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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Talking Bibles Making A Powerful Impact

By Harvey T Hoekstra
Special to ASSIST News Service

SAN DIEGO, CA (ANS) -- Marvelous, pocket size, digital listening devices revolutionize the way we are now making the translated Scriptures available for non-readers. Back then, nearly fifty years ago when my African team members and I were working hard to translate a New Testament into another language, I could never have dreamed of what we are now doing with Talking Bibles.

A Talking Bible

A Talking Bible is a trade-marked digital listening device my son, Mark designed to be the exact kind of listening device non-reading people of an oral culture could easily use. I love its convenient size and features. Its buttons to select books and chapters have a single function, making it uncomplicated to use.

It facilitates scrolling forward and backward in any chapter. And it always starts at the place where one shuts down. It is very power efficient and is powered by three penlight batteries inside the unit or by an external power adaptor or an external solar panel. Its speaker has excellent fidelity and allows for as many as 30 to 40 people to listen as a group. Its external speaker jack enables a larger speaker to accommodate larger numbers.

So, I am excited with the Talking Bible because of its features. It is book shaped and has the appearance of a printed Bible. Its appearance lends credibility to the fact that it is indeed the same Word of God as is in a printed Bible in that language.
 

A woman in Malawi with her Talking Bible

Yes, I am excited with its features, but I am even more excited because of what God is doing in people’s hearts as they hear God speaking to them in their very own language.

Talking Bibles are single voice narrations of the translated Scriptures. One who has a Talking Bible and listens to it has an experience like the person to whom someone comes and reads from the Bible. I envisage the Talking Bible as God's provision to one who longingly says, “How I wish someone would come and read to me from that Book.”

What follows is from our file of testimonials and stories from oral culture people living in different parts of the world.

The Power of God's Spoken Word in India

A Hindu village priest insisted that he, being spiritual leader in that village, should be the one to be responsible for their Talking Bible. He promised to call the people together to listen every day. The amazing thing that happened was that the priest himself began listening and became a believer along with almost the entire village. Three months later, when the local evangelist called to check up on them, the converted village priest pointed to the small village temple. There was a chain and a padlock on the door. The temple was closed. Instead, because of the power of God’s spoken Word, many people in that village were baptized and were worshipping together, praising God and trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Even Me!” -- A Blind Man Since Birth
 

Blind Pastor, Anthony

Holding his Talking Bible closely in one hand and his cane in the other, Anthony says that since receiving his Talking Bible he can hear God's Word anytime he pleases and is now listening through the New Testament for the fifth time.

The 45-year-old, from India's southernmost state of Tamil Nadu, said he now counts his blindness as a blessing because it opens opportunities for him to share with other people and allows him to be an evangelist as he shares what he has learned by listening to the Scripture. Anthony explains:

“I just go to people's house and share the love of Jesus. Soon the neighbors call me over to hear what I am saying and what I am playing on the Talking Bible. … I play the Talking Bible so that people will understand though they are separated from God, that Jesus loves them and they can be reunited to God.”

Healed After Hearing The Talking Bible

Now 15 people are listening to the Word of God and said that they could understand the Bible clearly and that it is a blessing to their family. One day we were listening to the 5th chapter of Mark’s Gospel. A woman came and asked us to pray for her. Her problem was similar to the woman who touched the garment of Jesus Christ. She listened to that portion of the Gospel and trusted Christ. After this incident she started to come to our church regularly. After a week’s time she told us that she was healed of her sickness. She fully accepted Jesus and took baptism. This is a great miracle that took place during our Bible-listening session.

Testimonies from Africa:

“I am a 45 year old mother and am unable to read for myself. My home does not have electricity and I sell charcoal for a living. Before I received my Kikongo Talking Bible I would “rent” someone to read the Bible to me twice a week. Now I gather 10 people two or three times a day and listen with them for 30 minutes to my Talking Bible.”
 

Rico, A Young Evangelist

Rico is a young evangelist from Mozambique. He confessed, “The written Bible is very hard to read. I get tired very fast and can only read a small portion, but the Talking Bible is easy and I can listen to whole books.

Rico said nothing has been the same for him since. “I have come to an understanding of God's Word that I could never get from only reading. I have used it, without fear, to share my faith,” he stated.

People Acting Differently!

“They are living out what they heard!” That was the immediate response to the Talking Bibles in Pande, a small village in Africa.

“Hearing God’s Word for the first time changes people,” said Pastor Jeremiash Chukela Moyanna, who leads the church in Pande. The Talking Bible has impacted the church and the whole community.

“Everything is different now that we have become people that listen to the Word of God,” Pastor Jeremiash exclaimed.

Pastor Jeremiash is very old. There is no one in the village of Pande, where he has lived his whole life, that remembers a day when he was not there. The pastor thinks he is over 100 years old. Even though he is not sure of his own age, he is ABSOLUTELY sure that God is doing something new in his village.

“I’ve not seen anything like the Talking Bible before,” Pastor Jeremiash asserted as he relaxed in the shade outside the church. “There is an excitement in the church, because of people hearing God’s Word in their mother tongue of Xitshwa.”

How Beautiful Are The Feet Of Those Who Bring Good News!” (Romans 10:15)

It's hard to imagine life with no Bible. Look around you. Bibles can be found everywhere: personal Bibles, themed Bibles, digital Bibles, Bibles for children, Bibles for women, Bibles for men, Bibles for devotionals, Bibles for study. Thin, thick, paperback, leather-bound, gold-leafed, red-letter and so on. We have Bibles all around in our homes, in church, in books and tapes, in music, in radio and television broadcasts, and all through the Internet. It is almost as if the sheer availability of Scripture is piling up like boxes in a crowded room. We are overflowing. It isn't only availability; it is also readability. God's Word is readily available in our mother tongue, the language of our heart, the language that children and parents can listen to without effort.

I wonder if we've lost the ability to cherish the Word as we should. When we hold a Bible, are we so moved that our eyes fill with tears of joy? When we listen to the Word of God, does time seem to stop for that which is Holy? Would we walk for days for one chance to hear a Bible verse or the hope of bringing a single Bible for one whole village?

Talking Bibles for The Sudan

We are making Dinka Bor language Talking Bibles for the people of South Sudan. Hundreds of Dinka Bor Talking Bibles will soon be heading to the Sudan but many more are needed. We are running out of Talking Bibles and desperately need the next shipment of 5,000 Talking Bibles to arrive soon!

Talking Bibles Int'l has recently made a commitment to provide Talking Bibles for all New Testament translations in the languages spoken in what was known as the Upper Nile Province of the South Sudan. This is where Presbyterian and Reformed Church in America missionaries served.

Authentic Bible translations have been completed and printed in Shilluk, Dinka Bor, Dinka Padang, Nuer, Anuak and Murle languages spoken in that part of the Sudan.

People who speak these languages have become Christians in large numbers and are members of organized churches. Because they are people of an oral culture, huge numbers do not read.

During those dozen years back there in the fifties when I was translating the New Testament in one of those languages, I could never have dreamed that today, at a fraction of the time and cost required to translate a New Testament, we can now make these NT translations available as Talking Bibles.

For many years, I have been saying that every authentic translation of the Scriptures must be made available in audio. With listening devices like the Talking Bible, we can give non-reading oral-culture people the same access to these essential, costly written translations as we give to those who read.
 

Lavina Hoekstra in a Majang Village

While we recognize that millions who are oral culture people will likely continue being people of an oral culture who do just fine without reading, our observation is that not infrequently a person who listens to a Talking Bible speaking his/her own language is motivated to want, also, to read the printed text.

We have numerous reports of how having a Talking Bible helps poor readers to become better readers. And we have similar reports of how pastors having a Talking Bible say they are preaching from passages who’s deeper meaning they have now come to understand because of their hearing it clearly from their Talking Bible. Thanks be to God.

Among Our Highest Priorities In World Mission

I readily acknowledge that my advocating providing the translated Scriptures in audio has become a passion with me. I have been there living among people of an oral culture. I know what phenomenal memories many of them have. I keep saying, “Every authentic translation of Scripture must be made available in audio. It is unthinkable that we would not do this.”

Global mission leaders need to make this unfinished task to be among their highest priorities. I keep calling for churches everywhere to observe an annual Talking Bible Sunday with a special offering to help provide Talking Bibles in every language. Ministries like Talking Bibles should be included in a church's World Mission Budget. We have so many stories to share. I close simply recalling our tears of joy when we were told of people in a village in Africa literally dancing for joy when they received their Talking Bible and heard it speaking in their language.

Prayer

* Please pray for the Talking Bibles Ministry and those few other ministries engaged in this same unfinished task.

* Consider how God may be calling you to become involved in this global effort. Please pray for this ministry. We need God to move in a mighty way to reach the illiterate people who don’t know our savior. Even though the way may seem impossible, He is the master of the impossible.

A Few Closing Statistic Estimates

* 26% (over 1 billion) of adult population cannot read
* 98% of non-literates live in developing countries
* More than 1/2 of all non-literates live in India and China
* An estimated 6,900 languages; 6,900,000,000 people today's world
* 2,508 languages have some or all of Bible translated
* 1, 213 languages have entire NT translated
* 459 languages have entire Bible

Our Challenge To Do It Now

Knowing the costly, sacrificial effort requiring many years to complete a translation of an entire New Testament in another language, and knowing we can make these translations available in audio for a fraction of the cost and time required to do a NT translation, it seems unthinkable that we would not do this. The task is readily doable. We are challenged, with God's help, to rise to the occasion and do it now.

Talking Bibles International is based in Escondido, CA. We are here thanks to our donor partners who pray for us and support us financially! We are genuinely encouraged and pray for your support. If you'd like to learn more about this ministry and to help keep this ministry going strong, please visit our website which is: www.talkingbibles.org

Goal: “Every Translated Scripture Should Be Made Available In Audio For Every Person Who Cannot Read And For The Blind


From Dr. Harvey T Hoekstra, Chairman, TB Int'l Board: At my advanced age, reflecting on my journey, I have so many reasons to thank and praise God. I was born Nov. 20, 1920 and, along with five brothers, grew up on the farm in Minnesota. I experienced a ruptured appendix when I was fourteen years of age. I had three major abdominal surgeries and spent forty five days in a small town hospital located upstairs above the pharmacy. God used that experience to lead me to know and to love Christ. It was through that experience that I felt God's call and promised Him that if he spared my life, I would try to become a preacher of the Gospel.

Years later, while still a student in college, I married my sweetheart, Lavina. During my seminary years, we lived 21 miles from Western Theological Seminary in Holland, MI. For three years I drove back and forth for classes and served as a student pastor in a small, rural church and preached two sermons each Sunday.

God used a red headed, rash and religious Presbyterian missionary, a guest speaker at our morning chapel one morning, to inspire and call us to serve as missionaries in the Sudan. We sailed for Africa July 2, 1948. I was a Bible translator. From 1963 to 1977, our family served among an unreached people living in a rain forest in SW Ethiopia. During those years the cassette came on the market and we used them extensively. The effectiveness of the cassette to multiply the places where the Gospel was heard and the positive response with many becoming Christians were used of God to shape my mind about our needing to make the translated Scriptures available in audio. The connection between our use of cassettes and how God led is evident in a paper I delivered at the SIL West Africa Conference in 1982. Its title was, “The Scripture on Cassettes -- Not Just for Readers Anymore.”

That was nearly thirty years ago. But now the cassette era is largely past history. Ours is the new information age with microchips, digital technology and solar power enabling us to provide God's Word in audio more effectively and at less cost than we could ever have imagined back then.


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