Literacy in Bhutan: Now Martha Can Read the Bible

March 1, 2017 by Janelle P in

Sister Martha is a timid, unassuming lady. She has lived on the outskirts of Gelephu all her life and built a family with her husband and seven kids. For 46 years, Martha grew up in the agricultural town, raising cows and goats, and farming broccoli, spinach, chili and beans.

Born in a family of farmers, Martha received no education as a child and was married at the tender age of 16. But everything changed for her when she learned about Jesus in 2011. “Those early days of receiving Jesus was all about listening to the Word of God as I couldn’t read,” she shared.

“As I received no education, the first time I started to attend literacy classes, I wasn’t able to hold a pencil. I used to shiver and would take almost an hour just to write a few letters; I wanted to study but my parents used to tell me to, ‘tie our cattle at your feet and go to school’, (as it was her responsibility to herd the cattle’s), but now I am glad that, by the grace of God, I achieved my dream of being able to read and write”, she shared.

She received Jesus Christ as her personal Savior in the year 2011. She, along with her two sons and daughter, received the invitation to attend adult literacy classes from Pastor Lazarus from 2015 to 2016.

“I am able to read the Bible and understand the Word of God by myself. I can share my testimony. I feel more confident and can even read articles and letters.”

Being a farmer, the cattle herds and chores needed constant attention, and sacrificing hours to attend classes was really tough for Sister Martha. To add to that, her neighbors also warned her about her choices: “As I was at the beginning as Christian, some of my neighbors discouraged me by saying, ‘You are learning at the church?’ ‘Just see what government will do to you!’ ‘They’ll know what you’re up to and imprison you!’”

“Yet, I stayed firm in my beliefs and attended the classes,” Sister Martha continued, “Now, I am glad to say it’s been six years as a believer and my faith is stronger than it ever was.”

“I have been encouraging my friends to take those classes, as well. I have also encouraged my children to take classes, and they did in 2016. Four of my kids have now taken classes on adult literacy.”

Pastor Lazarus is in-charge of OD’s Adult Literacy Program in Gelephu. He has been carrying Pastoral responsibilities since 1997 and has been conducting Literacy programs since 2013. He received trainings and has trained four other trainers since then.

Pastor Lazarus says he faces challenges in teaching adults, especially the elderly. “They can’t concentrate for too long. They don’t understand promptly, and we can’t scold them,” he says with a smile. “We have to hold the hand of some 40 year-olds just to teach them how to write their names.”

Another challenge to teaching is the fact that everything they do is so closely monitored. “We have to conduct these classes in disguise,” he says. “To avoid complications, we attach materials in Dzongkha, Bhutan’s national language, along with teaching materials to avoid complications.”

For this term, Pastor Lazarus and his wife teach eleven students. Classes are held twice a week for two hours each day. This batch of students will graduate in April 2017.

Lazarus has started giving ten minutes to each student to share something from the Bible during his sermons at church. Looking forward, he shares in excitement: “I am not only focusing on adults but youths as well so that I can bring up more trainers and teachers for the future.”

“Because I couldn’t read the Bible myself, I was worried how I could share the Good News to my kids”

Thank you for partnering with us and enabling dear brothers and sisters to read God’s Word for themselves, and grow in their faith and trust in Jesus!

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