Helen and I have just returned from a week away in North Wales. We toured the beautiful countryside with its hills and mountains and rolling green fields and had an opportunity to visit Aberdaron on the Lleyn peninsula where the poet/vicar R.S.Thomas ministered at St.Hywyn’s church of Wales.
There was also an opportunity to take a trip to the town of Bala which is situated on Lake Bala. This is an area where many people speak Welsh as their first language and the town often hosts the National Eisteddfod of Wales, an annual event (like the Mod in Scotland), that brings together poets, musicians, and actors from all over Wales and beyond to celebrate the Welsh language. While we were walking around the town, we came across the Welsh Presybterian chapel (formerly Calvinistic Methodist) that was made famous by its minister the Rev. Thomas Charles (1755-1814).
What was so special about Thomas Charles? Amongst other things, he set up schools for the poor in his area of North Wales but it was a meeting with a sixteen- year old girl called Mary Jones that really changed his life. Mary Jones came from a poor farming family in a small village called Llanfihangel-y- Pennant about 26 miles from Bala. She had learned to read in Welsh and was desperate to get a Welsh bible for herself and her family. She saved some money over a period of years and having learned that Thomas Charles had a supply of Welsh bibles, she decided to walk barefooted to Bala to buy a bible from him. Thomas Charles was so impressed by her faith and fortitude that he set up an organisation to provide affordable bibles in Welsh for the disadvantaged in Wales and this led to the formation of the British and Foreign Bible Society.
Many of us will have several copies of the bible in our homes and we forget that there are still Christians in many parts of the world that don’t have access to a bible and who will be persecuted if one is found in their possession. Scotland used to be known as the “Land of the Book” but a survey of Church of Scotland members by the Scottish Bible Society found that only 15% read the Bible daily, 27% read the Bible weekly, 29% read the Bible monthly or a few times a year, 14% read the Bible less than yearly and 15% never read the Bible!
There is an old chorus that goes: “Read your Bible, pray every day and you’ll grow, grow, grow!” The Psalmist reflected on the importance of God’s word:
“Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path.” (Psalm 119:105 NIV).
Mary Jones treasured her Bible and read it every day. May we be challenged to follow her example!