Monday, May 20
Monday is the day I had set aside to visit the office of Theovision International. Here is their website:
But just a week before I was to travel, I found out that on Monday, we would be blessed with a special visitor!
An old friend whom I’d recently gotten in touch with was coming from a nation halfway across the continent, where Christians are a tiny minority, to attend a conference in Accra the same weekend that I’d be here!
This person (whose name I will not share for security’s sake) had been a friend of my husband Greg and myself since our early years in Columbus, 1995-2000. He was an international student at the time who had found his way to the USA. As he studied and connected with new friends here, he learned more about Christ. He became a committed follower of Jesus and began to consider, with the help of Christians who had a Great Commission perspective, what God’s calling upon his life might mean.
After concluding that God was calling him to return to his homeland despite (and maybe because of) the scarcity of Christians there, he has served faithfully for many years. Using his skills from the degree he earned in social work in the USA, he worked in refugee camps during one of the world’s worst refugee crises and started schools for young children. He had done many other things as well. Just now our friend had made his journey of four days by bus through other dangerous lands so that he could be with brothers and sisters in Christ in Accra for fellowship and worship.
On Monday we were able to meet this brother in Christ, which was indeed a sweet reunion as our paths have crossed only a handful of times since the original period we spent with him in the late 1990s. I was able to introduce him to TENGUE too! We brought him along to the office of Theovision, so that he also could visit and see the recording studios and learn about their work that reaches across the entire African continent.
Long story short – we learned that the Founder of Theovision, Rev. Theodore Asare, accomplished his first original translation and Bible recording only after 5 years of hard work using old technology (reel-to-reel) back in the 1980s. Now the new versions are produced in just 4-6 weeks of field time. As Theovision has grown, its staff have continued working and over the past 30 years have recorded audio versions of the Holy Bible in 400 different tribal languages!
If most people in an area do not know how to read, these audio versions become extremely valuable. Often, because many people in rural Africa are illiterate, oral learning is the only viable option to present them with stories and knowledge about Jesus Christ. In addition, a “Bible Listening Group” provides them a way to socially interact about the truth they are learning. It is a very effective way to reach out to those whose main way of learning is through oral (storytelling) form and can often be the beginning of a new “church” (that is, body of believers who are living out these truths together as they are led by the Holy Spirit).
Our time with Theovision staff revealed an organization of Africans working beautifully together for a common purpose – each serving the larger cause of producing and disseminating these audio Bible versions. Here are some ways that staff are employed:
- Some are strategists studying where the next translation is needed and planning how to work with other international ministries doing Bible translation.
- Some are audio technical people who travel to outlying areas with recording equipment (often beyond the reach of electricity, water and sanitation, lugging along generators, over sometimes-impassable roads and facing other conditions you and I can barely even imagine).
- Some work with local people in each new location to find a few who are willing to come daily for 4-6 weeks and serve as language helpers for the translation team.
- Some send out the physical units that contain the recordings in final form, which can be played back on solar powered mp3s and speakers so that a group of 25-100 or more village people can listen at once.
- Some follow up with these new “listening groups” and ask how things are going, providing further training where necessary.
- Some are tasked with training local listening group leaders, who need to know how to answer questions that arise as people hear the Word of God for the first time and want to apply it in their own lives.
According to the statistics, there are currently 1,000+ Bible listening groups in various parts of Africa that have been started by Theovision. It reminds me of Matthew 13:31-33 where Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches. … The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.” Quietly and without much notice the Word of God is growing and becoming fruitful all over the continent. Isn’t it just like God to do this beautiful thing?
Yet, Rev. Asare and his wife are humble enough to host in their own home visitors from a far country. They spent their own time and effort to make sure our visit in Ghana was safe and comfortable. I will be ever grateful for their example of faithfulness and their love and care during the time we spent with them.