There is little doubt that “short-term missions” have become increasingly effective, meaningful and popular. Individuals who participate in these missions are not only a blessing to the people they serve, but they themselves are often enriched, inspired and challenged to make foreign missions a more significant dimension of their own lives. Churches are also blessed when their members participate in these trips and report back to their congregations. And long-term missionaries are often gratified when their own ministries are significantly enhanced by the contributions of short-term missionaries.
I personally recall, with much gratitude, the tremendous help short-term personnel were to Talking Bibles International, when we were beginning our work in the early 1950s in southwest Ethiopia. One team of five men spent several weeks helping us open the station and building our first permanent home. Another group of college-age students spent an entire summer helping us to develop an airstrip so Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) could land its planes safely in our remote area. These groups were followed by many others. Short-term mission volunteers can and do make a big difference on the world’s mission fields. We could not have done our own work without them.
Using the Talking Bible in Short-term Mission Projects
Over the years, the Talking Bible has greatly enhanced the value of many short-term mission projects. Short-term missionaries make marvelous colporteurs. Already many of them have carried Talking Bibles in their luggage to distribute to people in remote areas who are not able to read. Some groups have carried scores of Talking Bibles in their luggage—Bibles which otherwise would have to be shipped or mailed in a risky, time-consuming and often expensive process.
Recently, for example, a short-term team traveled to Malawi in southeastern Africa. They carried with them over two hundred Talking Bibles in the Chichewa language. The people who received the Bibles were so happy that some of them literally danced with joy before the Lord. When the missionaries returned to their sending churches, they shared the unexpected thrill of seeing the gratitude and delight of the people who had received the Talking Bibles.
Another short-term missions team from Our Savior Lutheran Church in Minnesota, USA, recently traveled to Kingston, Jamaica, where they distributed nearly sixty Talking Bibles to blind children at the Salvation Army School for the Blind.
Many times, short-term missionaries are able to strengthen a long-term missionary’s work as well. Luke Rider, a missionary in Mozambique with YWAM (Youth with a Mission), said this of the group that came to visit:
“I was spending much of my time building a local church and preparing for the arrival of the team. A team of eight people arrived and stayed for eleven days. They carried in their luggage Talking Bibles to be given in the very first distribution in Mozambique. We distributed forty-two Talking Bibles. To see and feel the impact left by the Talking Bibles has left me encouraged and full of vision for [what I am doing].”
Some short-term missionaries carry with them two or three Talking Bibles in the language of people they may meet along the way. When they are able to establish a meaningful relationship with someone they meet, the missionaries are able to give this person a highly valued gift that will be treasured for a lifetime. What a tremendous joy and surprise it is for a cab driver, cook, tour bus driver, night watchman, teacher or student to receive a Talking Bible in his or her own language. Even though the donor may never see the recipient after the gift is given, the Talking Bible will often make an eternal difference in the life of the person who receives it. And as frequently happens, when someone is brought to the Lord through listening to a Talking Bible, he or she will share the good news with his or her family and friends.
Personal Experiences with Short-term Missions and the Talking Bible
In the days before we had Talking Bibles, I always carried a few cassettes with the gospel message in languages I expected to encounter on my journey. Two experiences especially stand out.
West Africa. In West Africa, my wife and I stopped mid-morning for a cup of coffee at a small restaurant. Although the place was empty when we arrived, a man soon came out from the back room. He appeared to be from a group in whose language we recently recorded some tract-like messages about Jesus. When he came to our table, I didn’t say anything; instead, I began playing my tape recorder. Recognizing that we were Americans who likely didn’t know his language, the man shouted excitedly, “That's my language! That's my language!” He was hearing about Jesus in his own language—apparently for the first time. He stood perfectly still and listened to the entire cassette before he asked us what we wanted to drink.
We were thirsty, but when we realized what was happening, our earthly thirst subsided. His thirst was greater than ours—and far more significant. We were so grateful that we were able to help quench his thirst because we had decided to take along with us the “water of life.” At the time, I could never have imagined that someday we would be able to carry with us a Talking Bible of the entire New Testament on just one tape.
Hungary. On another occasion my wife and I were traveling to Romania and we stopped at a train depot in Budapest, Hungary. A man in an old army trench coat wearing an officer's cap helped carry our luggage. Along with a small tip, I handed him a cassette which had a label, printed in Hungarian, about Jesus. He showed no special response. Five or ten minutes later, however, as I was wandering around, I came across the man again. He stopped, looked me in the eye and said excitedly in English, “Thank you, pastor! Thank you, pastor!” By then he had read the label indicating that the cassette was about Jesus and knew what a treasure he had received. When I saw his joy, my own joy bells started ringing, too. What a privilege it was to share God’s precious word with someone who was so grateful to receive it.
This is the kind of experience that short-term missionaries can expect when they have a Talking Bible or audio cassette with them in an appropriate language. And an experience of this kind may be the beginning of a radically changed life—both for the one who gives as well as the one who receives.
Using the Talking Bible in TESL Projects and Literacy Programs
Millions of people around the world have a strong desire to learn English as a second language. TESL programs (Teaching English as a Second Language) are universally popular and are helping tens of thousands of people learn to speak and read English. Among those enrolled in these programs are students, housewives, well-educated business and professional people and many others. TESL programs not only provide a great practical service to those learning the language, they also often provide wonderful opportunities for the educator to share the gospel.
TESL program personnel can effectively use the Talking Bible in their teaching. Since students greatly increase their fluency in a language by listening while reading, teachers can help students learn to speak and understand English by using the Talking Bible along with a printed text. Students are able to HEAR what they SEE. Under ideal circumstances, they will be able to listen to specific passages repeatedly.
Teachers who are not permitted to use a biblical text in their classes may at least show what can be done by way of “hearing while seeing.” When appropriate, they may even let individuals or small groups borrow their Talking Bible for use outside of class. Students with Internet access may also be shown how they can download written and audio scriptures without charge. Those who desire to purchase their own Talking Bible—and have the funds to do so—may go to Audio Scriptures.org.
By using the Talking Bible to help students learn English, missionaries not only teach students more effectively, they also give them a wonderful opportunity to hear the gospel in a non-threatening learning environment.
For many years Audio Scriptures International (the predecessor of Talking Bibles International) has produced an attractive two-pocket album for speakers who desire to learn English. This album contains two cassettes, one in English and one in the student’s own language, with selected passages from the gospels. A printed booklet with the same passages in English is provided along with the cassettes. By listening to the English cassette and following along in the printed booklet, the student steadily improves his ability to understand and speak English. In addition, the student hears an attractive and compelling message about Jesus.
Within a few months we plan to begin manufacturing a digital solid-state Talking Bible. Its near-perfect fidelity, search-and-find features, easy-to-use button arrangement, low-power consumption and light weight make the new Talking Bible more useful than ever. A new era has dawned in communicating the message of the gospel to non-readers wherever they may live. We eagerly await the time when hundreds of thousands of new believers will echo with shouts of joy the message heard first on Pentecost when people from many nations exclaimed, “We hear them in our own tongues declaring the mighty acts of God” (Acts 2:11b).