The Opal Trust is an assembly-based charity operating out of Lockerbie in Scotland. The Trust’s objective is to supply affordable Bibles and books to ‘the Developing World’. Geoff Ruston is the Secretary to the Trust and he writes:
A challenge put to me by my friend John Lewis, who is now a fellow trustee, when we were attending a major Christian Resources Exhibition in 2001, was to ultimately lead to the establishment of the Opal Trust in 2004. As international sales manager for a major Christian Book Distributor, John was deeply concerned at the lack of Bibles and Christian books in the ‘Developing World’ at affordable prices. Those that were available were usually way beyond the means of the general population so that whole congregations would perhaps have to share just two or three copies of the scriptures and some church leaders would not have a complete copy of the Bible.
At the time, I was managing the GLO bookshop in Motherwell and for over twenty years had been involved in various ways in the UK Christian book scene. John’s challenge was, ‘Is there something we could do with the benefit of our combined experience to establish a trust to meet the desperate needs that exist?’. And so OPAL (an acronym for Overseas Publishing And Literature) was born.
Using our contacts with publishers and distributors on both sides of the Atlantic to acquire suitable donated or cheap materials, we have been able over the past five years to send literature in varying quantities to seventy different countries from Slovakia in the north to Botswana in the south and from Jamaica in the west to Myanmar in the east. We have been particularly proactive in sub-Saharan Africa having established a distribution point in Chingola in the Copperbelt of Zambia and we are indebted to Medical Missionary News not only for their valued help in delivering regular supplies to keep this centre well stocked but also for their help in distributing orders to a number of other countries.
Thousands of Bibles and books have been distributed and our Leader’s Packs in particular (a study Bible, concordance, dictionary, commentary and other helpful books on preaching, apologetics, leadership and prayer, etc.) have proved very popular with national workers and students, and have formed the backbone for small church libraries. Initially we worked principally with English language material. However, we have recently put together Leader’s Packs for the French-speaking world and the first 100 sets have been sent to the Democratic Republic of Congo.
More recently we have begun to develop our own publishing programme and have co-printed a modern translation of the Bible in French, arranged a reprint of 20,000 copies of the Bemba Bible for Zambia, most of which have already been sold, and have facilitated a revision and reprint of the Chokwe Bible in association with the Angola Literature Fund. We have also published the first of what will be a series of children’s books based on various parables in English and in Chichewa for Malawi which have been written by missionary Jonathan Newell. A version of Pilgrim’s Progress in an African setting is due for publication later this year. John McQuoid, one-time missionary to Ethiopia and retired trustee of Echoes of Service, is writing a book on basic Bible doctrines and Christian living, in simple English, as a discipleship tool for the developing world.
Other recent opportunities have resulted in delivery of a Portuguese version of Vine’s Expository Dictionary to Angola, literature resources to Papua New Guinea and Hungary and the development of a library in Lahore, Pakistan.
We are always looking for gifts of used Bibles and Christian books in good readable condition. Where suitable, these are donated to Theological Colleges, Bible Schools and church libraries. Recent consignments have gone to Pakistan, Ethiopia and Tanzania to either establish new, or augment existing libraries.
Having outgrown our previous warehouse we have recently moved to new premises which are proving much more suitable to our growing needs. The Lord graciously continues to provide.
It is a great a thrill to get regular feedback from recipients - here are just one or two extracts:
From Zimbabwe I cannot really tell you in words the joy I am feeling now I have received my most lovely Bible so I can read God’s Holy word every day. My family is very happy that I can read my Bible to them. I would love to be able to pay you something for this wonderful Bible but we are so poor. Please forgive us.
From Ghana These books will help our young pastors who are ministering in a very poor and Islamic-dominated area.
From Zambia A trainee nurse leafed through one of these Bibles and said, ‘It’s lovely but I can’t afford it’, before asking the price. When I told her, she just hugged it to her and wouldn’t let it out of her hand.
In addition, we rejoiced to learn that a book supplied from Lockerbie and transported by MMN to our store in Chingola, had been instrumental in the conversion of the late Zambian president Levy Mwanawasa. The power of the printed page! What a privilege to partner together and build into peoples’ lives for eternity. To our God be all the glory!
Please pray that the Lord will continue to enable us to help believers in these developing countries to access not only their own copies of the Holy Scriptures but sound literature to assist their spiritual development.’ 28
Further information can be obtained from:
Geoff Ruston, The Opal Trust,
1 Glenannan Park, Lockerbie, DG11 2FA. Scottish
Charity number SC034750.
Tel/Fax +44 (0)1576 203670.