The Family’s Firm Foundation
God's Word reached thousands of global pilgrims at the 2015 World Meeting of Families.
On Sept. 27, 2015, Philadelphia’s Benjamin Franklin Parkway looked a little bit like heaven. The long stretch of road, normally jammed with honking cars and bustling pedestrians, burst at the seams with something resembling the throng of believers from Revelation 7.9—“a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language.”
Tens of thousands of pilgrims had gathered for the World Meeting of Families—a week of Christian teaching about the family and society. Coinciding with Pope Francis’ first visit to the United States, the 2015 World Meeting of Families drew the eyes of the world to Philadelphia during one unforgettable week in September.
God’s Word was in the middle of it all, thanks to a collaboration between American Bible Society and the Roman Catholic Church. With support from financial partners, American Bible Society developed two key outreaches for the World Meeting of Families: a multimedia Scripture Engagement campaign in Philadelphia and a custom Scripture Portion of Luke’s Gospel for half a million Catholics around the world.
“This was a chance for us to share God’s Word in a collaborative and winsome way,” says Jason Malec, managing director of national ministries for American Bible Society. “We wanted to positively impact people’s perception of the Bible and also engage people very actively in the Bible,” explains Malec, referring to the Scripture Engagement campaign in Philadelphia.
The multimedia campaign hinged on a single phrase: “Enter the Story.” More than 600 custom billboards, train advertisements and bus wraps called passersby in Philadelphia to connect their family’s unique story with God’s story in Scripture. The ads pointed to a custom website where visitors could engage with Scripture passages and devotionals, all organized around family-related themes.
“When I first saw the image on the back of the bus, I thought it was advertising an HBO special. The quality was the same,” says Philadelphia resident Nate Bowman-Johnston. “But when I saw the American Bible Society logo, I realized this was a Bible campaign. It made me think again about what the Bible has to say about my family situation.”
"We wanted to positively impact people’s perception of the Bible.” —Jason Malec
Supplementing the media campaign, American Bible Society’s second key ministry initiative during the World Meeting of Families offered a more direct outlet for Scripture Engagement. Half a million Scripture Portions—Luke’s Gospel translated into six languages—were distributed during the conference in Philadelphia and through shipments to Congo, Cuba, Vietnam, Australia and France, five territories with a strong Catholic presence.
Among the recipients of these Scripture Portions was a Damascus family who witnessed the atrocities of the war in Syria.
“This important gesture...expresses the meaning of the World Meeting of Families,” says Archbishop Paglia, referring to these particular recipients. “The good news of God’s mercy is announced to families; families are charged to bring this gospel [into] their own cities.”
Another prominent Catholic leader, Archbishop of Philadelphia Charles J. Chaput, expressed thanks for American Bible Society’s willingness to serve the worldwide body of Christ.
“The interconfessional pillar of American Bible Society permitted us to enter into a great partnership to serve our church,” says Chaput.
With support from American Bible Society’s financial partners, this partnership helped proclaim God’s Word during the 2015 World Meeting of Families. Equipped with the hope of Scripture, Christian families who attended the festivities in Philadelphia will continue to share the good news of the gospel in their home communities.
“Scripture is the center of our lives as practicing Catholics,” says one Canadian man who journeyed to World Meeting of Families with his wife and four children. “We really want to take God’s Word and share it...spread it as best we can.”
Thanks to the support of our faithful financial partners, American Bible Society has been engaging people with the life-changing message of God’s Word for more than 200 years.
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