Papua New Guinea is culturally diverse and rich linguistically with some 850-plus local languages as well as its three official languages, Hiri Motu, Tok Pisin and English. English is the language of instruction in schools from Grade 3 to tertiary level, but for many PNG students, it is a third or fourth language and problems can be expected in comprehending, speaking and writing.
The Bible Summary Project is the reading and summarising of a story or a chapter of the Bible every day. It was initially introduced for PNG secondary students, but, since 2016, tertiary students and upper primary students in PNG Adventist schools, and some other schools, have also adopted the program. The purpose of the Bible Summary Project is two-fold: first, to help improve students’ written English and, second, to develop a student’s personal relationship with God, the Master Teacher.
Students are encouraged to write at least a two-paragraph summary each day. Insights gained or lessons drawn from the story/chapter with personal applications can either be incorporated into their summaries or listed separately. Many students realise through this exercise that they have discovered a message that can be shared with someone else—maybe a schoolmate, friend or family member. Consequently, the Bible Summary Project has also turned out to become an evangelism tool for many faithful students, apart from it helping to improve their written English and leading to better grades in all subjects—not to mention improved behaviour and attitude!
There’s no reason why any adult with at least a primary-level reading ability cannot make this simple exercise a part of their daily practice. Or if your children attend a school that does not provide the Bible Summary Project, you can do something similar at home—the benefits will still be there. The Bible summary process will improve both reading and writing ability, but, more importantly, regular time spent with God’s Word will transform your heart and character into His likeness.
The five steps that students follow to produce their summaries are:
- Pray for the Holy Spirit’s leading and guidance
- Read the story/chapter for the day
- Ask simple what/where/how/etc questions and come up with short answers
- Write out the summary using answers from #3 above, with insights gained
- Close with prayer. Share with as many people as you can
Here’s an example of a summary of Matthew 24 with particular emphasis on steps 3 and 4 above.
(Note: As a starter, a student might actually write out the what/where/how questions with short answers to each question, but for an experienced reader all these are processed in the mind only. In Step 4 the student writes out the responses (from Step 3) in complete sentences to form his/her paragraph(s), making sure that the ideas are logically presented. After a few attempts, Step 3 becomes easy and no writing is required except in Step 4, the Bible summary itself.)
Asking what/where/how/etc questions
Q: What were the disciples fascinated with?
a: The temple buildings.
Q: Where is Jesus and what is He doing when His disciples come to Him with their questions?
a: On the Mount of Olives; sitting.
Q: Are there other people with them?
a: No, the disciples went to Him privately.
Q: What questions did they come to ask Jesus?
a: “When will this happen? And what will be the sign of your coming? What will be the sign of the end?”
Q: What signs did Jesus mention would herald His coming and what are some of His comments relating to them?
a: See list below (sometimes it’s easier to make some notes in point form like this):
False messiahs—“Many will come in my name. . . . They will do great signs and miracles. They will try to fool God’s chosen people if possible” (verses 5, 24).
- Wars and future wars
- Nation will fight against nation, kingdom will fight against kingdom.
- Earthquakes—“Don’t be alarmed. Those things must happen. But the end still isn’t here. . . . All these are the beginning of birth pains” (verses 6, 8).
- Persecution and death
- Believers hated by all nations because of Jesus.
- Many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate one another.
- Evil will grow, love will become cold—“But the one who remains strong in the faith will be saved” (verse 13).
- Good news preached in the whole world—“Then the end will come” (verse 14).
- The hated thing that destroys standing in the holy place—“escape to the mountains” (verse 16).
- Dark sun, dark moon, stars fall
- Sign of the Son of Man—“He will come with power and great glory” (verse 12).
Summary of Matthew 24
Now the challenge is to re-write this story logically and briefly, in your own words.
Jesus had left the Temple when asked by His disciples what He thought of the buildings, which they were fascinated with. He made it clear that the buildings would be completely destroyed.
Later, as Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, His disciples came to Him privately, obviously troubled with the destruction He had predicted. They asked when it was going to take place and what signs would indicate His return. He cautioned them to be alert at all times so as not to be easily deceived by false Christs and false prophets. He listed the signs of His coming and the end of the age—these include wars, natural disasters, persecution and death. But, He said, when the “good news of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world. . . . Then the end will come” (verse 14). Be ready. Jesus is coming.
- Am I ever distracted by “temple buildings” and lose focus on Jesus? What are these “temple buildings” for me?
2. Whatever troubles me can never trouble Jesus; He has answers for all my perplexing questions and needs.
3. No matter the time of day, come to Jesus. He always has time for me.
4. Jesus loves me and wants me saved in His Kingdom. He cares enough about me to provide warnings and signs of His return.
5. Prayer and share
I will share these messages with [name of friend, work colleague, etc] today so that he/she too can be ready to meet Jesus.
It is only those who make the study of God’s Word a daily habit who will find strength to go through the times of trouble predicted by Jesus Himself. A checklist of these signs indicate we are on the threshold of earth’s final moments already today. Can we not safely say that the end might come sooner than we expect?
Remember Jesus is not willing that any should perish (John 3:16). He loves you and me and is coming back to take us home. Am I—are you—ready to meet Him?
Serah Keliwin is associate education director at the Papua New Guinea Union Mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and the founder of the Bible Summary Project.