HURST, TX — At EEM (Eastern European Mission), our slogan is “The Bible. We Want Everyone to Get It.” We mean that in both the literal and figurative senses. We want everyone to be able to have a copy of God’s Word in their own language, and to understand it in their minds and believe it in their hearts. But this can’t happen if Bibles are inaccessible due to cost, or unavailable or not understandable in the native language of the intended audience.
The Visual Language of Illustrations
I felt challenged to aid in the comprehension of God’s word through illustrations of the many stories in the Bible. The Bible is rich with “images” that can be used with preaching and teaching even through adulthood. Jesus spoke with parables, helping his listeners to understand what he meant through word pictures. Who doesn’t think of a farmer planting seeds when hearing the parable of the sower, or envision the wounded man lying on the side of the road at the telling of the parable of the Good Samaritan? Similarly, when I’m teaching a biblical concept, I almost always have a visual illustration in my mind.
This desire for a large volume of accessible and understandable artwork served as a spring board for the Envisioning Truth project. The 499 New Testament illustrations were completed at the end of 2022 and are now available for free at https://www.eem.org/envisioning-truth-499/. This artwork is not only for EEM, but for any non-commercial use for the Kingdom of God.
The artist, Fred Apps, has been working on EEM projects for over 10 years. We worked together to find a style that suited his abilities and my desire for simplicity. I provided Fred with some written instructions and sometimes sample artwork for each of the images I envisioned. Fred skillfully interpreted these instructions and had freedom to apply his own creativity to bring the artwork to life. The COVID pandemic actually provided the time to stay focused on preparation, coming up with the illustration ideas, developing concepts and work flow back and forth.
We wanted the entire set to be done in a singular style. Some of the images were familiar and only needed to be made in the right style. Other images were truly originals as we were wrestling to come up with ideas to express theological concepts. I believe this artwork set is the first time that such artwork has been done for every chapter of the New Testament. We are currently continuing with the project and making illustrations for Job, Psalms and Proverbs.
The style for this project is also very unique – we wanted to keep it simple, just black and white line art that could be incorporated into a printed Bible but also useful for many other purposes – people can color the illustrations, use them in teaching children, printing coloring books, adapting them into connect-the-dots form, etc.
Much more than Ink on Paper
In almost 40 years of publishing and printing Bibles for EEM, I’ve been continually aware that we were not producing just a book. We are producing God’s word, which is the sword of God’s Spirit. God’s word is living and not just ink on paper. Although the illustrations are on a different level than God’s word, I do trust and hope that God will use them for His glory.
Normally to publish a new Bible, or even a children’s Bible coloring book, you have to purchase the rights to use the translation or images from whomever holds the copyright. Although it was not the plan from the beginning, God placed a burden on my heart to make the illustrations available freely through the Creative Commons license in hopes that more people can use the images. Most Christian ministries are on a tight budget, so it gives me a lot of joy to use this form of stewardship in the Kingdom.
We expect that other websites who provide Bible illustrations serving Christian audiences will take these and share them even further than we could on our own. With the Internet, there is unlimited potential for these to spread around the world and for use in many languages. It’s all about sharing resources, which is where EEM’s heart is.
The Impact of Technology
Technology advances, creative programming, networking with others in Bible production, and asking God for wisdom has really changed our publishing in the last few years. Some steps that previously required months of work or were almost impossible for our small staff, can now, in a best case scenario, be done in a few minutes or hours.
Some of our breakthroughs have been helpful for other organizations. It brings satisfaction to be able to pass these blessings on to others doing similar work in God’s kingdom. Sometimes, these advances actually come before we with our limited vision see the application. Fortunately, God sees farther and continues to equip us as he knows will be necessary. God’s attention to details is not a theory, but our reality. We see over and over again how he always connects us with the right people for what we need when we need it.
I love seeing these connections come to fruition, not just now but from the past. Several years ago we were introduced to Altin Hysi, the General Secretary of the Inter–confessional Bible Society of Albania. During our visit we learned that he had been converted to Christ as a refugee in Austria. His walk with God began with a small Albanian NT that he was given by someone in the refugee camp in 1988. It turns out that it was an Albanian NT printed and provided by EEM.
Altin later returned to Albania and was instrumental in a full Bible translation project into Albanian. This translation is the one that EEM is now distributing among Albanians. I love how God works through this mission and ministry that we call EEM.
It’s important that we steward the resources that God gives us to use. Our tools, our skills, our friends and connections…they are all a gift from God. As good stewards we are to make the most of these gifts and talents. I want to encourage every believer to make stewardship a priority – no matter our spheres of influence or pool of resources – that there be no barriers to God’s word and that everyone can “get” it.
About Scott Hayes
Scott Hayes is Publishing Director for EEM (Eastern European Mission), serving in Vienna, Austria. He has been part of EEM since 1984, making him EEM’s longest-serving employee. He was involved in Bible smuggling as well as printing and book binding pre-1989, transitioning to a focus on printing after the fall of the Iron Curtain. After completing Bachelor’s degrees in both business and theology in 1992, Scott transitioned to his current role in 2004.