If you asked Mary Jones to share her greatest wish, her response would be clear: “I want a Bible of my very own, in my own language.” What Mary did not know was how God would use her desire and determination to pave the way for people in many cultures to read God’s Word in their own heart language.
The year was 1794. The place was northern Wales. In the village where Mary Jones grew up, Welsh Bibles were scarce and expensive. The first Bible Mary saw was in the church her family attended. She grew to love God and His Word as she listened to Bible stories during services. Sometimes Mary would approach the pulpit where the Bible lay open. The printed pages remained meaningless squiggles until a school opened nearby when Mary was ten. Once Mary learned to read, she was determined to study God’s Word for herself.
Mary resolved to save money to buy a Welsh Bible, no matter how long it took. She earned money gathering firewood, selling eggs, and mending clothes. In 1800, after saving for six years, Mary had enough money for a Bible. Her teacher told her about a minister who sold Bibles. Reverend Charles lived in Bala, a town 41 km (26 mi) away!
Undeterred, fifteen-year-old Mary set off alone. Carrying a bag with provisions and her money, she walked barefoot in the direction of Bala. Following well-worn paths, crossing streams, and climbing hills, Mary pressed on. Scaling the final ridge, she saw the town of Bala below. After a night’s rest, Mary went to the home of Reverend Charles.
When Mary learned that the minister had no more Welsh Bibles to sell, she wept uncontrollably. Through tears, Mary explained how long she had saved and how far she had walked to purchase the book she loved. Reverend Charles was so touched that he sold Mary a Welsh Bible he had set aside for another customer. Mary cheerfully walked the 41 km (26 mi) home, clutching her treasure. Now she could read the Bible whenever she wanted and share her copy with others in her village.
Mary’s determination deeply affected Reverend Charles. God placed a burden on his heart to help others without access to Bibles. In 1802, he traveled to London for a Religious Tract Society meeting. Reverend Charles shared Mary’s story and proposed creating an organization dedicated to printing and distributing affordable Welsh Bibles. One member, Reverend Hughes, challenged the group to think bigger: “If for Wales, why not for the [United] kingdom? And if for the kingdom, why not for the world?”
From these discussions, the British and Foreign Bible Society formed in 1804. It helped fund translation efforts of global workers like William Carey (India), Robert Morris (China), and Henry Martyn (India, Persia). Now known as the Bible Society, this ministry continues to translate and distribute God’s Word in many different formats today.
God used a young girl to help spark a movement to put His story into the hands of millions of people. Today, many people groups still wait to hear about Jesus. What about the children in your home or church? How might you involve them in helping these groups to hear about Jesus in their heart language?