After braving harsh travel by ship, rail, river, and forest trails, and adapting to basic living conditions in the former Belgian Congo, Abe and Mary Kroeker, missionaries from Dallas, Oregon, were seeing people accept God’s offer of forgiveness and a new life as they distributed tracts and books in Central and West Africa. But the Kroekers never had enough literature for people eager to hear their message of hope. Wanting to gather more books and materials to help these new followers of Jesus Christ get to know him better and live the full, abundant, and transformed life promised to them, Abe and Mary went to Europe to find the materials that they needed. They were dismayed to discover that so little existed. Even what was available was not adapted to Africa. That is not surprising, for even today Christ’s followers in French-speaking countries and regions of Europe make up fewer than 1% of their populations. Publishing and printing small runs of books for such a tiny readership was, and still is, costly. What could they do to meet the great need in French-speaking countries?
Abe Kroeker, Founder
The Kroekers followed God’s call to publish and print themselves. Looking to God and like-minded supporters to make the impossible happen, and scrimping and saving to finance the new venture, they established the publishing ministry of Bibles et littérature francophones in 1953 with a printing center near Brussels, Belgium. With the help of friends in the U.S.A. who shared the Kroekers’ vision of God’s Word being available to French speakers around the world, missionaries, Belgian staff, and volunteers joined the publishing team, eventually shipping books to 78 nations. Short-term Impression teams (“impression” is the French word for “printing”) were sent to work in every aspect of producing and sending books to the widespread French-speaking world.
In 2006, BLF Belgium and AES France merged to become BLF Éditions, which grew in reputation as a reliable source of good, printed material for evangelism and discipleship. BLFE is now a respected publisher both in the French Christian and secular communities, keeping up with technological advances, and publishing hundreds of book titles. The value of BLFE to French society was recognized when the publishing community asked BLFE to take a central role in the response to the “Charlie Hebdo” incident. BLFE has been invited to speak on French public television about its work and the needs of people in France.
BLF Ministries in the U.S.A., having supported the publication effort in Europe until it could operate independently, has historically financed the purchase and shipping of Bibles and biblical books to the French-speaking world. In 2021, we changed our name to Synergie Francophone (using the French spelling of synergy) to reflect how we work with partners for the benefit of French speakers. Partners like you finance the materials we supply; carefully chosen agents of change in French-speaking countries distribute and teach people how to use the materials that we provide.
Over the years, other trusted publishers of books and materials in French have emerged, joining our pool of suppliers for printed and digital materials to support the sharing of God’s good news and the growth of disciples, leaders, and local churches that reproduce and influence their communities and nations for good. Wherever people start to live God’s way, societies are lifted, literacy increases, job prospects are better, hygiene improves, infant mortality declines, constructive behaviors replace destructive ones, crime decreases, and families and societies function better, living with new hope. History books, accounts of spiritual revivals, and innumerable personal testimonies attest to this transformation.
The title of this article, referring to our organization’s origins, work, and future, was used first by French artist Paul Gauguin for his eponymous painting created in Tahiti. These questions are still asked by French speakers around the world who have no access to a Bible. In countries where the Bible is being translated into some minority languages, or where no translation is being done at all, most people speak an official or trade language such as French, English, Spanish or Portuguese. When you donate to our projects, we can purchase Bibles and books in French to answer people’s questions right now, whereas it might be decades before such materials will exist in their minority language, if ever. Although French is one of the world’s top ten most used languages with 300 million speakers, countries, and regions where French is used have received few missionaries and few written resources. In Europe and North America, secularization has not met spiritual needs, so thousands turn to the occult. Many economically poor French-speaking countries sit in the 10/40 Window* and are dominated by non-Christian religious belief systems. Many communities have no access to Christian believers, Bibles, and books, and if they did, could not afford to buy them. Large parts of the Continent of Africa are seeing people turn to Christ with no means of being discipled. The French-speaking world is a giant so large that our eyes have failed to span its outline. But that giant is crying out to be fed.
As well as providing printed and digital literature,** Synergie Francophone partners with start-up printing ventures overseas (where local sustainability is the objective), sponsors Christian authors writing with relevance for their own cultures, stocks libraries for students, and raises money to help train Christian journalists to speak into their societies. We cannot spread God’s words to French speakers without generous partners sharing their resources to make these initiatives happen. When you buy a book for your own learning or pleasure, would you consider giving the same amount to Synergie Francophone so that someone else could have one as well?
*The 10/40 Window refers to countries located between 10 and 40 degrees North of the Equator. They are characterized by having the least access to the Gospel and the highest levels of poverty. Several of them are French-speaking.
This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-SA
**Many places have no or intermittent electricity and no access to the Internet. For those who own phones, which are charged in a shack by a man who owns a generator, we can provide SD cards loaded with literature.