At a village church in the Kabwa language area in Tanzania, a large group of people have gathered to listen together to the Word of God. But no pastor is preaching; no one reads from a Bible. Instead, they’re using audio recordings of Scripture translated into their language — stored on tiny solar-powered MP3 players.
“Many of them are church leaders from the area,” explained Michiel Louter, a translation adviser with the Mara Cluster Project in northern Tanzania. “They were involved in ‘listening workshops’ like this about a year ago. This one is a follow-up, so they have opportunity to tell us about their experience using the audio Scriptures.”
The testimonies share common themes. The players and recordings helped some people better understand Scripture — “especially children and older adults,” Louter emphasized, “since they often don’t yet understand Swahili well.”
Several people also described listening to the Kabwa language recordings at home with their families. The sound attracted neighbors — even those of other major religions — curious to know what the families were listening to. This led to discussion about how to reach those neighbors with the gospel.
One participant gave advice, saying: “When we use these audio Scriptures, we should believe that it is the words of the Holy Spirit we hear. So, before you switch on the player — pray! And after you’ve listened to a chapter — pray! Then the Holy Spirit can do his work.”
As the listening workshop continued, people formed smaller groups to listen to and discuss a chapter or story from the Bible. “One group listened to the whole book of Jonah,” said Louter. “Then they talked together about what God teaches us through that story.”
One man summed up the main point of the book, which seemed most clear to them: “We shouldn’t say, ‘Those people are so difficult; they are so stubborn, we can’t tell them about the gospel.’ No, that is our task — to go and tell people. God will see to it that they change.”
This article first appeared in Frontlines, Winter 2019, © Wycliffe Bible Translators US. Reproduced with permission.