By Dan Wooding, Founder of the ASSIST News Service
ESCONDIDO, CA (ANS – January 25, 2016) – Thousands of churches around the world have been challenged to hold a “Talking Bible Sunday” during which pastors and leaders can share with their congregation about the Talking Bible, a small audio book that looks like a Bible but is aimed at people who cannot read and can simply turn it on to listen to it.
The appeal has come from Harvey T. Hoekstra, Founder of Talking Bibles International (TBI), who is now in his nineties and who, along with his late wife, Lavina Irene, was a missionary for fifty-two years to the “unreached peoples” of the World. For most of that time — 30 years — they served in Africa.
“Our mission is to serve the Lord Jesus Christ by producing audio recordings of Scriptures in hundreds of languages and sharing those recordings around the world with millions of people who cannot read,” stated Dr. Hoekstra.
In 1989, now Board Chair Emeritus of the Escondido-based ministry, he initially founded a ministry called Audio Scriptures International, which is now Talking Bibles International.
He said, “Readers get a printed Bible while the blind and illiterate get Talking Bibles. Audio Scriptures in their own languages is very important for both evangelism and discipleship.”
Dr. Hoekstra, a regular contributor to the ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net), went on to say, “I began calling for churches to observe an annual ‘Talking Bible Sunday’ some fifteen years ago. At that time, I became acutely aware of the humble origin of the Gideon Bible movement and its ‘Gideon Bible Sunday’. I felt a ‘Talking Bible Sunday’ could do for the Talking Bible Ministry what the ‘Gideon Bible Sunday’ was doing for the wonderful Gideon Bible Movement ministry.
“I was motivated by the vision of thousands of churches observing a Talking Bible Sunday – learning about global need non-readers have for God’s Word as a Talking Bible, to include this ministry in prayer and to take a special offering to help provide Talking Bibles.
“My prayer continues to be that churches observing a Talking Bible Sunday will continue grow until it becomes a national movement with thousands of churches participating.”
Dr. Hoekstra said that churches can pick their own date to celebrate “Talking Bibles Sunday,” and that ‘testimonials from where Talking Bibles have been going out tell us how important a Talking Bible is to those who do not read.”
The TBI website says, “It is an excellent opportunity and format to share the enormous challenge of making the Bible available in audio form to believers and persons who are pre-literate, semi-literate and are more inclined to get information by voice than by reading.
“The device we make available through Talking Bibles International is a durable, reliable, affordable and effective tool for making the living Word of God accessible in audio form. We believe your involvement with us will greatly boost the Talking Bible movement to make the Lord’s word available in audio form to millions of people around the world who would not normally have access to a Bible.”
Dr. Hoekstra says that they regularly receive testimonials from around the world and one came from a new Hindu convert on one of the fishing boats off the coast of Bengal in India, who wrote, I am alone accepted Jesus Christ in my boat. My coworkers are all unbelievers. At rest time, we play the Talking Bible when we cannot catch fish. When we are all listening to the Talking Bible, we then catch more fish. In my life this is a very wonderful miracle.”
Another came from a Pastor Kala, from the Bay of Bengal, India, who who leads three churches in a fishing village.
Dr. Hoekstra said, “Of the more than 500 people in his congregations, he is the only person who can read the Bible. He says listening to Scripture on his Talking Bible helps him to better understand the non-reading people that he ministers to. When he plays the Talking Bible for the fishermen and their families, it opens their hearts.”
The pastor says, “We search where groups of unbelievers are gathered—I simply play the Talking Bible for them. They want to hear more. “Two years ago, there were no churches. Now there are three!” He adds that “many listeners are asking questions and joining a local listening group.”
Dr. Hoekstra went on to say, “Pastor Kala is a part time professor, a well-known apologist for the Christian faith, and is able to discuss the Bible fluently in multiple Indian languages. He is also the only literate person among the more than 500 people making up the three churches he pastors in cities on India’s Bay of Bengal.
“The people in Pastor Kala’s churches belong to a low caste and earn their living as fishermen. Two years ago, the community received 75 Talking Bibles. Pastor Kala admits his education did not prepare him for the church growth that resulted.”
He says, “The Talking Bible allows us to reach people that otherwise we could not reach with the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Pastor Kala says that he is praying for “more Talking Bibles to grow and “multiply the listening groups with the help of a new generation of pastors.”
Another church leader using the Talking Bible is Pastor Lul, who while fleeing deadly tribal conflict in South Sudan, he, his family, and about 3,000 other Nuer people, were resettled into a refugee camp across the border in nearby Gambella, Ethiopia. The pastor says the tents, medical care and food are good, but it was receiving two Talking Bibles that allow him to care for the souls of the refugees and establish churches in the camp.
One amazing story is that The Talking Bible in the Kiswahili language has made a huge difference at a Tanzania Leprosy Camp, where the women who were missing limbs and fingers, now have the Word of God in their language. “They danced with glee on their dirt floors surrounded by mats for beds. The joy of knowing Jesus as Lord was within them and now it was unleashed!” says a report.
You can read many additional testimonials by visiting www.talkingbibles.org.
The ministry, an ECFA-accredited 501(c)3 charitable organization, provides leaders in communities of oral learners with “talking” Bibles, God’s spoken Word, in their native languages. It trains leaders to use “talking” Bibles to share the good news of Christ. These Bibles allow leaders to nurture their congregations and reach out to unbelievers. This approach equips indigenous non-readers to become church leaders, pastors, and missionaries to their own communities.
The Billion Listener Problem
Note: Officially, there are about 776 million people in the world who lack basic reading and writing skills, according to UNESCO, the international organization tasked with measuring global literacy. Talking Bibles and its associates have worked for decades with non-literate, often overlooked minority groups who are isolated by language and culture.
“We know from experience that the problem of Biblical illiteracy is much greater. By our estimation, there are over 1 billion people in the world who cannot read the Bible in their heart language. These are the men, women, and children who need the spoken Word,” concluded Dr. Hoekstra.
For information on “Talking Bible Sunday,” please go to https://www.talkingbibles.org/ways-to-help/talking-bible-sunday.
To contact Harvey T. Hoekstra, you can e-mail him at email@example.com.
Photo captions: 1) Talking Bibles International founder, Harvey T. Hoekstra. 2) Side view of the Talking Bible. 3) Harvey with his late wife, Lavina, on the Mission Field. 4) Pastor Kala with a Talking Bible. 5) Lady with leprosy in Tanzania listening to her Talking Bible. 6) Dan Wooding
About the writer: Dan Wooding is an award-winning author, broadcaster and journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, and is now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for more than 52 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. He is the author of some 45 books and has two TV programs and one radio show in Southern California, and has reported widely for ANS from various parts of the world.
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