the armed forces. Members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) have been using New Testaments and Bibles distributed by Bible Society since 1940.
One such example is a small Testament with a wooden cover printed in 1943, with a message from England’s King George VI as well as a handwritten message from the then Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa, General Jan Smuts.
At Bible Society’s recent Annual General Meeting, Certificates of Appreciation were handed to the Chaplain Service of both the SANDF and the South African Police Service (SAPS).
"We are very proud, really very proud to be associated with the Bible Society," said Colonel (Pastor) Elsabe Francis, Acting Chief of Staff in the office of the Chaplain General, who represented the SANDF Chaplain Service.
"I can confirm that the camouflage Bible remains very popular among our soldiers and their families. We try to keep it in the Defence Force, saying this is a Bible specifically for the Defence Force, but we are struggling. The people come and want to buy boxes of these camouflage Bibles because it has such a huge impact and meaning outside (of the military context)," Colonel Francis added.
She says when the soldiers deploy their first request is for a Bible.
"The Chaplaincy and the Bible play a prominent role in the preparation to protect our country. Our soldiers really want that Bible, if they deploy it must be with them.”
Brigadier Sithembiso Shobede-Nkosi, Section Head of the Spiritual Services of the SAPS said although they don’t share as much history with the Bible Society they look forward to strengthening this relationship.
“As preachers, we have the privilege of having our work bring the Good News to people. But even if I cannot talk to a person, I can only imagine what work God can do if we can put the Word of God in that person’s hand,” she said.
She added that the chaplains of the SAPS are very excited about the support the Bible Society can provide with regard to special Bibles and their devotional booklet.