Getting God's Word to every person in every location or community in the world is a challenge and a mission for all Christians. The challenge lies in communicating with people groups who speak different languages while others cannot read printed materials at all. Because the majority of the world’s population learns by hearing and half are functionally illiterate, it is only through oral scripture translation in their mother tongue that people can hear with their hearts and learn the word of God.
The Faith Comes By Hearing ministry has been working on this mission for the past fifty years. Morgan Jackson, its current senior vice president and son of ministry founders, Jerry and Anet Jackson, joins us today in part 1 of our 2-part interview to tell us the impact that the ministry creates for the people groups that they’ve been reaching. Having recorded and dramatized the New Testament in 1740 languages, Faith Comes By Hearing in partnership with similar organizations, has provided God's Word in audio and video for over 80% of the world's population. Find out how they do it and don’t miss the remarkable story of the Jackson family’s extraordinary journey of faith. Hear it now!
Key Points From This Episode:
“My dad taught us how to pray and to be quiet and listen to that still small voice of the Holy Spirit in our hearts so we can hear God's voice.”
“If you give them a printed Bible, they can't read it. But when the Word of God is brought to them in the heart language, their lives are transformed.”
Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:
Answers To Prayer by George Muller
The Kingdom Investor Podcast on LinkedIn
About Morgan Jackson
Morgan Jackson is passionate about God’s Word and getting it to people across the world in a way they understand. He serves as Senior Vice President of Faith Comes By Hearing, where he’s worked for decades with partners to record Audio Bibles in the languages of the world.
Morgan is the son of Faith Comes By Hearing founders Jerry and Anet Jackson, and he learned from an early age the importance of uniting the Body of Christ and overcoming obstacles to share the Word of God. He has traveled to more than 80 countries so far to make that happen.
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Daniel White (DW): Hello, and welcome to The Kingdom Investor Podcast. I'm your host Daniel White. Today we bring you an incredible story from Morgan Jackson. Morgan is the Senior Vice President at Faith Comes By Hearing. Morgan shares stories from his unique childhood. His early years in starting businesses, and ultimately how God used his family's faithfulness over 50 years to impact hundreds of millions of people around the world through audio Bibles.
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Without further ado, let's jump right into part one of this two-part episode.
DW: Good afternoon, Morgan, and welcome to The Kingdom Investor Podcast. How are you doing this afternoon?
Morgan Jackson (MJ): Good, Daniel. Thanks for the invitation.
DW: Great, so I was wondering if you could just maybe share a little bit about yourself what you're doing and where you're coming to us from?
MJ: I'm coming to you from Albuquerque, New Mexico. And the ministry of Faith Comes By Hearing was started 50 years ago by my parents I've been here now 40 years. I was a young business owner when God called me to join and getting to be an old man. The ministry of Faith Comes By Hearing is focused on getting people to hear the Bible. And so we work with Wycliffe Bible Societies, Pioneer Bible Translators, and others. So when they're done with the translation, the majority of the people in that people group are illiterate and aural, we'll come in and do a drama recording. So, we have 50 teams around the world, they'll go in to a drama recording using 25 voices. We'll then put that on devices digitally. So you can have it on an app, or phones, put it on gospel films, which are full-length films. And then we bring it back into those communities so that people who have never heard God's Word in their language, can hear it. So we've done 1700 languages of at least the New Testament so far, and we're working to get every single language of the world done by 2033.
DW: Wow, that's incredible. Morgan. I'm excited to hear more about that and, even hear your story too. And how you got into that. Before we do, do you mind praying for our listeners in this time?
MJ: Yeah. I just pray for all of those that are on the podcast today that they would hear with their heart, that you would speak to them and open up on the whole world that they have never heard or understood about people who sit in darkness. And if you give them a printed Bible, they can't read it. But when the Word of God is brought to them in the heart language, their lives are transformed. So, Lord, I ask, just for these listeners, I pray your spirit would indwell this conversation with me and Daniel. We ask this in your name, Lord Jesus. Amen.
DW: Thank you. That was so good. Would you share your backstory and kind of how you got to where you are now?
MJ: Yeah, well, when I was I was raised in Southern California, a little community called Upper Ohio, between Ohio and Santa Barbara just outside of Ventura. We lived in the mountains, so idyllic childhood, forts, barefoot, creek fishing holes, BB guns. When I was 12 years old, my dad came home. He had come to faith in Christ when he was in his 20s. He had been raised in foster homes and orphanages from four to 12. And so really had a rough upbringing. When he was 20, married my mom and attended a church with three little kids, heard the gospel, read the Bible, came to faith. And so he was a business guy, but he was a passionate God follower. And one day he was reading a book by George Muller, "Answers To Prayer". And in that book, George talks about how he took care of some 2000 orphanages by prayer, by faith alone, never asking.
MJ: And he felt the Lord say, I want you to do that. And so he went to my mom, I think he would have been probably 34, 35 years of age, had four kids, three boys and a girl and said, I think we're supposed to do X, sell everything, move into a mobile form of life, and just go wherever God tells us to. And so, when I was 12, he bought a 1955 school bus, converted it into a house car. This was 1969 and moved four kids and my mom and dad into a converted bus. And we moved to the Navajo reservation where he tried to win the whole Navajo Nation to the Lord and failed miserably. And after a couple of months, ran out of money. And the Lord said, I want you to go out in the desert, and just read the Bible every day. And that's all I want you to do eight hours a day.
MJ: So he'd take the little Volkswagen, drive out in the desert, take a lunch and water and coffee, and eight hours later, we'd see him come out of the desert. And he did that for six months. And even though Kayenta was the most distant post office in the United States, people started getting woke up in the nights and He said send to Jackson money and over that six months, God paid us. And so we traveled around for four years that way before we ended up in Albuquerque, and that's when the Lord told my dad he wanted him to start the ministry we have here in Albuquerque. That time it was called Hosanna. So, it was a tape loan library. And then in the 80s, we got involved in the audio Bible as our primary ministry but we came living in a school bus.
So when I was 16, I was still living in a school bus. So, that was a little bit of a different experience. We lived outside a hippie community, lived in a Hopi village, lived in the Navajo reservation. So, I was the only white kid in my class. And I was 12 years old, weighed 78 pounds, was four foot 11, and the Navajos were a few years behind in school, because they didn't know English when they came in. So they were all 15, 16, five foot nine to six foot. So, fortunately, they were all kind. Otherwise, I was gonna be dead within a few days. But they were all very, very kind to this little guy.
DW: Wow. That's, that's quite a story. So in that process, growing up, how did that translate into, I guess what you're doing now? And kind of, can you build that out a little bit?
MJ: Well, I think part of what happened was, it was such an amazing childhood. Because you didn't, you weren't churched. I mean, you were in church but you weren't in the typical, you go to church and as a religious experience, and you may or may not really know God. I mean, we were living by faith. So, my folks were telling us how much money we had, how much we didn't have, where we were going, what our prayer was, how God answered that prayer. And so you are constantly and then my dad loved to try the Bible out. So I remember I was 13. We're going across the country, we didn't know anybody. And my dad said, hey, the Bible says whenever you come to a new town or place, you're supposed to inquire who in the town is worthy and stay with them. And we don't know anybody so, we're gonna try that out. We're going to go every time we stop, we're just gonna go and inquire who's worthy. So I'm like, okay, I mean, dad didn't force us to do anything. So we just got to watch. And they would stop in a city, little town, somewhere in Texas, Oklahoma, and my mom or dad would take turns and they'd be praying, do we go to the gas station, the grocery store or the clothing store? And they'd pull up and walk into a clothing store and somebody come out and say, can I help you? And they say, yeah, you know, we're missionaries and the Bible says, when you enter a strange town, you're supposed to inquire who's worthy and stay with them. So, we'd like to know who's worthy and they'd be like, what?
MJ: And so, they repeat it and always knew who was worthy. And almost every time the person we stayed with God was doing something in their life. There was something that was happening in their life. One young guy in the clothing store, felt like he was being called to be a pastor, but he had two little kids, just couldn't figure out how he could afford Bible school. Came over, knocked on our bus door, invited him and had a cup of coffee, talk. After two hours of telling miraculous stories of God provision, he just kind of said, all right, I got it. I got it. God can do this. And he's telling me he'll provide. So, the next morning he called the Bible school and said, I'm in. I don't know how I'm gonna pay for it, but I'm in. I trust God. And so those are the kinds of things. It prepared you. And my dad taught us listening prayer. He just said it's never good to have a conversation where you're the one that's talking. In most prayers, we do all the time talking and we don't ever consider that God wants to speak to us.
MJ: And so my dad taught us how to pray and then to be quiet and listen to that still small voice of the Holy Spirit in our heart. So, that's probably the most important thing. The thing that my father and mother taught me is how to hear God's voice. But then, the second is faith. How to believe God. A few years ago, I thought, my mom was a farmer's daughter. And farmers worry about everything. How in the world did my mom move from three and a half acres, two houses in California into a school bus with four kids and absolutely no salary, no support. Becasue we do raise support, we just went wherever. And we had no support. And so we didn't have any monthly support and so it was just month to month. And so, I asked her, Mom, how did you do that? And she said well, when your dad first came to Christ, I always wanted a Christian husband but not a radical one. And your dad was radical. And anything that his pastor asked him to do, he would do. He was just right there. And he believed the Bible completely.
MJ: And she said, you know, three of you guys, you're fifteen months apart. And one night, we were going to church, and we had like 75 cents, of coure, this was 60 some years ago, so, we were having milk and I told your dad, don't give beca4se our pastor, she said, at ti`mes, had taken five offerings. That's what she said. She was like, don;'t give all the money away. Tonight, we have to get milk for the kids. It was 2 days before payday, we need milk. She said but your dad grunted at me, we got in the car and I though he didn't really hear me. So, she said, I repeated it to him and he not in his head and she said, hmm, we're still not confident so at the door at the church doorstep, she said, I told him, he can't remember milk, money, kids.
She said we sat down and of course, you know, church at night, 3 little kids between you and just trying to manage him. And she said, the pastor took the offering, and she said since I saw your dad reach in and put something in but I was comfortable. And she said then the pastor did one of this, you really love God! You really trust in God! And driving in his hand and was, no, since I'm giving him the evil eye and he's not paying any attention, all the money goes in. She's, I was so mad at him. When we get outside the church, do we have money for milk? No. So, the silent treatment all the way home and she said, we get out, we lived in the country a little farmhouse. So she said, you know, we walk up and we had you know, the big old old refrigerator was really empty except for some carrots in it. So she said, I grabbed that. And with all the emotion and drama, you gotta, here we have these little kids, we don't have any milk. She said, I grabbed it, and I flung it open. And she said, the whole thing was just packed full of milk, top to bottom.
MJ: And it was these little milk cartons that you get a score, right? And somebody, I mean, they literally had jigsaw them in, puzzle them in so that you couldn't fit anything in the refrigerator because it was flush with milk, barely close. And she was like, and she said, in that moment, you know, your dad hit the floor, praising God, raising his hand. And she says, glad I'm not gonna kill him. But in that moment, she said the Holy Spirit spoke in my heart and said, if I can take care of milk, I can take care of you. And she said, after that, I always remember that and I never worried that God can take care of milk and she said, we realized miracles take work. She said, we found out that there was a guy that we barely knew, who was a milkman that took milk to all the schools on a Sunday before school started and he had delivered milk and they had given him too much.
MJ: And so he had this leftover milk and he said, I'm not just gonna throw this away. And he was a little frustrated and, oh, the Jacksons live around here. He didn't know exactly where but it kind of, you know, we're the only house in that part of the little field country. So, he found his way, found the house. But it was dark, no lights on. And he goes, oh, they're Christians, are at church and he thought, well, you know, people won't lock their doors back then. So he thought, well, I'll check, door was unlocked. So he was gonna set it down then he felt, oh, I'll go put it in the refrigerator. And he said he opened the refrigerator and it was empty, except for these carrots. And he said it just tickled him. And so for the next hour, he spent an hour just, you know, putting these milk cartons in until it was flushed. And so I think those two things, learning that God hears our voice, and that he's faithful. He can take care of milk so he can take care of you. And learning to listen when you pray. So, two-way conversation. Stop, wait and hear from God.
DW: That's incredible that early on in life, you had that radical of examples, and got to see God being faithful when we do things that are, by worldly standards, very foolish and don't fit into our logic. So, you know, thinking about that, in your personal journey. How did that affect you? Did you start out trusting God in all things and being, you know, radical yourself? Or did it take more have more time to develop that? Or what did that look like? Does that make sense?
MJ: Yeah, in my teenage years, I think I was, I love the Lord and was solid. But I was, you know, as a teenager, and I didn't really do anything bad. I was a wrestler so but, you know, living in a bus, you didn't exactly invite people home. And we're always moving around. So, really didn't have necessarily a lot of friends. So, I was more quiet, reserved, just focused on wrestling and my family. And then when I turned 18, got out of school. I started my first business. I started a contracting, painting contracting business. And then I moved to Flagstaff, Arizona, and ran a ministry for two years and then started another business. But I was radical in that when I went I was in Flagstaff, and I was 20, I had known a young girl, a woman, I was planning on marrying a different woman. And one night at a banquet, the Lord spoke to me and said, that woman will mold perfectly with your spirit.
MJ: I had been discipling her. I knew a bunch of college kids because of the ministry I was running. I had no interest in her and never dated her. I had the girl I thought it was going to marry with me. I just knew it was wrong. And I didn't know that my wife Mary, who's my wife now had called out to God two months before to say, I want, she had been a new, she was a new believer. I want a husband, but I don't know how do I choose the man I'm gonna live the rest of my life with. How do I do that? I want you to tell me who he is and tell me through a megaphone. And what I didn't realize is that two months before that she had been on a trip. And the only time in her life she's ever heard an audible voice, she had an audible voice from God saying, she was thinking of a blonde guy, six foot one, handsome, unlike me, I had a crew cut that at that time, scars all over the place, broken nose, big scars gaping on my crooked head. And she just thought I was the ugliest thing.
MJ: She thought I had a great heart, but she had zero interest in me. And she heard an audible voice that you're not going to marry this other blonde handsome guy. You're going to marry Morgan. And so we then spent four months she went overseas. We had no idea that each one of us had heard that. You know you had the breakup, not a breakup, we only dated for like five days. And then, my hair had grown out. And she was excited because we had had a little kiss the night before she came by my office and I had got a haircut and she says I had shaved my head and I have all these scars on my head because I was really rough as a kid and the doctor had told my mom listen, it is costing you a fortune. You know, he has already four on his face, they get stitches. But on the head, just put a cold compress on it and don't bring him in. So I had all these gaping wounds on my head that had never been sewn up. And so I looked like a junkyard dog. So when I cut my hair, she came by my office, look through the windows, took one look at me, almost puked and fled.
MJ: She told God I cannot do it. He's too ugly. I can't do it. Can't make that happen. And so she avoided me until she went overseas. We had one meal together with the guy that she you know, she was thinking and she told me she was from California. We're now in Flagstaff, Arizona. She had gone to NAU. She's telling me she's going to join the Peace Corps. She's not coming back and of course I had no idea God told her she was going to marry me. I didn't tell her anything about God when God spoke to me. So she's telling me she's gone. I'm thinking I must not have heard from God. So I write her off. But once she got away from my ugly face then she began to believe once again, it's a whole series of miracles. And at the end when she came back four months later, we got engaged. Didn't love each other, didn't know each other. Fell in love over the six months of engagement. So I had an arranged marriage.
MJ: God told her. God told me and so we were married. So yes, that was a pretty radical experience. And then after having a couple of businesses, one day, my wife said, something's wrong, not right. And she wrote me a note. And so again, I went out. And we had lived in a little double-wide trailer in Flagstaff. Forest Service, went out praying and said, Lord, what's what's going on? You know, Mary's uncomfortable, I think I'm doing well. I'm not working weekends, I'm not working too many hours. What's up? And the Lord just said, I want to teach you something. And there's an easy way and a hard way to learn it. And I said, what's the easy way? The easy way is to sell your businesses and just go work for your dad. And the ministry at that time had been around for about 10 years, was almost bankrupt, gone from 35 people to 12 people.
MJ: Everybody was working out of a box because they couldn't cash through paychecks. And I'm like, I thought dad was gonna leave that ministry, close it down and come to Flagstaff because all the boys are in Flagstaff. But unbeknownst to me, God has spoke to my mom a couple of years before that, and said, when you enter the land, I'll gather your son's back across the river, Rio Grande River to the base of the mountain, into the land I've given him. And just a few months before that, they've been living by faith for 12 years, God spoke to my dad and said, you get into the land. And from that day on, all the miraculous provision stopped.
MJ: For 12 years, they had no salary, they just depended month to month on the Lord. And at that time, the mana and the quail stopped, and they had to go on salary. And so my mom then started praying, you said, Lord, but the three sons lived in Flagstaff. And within a year, I was the first my little brothers is the second and my older brother was the third, all of us quit what we're doing and came back to serve my father. So Mary and I were the first though so I'm gonna have to say that was learning radically how to follow God.
DW: You sold all three of your businesses and moved out, oh two, I'm sorry, two businesses. Which two businesses were those?
MJ: Um, one was a little, was a detail shop, glorified car wash. And the other one was actually similar to what we were doing in ministry. So, it was selling blank cassettes, duplicators, audio Bibles, custom duplication for different churches and ministries. And so, that one was the one that was doing really well.
DW: So what did that look like when God called you to leave those businesses?
MJ: You know, for me, one was, you know, wasn't a very profitable one, the detail shop. The tape ministry, the tape business was growing fast and was becoming very profitable. For me, it just, it was like immediate. Once God spoke, my father train us so well, there was, I went in and told my wife, my wife told me she would never live in Albuquerque. I walked in, I said, this is what the Lord, I feel the Lord has said. She's like, let's go. And so I called my dad. And, of course, he couldn't afford another salary. But I know my mom was standing over his shoulder saying, don't you tell that boy, no. So he said, don't sell anything, don't do anything. Just come and work with me for a month, and we'll see what happens. And so I did, but I sold everything.
And Mary was boxing everything up. And, and so after a month, everything was fine. And, I moved in. And so I've always been the voice and face of the ministry.
MJ: My father is the visionary. He's the president, but he's not the person that goes out and communicates. And so, I've always been that voice and face. My brother is, the oldest brother is the engineer. He's the COO. He handles the people, the production, the administration side. My little brother was the worker. His wife was the HR director. So she managed our HR for a long time as we grew. And he was just a good hard worker. And so he just worked hard. He was never in management but was a very productive member of the team. And he's then now was disabled and retired, but my older brother and I are still standing side by side. My father is 86, will turn 87 in a couple of months and still comes into the office every day.
DW: Wow, that's really cool. How God brought you all together to grow that ministry. Can you tell us a little bit more about the growth of the ministry?
MJ: Yeah, we started as a tape loan library. So we had like 6,000 tapes, Chuck Smith, J Bernoulligi, Bill Bright and people would pay $5 and check out three tapes. So we had 300 libraries that we started around the nation. Sold blank cassettes, cassette duplicators, were the third largest supplier of blank cassettes. And the audio Bible was already always a part of what we did. American Bible Society recorded, Alexandria Score V, they gave us permission. So, we were selling them. But it was, in '77, my dad saw a study that showed that 80% of American Christians weren't reading the Bible. And so he kept, he had been reading through the New Testament once a week, Romans 10:17, faith comes by hearing, hearing the word. So he said, I wonder if we could get Christians to listen, even if they won't read. So we did a study with five churches and it just blew out.
MJ: The churches who did it, we loaned them all the cassettes they needed, if they could get 50% of their members to listen to half a cassette a day, which was 45 minutes in the car on their home. And the churches that did that just had revival in the church. And so we went, oh, faith does come by hearing. And so then we almost went bankrupt. That was the time period that I had my businesses and my dad was thinking of closing, they went from 35, down to 12 people. So, in '81, we came back, and that then became the focus of the mission was to work with churches to get people back in Scripture. So we actually became the largest producers of audio Bibles in the world. And we were doing about 800,000 New Testaments a year, we were working with 50,000 churches, because only 2% of Christians went to a Christian bookstore in a given year. So the people were in the churches, so we would call the pastor and say 80% of your people aren't reading the Bible. And, we started out with a program. But then we got captured, unfortunately, into a typical missions and ministry concept that distribution equals impact, which it doesn't. And so the more you distribute the more missionally you know, we distributed a million tracks, everybody throws them away, one gets found in a gutter, read, that person comes to faith in Christ. So we print them another million tracks, even though only one out of a million is read.
MJ: So we were distributing all of these cassettes to 50,000 churches, 800,000 people, but only getting 15 testimonies a year. Now we had lots of people say they love it, they like it, but only 15 testimonies of transformation. So in '87, my dad came to me and said, something's wrong. And we prayed it through. And we just said, we're not going to hire another person. We had 246 members of staff at the time. So we're not going to hire another person until we find a way to get the 80% of Scripture. So we began a four-year journey, lost two-thirds of our staff, and took us four years and created a process or a program we call Faith Comes By Hearing. And what we found is the key was the pastor and the church. But the pastor had to ask the whole church to join him or her in listening through the whole New Testament over a 40-day period, 30 minutes a day. And then challenging everybody, play a drama so they could hear it was dramatized. Ask questions like how many of you spend time in the car every day? Everybody raise your hand? All right, if you spend 30 minutes a day listening, you'll go through the whole New Testament in the next 40 days.
MJ: So, how many of you will agree to listen? Show of hands? Get a signed commitment. Then we'd ship the audio Bibles, pastors would stand out at the exit of their church, my pastor did and just said, I want to hear Matthew, when you believe, Matthew one, we wrote it on your window, I want to hear it. So people were then injecting scripture listening, and suddenly we were getting 70% of people in the church in Scripture. We're getting 35, 50 testimonies from single churches. And we had spiritual warfare like you couldn't believe. Because now we're getting, you know, the people that are not in the Word of God that cheat, lie, steal, committed adultery, but go to church on Sunday, I would call them the devil zone, the Devil loves them. You don't have any problem with you getting the people that are already in the Bible in the Bible. But when you get the devil zone in the Bible, and suddenly they stop cheating, and stealing and lying and beating their wives there, you don't like that. So we started having lots of that.
MJ: So, we then call that program Faith Comes By Hearing, came from a pastor who did the 40-day program and called it Faith Comes By Hearing. So I'd like to say we were the one that created the name, but it was actually a pastor in the church. And in that time, then missionaries started coming to us and so we have others that started coming going, what are you doing? You guys are producing these audio Bibles, read in English and Spanish from Americans who can read. We just translated the Bible but only 2%, 1%, 25 of the people can read the Bible. Bible Society would say, hey, in Haiti, we print the Bibles and people come back and the pages are missing out of the Bible. And we say what happened to the pages in the Bible? And they said, well pastor, you told us that man cannot live by bread alone, but by every word that comes to the mouth of God, and we can't read. So what we do is we just tear a page out of the Bible every day and put it in the soup, and we eat it.
MJ: In Nigeria, they told us, they buy four Bibles when they build a house. They can't read that Bible. But they've heard that if you built your house on the Word of God, it won't fall. So they put a Bible in the corner, under this cornerstone or in the cement. So, we found people eating Bibles, sleeping on Bibles, burying Bibles. And we found out that 70% of the world's population was aural. That meant that was the primary way, in fact, most Americans are, if they say 70% of Americans do not read, read one or less books a year and so we're more aural. Around the world, 50% of the world was functionally illiterate, we had no idea. So they started saying, hey, everybody's illiterate, help us.
MJ: Now we were a self-supported nonprofit meaning. Rremember, we came from a George Muller thinking, we pray God provides. So when we came out of our financial problem, what my father had done is he had actually applied business principles. During their near bankruptcy, he was reading two books, business books a week and sending me the best one or copying the best pages. So I was getting a business education in my business as well. He was applying business principles to the ministry. And so he went to profit and loss. And so we looked, we were nonprofit, but we looked very much like a business. We were manufacturing, we were buying, selling. We had 54 salespeople on the phone, calling churches. So it was mission, but it ran just like a business. And our donations may have been $20,000 a year on $7 million in income.
MJ: And so we get now to this place where we're finding out the whole world is illiterate, and they're saying, send money. Well, we had made some profit in the 90s, early 90s. So we took those monies, along with donations from our staff, and we started doing tests. Now everybody's illiterate. So you just send audio Bibles out, right, and they just fall off the cliff. You don't know what happened to them. You don't hear anything. You get a picture of 100 people lined up pastors, you know, smiling and you don't know whether they're happy because they got a whole set of cassettes are gonna sell for a month's wages. Race and put Maranatha music on or, or what? We don't know.
MJ: And so we then began this whole journey of discovery, how do you reach illiterate people? And so we reading we, and it was nationals, Theo's sorry, Romo Sagne, Simpson, from India and Peru, and then Ghana, who began to come and say, Hey, we're community. You don't need to provide an audio Bible per family per person. Just one per village. And we'll come together to listen. And suddenly we did that. So we would provide one audio Bible, at that time it was cassette, and then they would have to buy a cassette player, they'd sell a sheet, buy batteries, buy a player, and then the whole village would come together.
MJ: I remember going to the first village in Ghana. We had recorded the Ashanti, took five years to record the New Testament. You come into a village and we tell the chief and elders hey, we got the Bible in the shop, and they're like, no, God doesn't speak Ashanti. He only speaks English. Oh, no, no, he speaks to Ashanti. So you take the player out and push the button and out of it comes Ashanti. Now we were doing everything dramatized because in aural cultures, if something's important, it will come to them in a story and a drama and a song. So they have memory cues. And so we would have a voice for Jesus, the devil, God. We have music, we had the effects, the birds, the wind, the sea. So when you turn it on, they would just be gone. And the old man was gonna speak shoreline village. And so they grab a piece of metal they call the Ganga, go to the village.
MJ: And pretty soon 300 people are under the mango trees. And so you bring out the word of God and then you push the button and it's like all sound in the village is just gone. Nobody moves, nobody twitches for the next 45 minutes. And when you look in their eyes, you realize they're not with you. And it took five years for me to understand what was happening. And what was happening is aural people have a circular worldview. And most of them are animistic. So they worship their ancestors, they sacrificed to them. So all of their ancestors coexist with them today. So they don't see something as 2000 years ago, a relative could have died 1000 years ago, and yet they can still bring sickness and death today. Actually very Jewish, if you think about it, right? Jesus was on the Mount of Transfiguration, who is with him? Right? Elijah and Moses, were they dead or alive? The minute you say alive, you're like, oh, and then the story of Lazarus and the rich man, right? The boy was dead. But he was alive somewhere, right? He's talking to Abraham, and the rich man's talking.
MJ: And so Jesus is saying, I'm not the God of the dead. I'm the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I'm the God of the living. So Hebrews were surrounded by this host of witness. So when they hear scripture in their language, they can't separate themselves from the story. They literally enter the story in it's as if it was happening right then, as if Jesus was speaking to them. So people get healed, people get delivered from demons while they're listening to the Bible. And I just like, what is going on here? And so, it was just mind-blowing. So whole villages were coming to faith in Christ. I mean, you listen for 45 minutes, people who were serving idols for 70 years would raise their hands, how do I enter this kingdom of God? How do I follow this Jesus? And so it was just, it was mind-blowing.
MJ: Now, one of the things that was crazy is so many people were coming to faith in Christ. And when we started doing the drama recordings, and the Bible, it was for the churches because we had learned that less than 5% of Christians in Africa and India had ever been able to read the New Testament. In fact, it was less than 2%. So our goal was to produce an audio Bible to give it to pastors so that they had a tool because many of them had no Bible. They spoke Ashanti and they had a King James Bible in English. That was the only Bible they had and they couldn't read it.
MJ: And so people were syncretistic you know, they come to church, pray, sing, shout, and then Monday, they're beating their wives. Thursday, they're going to fetish priests. Saturday, they're getting drunk and Sunday, they're back church. So we were trying to give the pastors in these remote rural areas and slums, an audio Bible. Everywhere I was going, half the people were brand new believers. You know, you go to Peru, and they got one audio Bible, and they planted 31 churches using the one, these villages because the people were communal, they come to her cheap, they conduct the harvest the potatoes, and they'd hear the Bible in their, the village of their son or daughter, and they demand that they bring it to their village. So they bring one of the cassettes in a village. And pretty soon the community would form a church and then somebody else would demand. So, you know, we'd start with one and then we'd have the demand for 31 because 31 churches.
MJ: So, I began to ask people, you know what story or stories when you hear it in your own language caused you to come to faith in Christ? And one out of three of them would tell me, oh, is the genealogy. When I heard the genealogy of Jesus, that's when I accepted Christ. I'm like, what? People who grew up in Togo told me that the Cava, that genealogy was so powerful, that they created a song out of it, then they were an unreached people group less than 2% Christian and they say how we evangelize is we go to a village, and we'll sing the genealogy of Jesus. And then we invite people to accept Him.
MJ: And I'm like, I don't get it. So, 20 years ago, I was in San Jose speaking to some Christian business guys. And I told a couple of stories like that and a business guy came up to me afterwards, really unhappy. And he said, you need to stop telling those stories. I know you think they're funny, but the genealogy has no value. He was just upset with me. Well, right behind him was the only black guy in the room was an African from Zimbabwe. And he jumped in and he said, no, no. He said, the genealogy is my favorite part of the Bible. And that business guy looked at him like he had two heads and he's like what? He goes, you have to understand our culture.
MJ: He said, in Africa, we don't care what school you went to, how much money you have. The only right you have to speak is based on who your daddy's daddy is, who your tribe clan genealogy is. I come from an important tribe in Zimbabwe. I come from the chieftain clan. And I'm the firstborn of my father who was the firstborn of his father. He's the first one of his. So whenever there's a tribal event, we have to go to the community. And the aunties of my father will teach all of the women our genealogy and so on. So when we come into the village, they will come out singing and dancing and... Zacharias Samina. So by the time we get to the center of the village, everybody knows somebody of importance has come. And then I went, oh, that's what was happening. So in these villages, you take out the word of God that's in their language. They've never heard the scripture in their language. The most important thing before you speak is do you gotta tell me your genealogy? You have to give authority to me. So you push the button and out of it, and my language is says, and this is the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of Abraham, the son, David.
MJ: Now, everybody in Africa knows Abraham because of Christianity and Islam. So the minute they hear that everybody leans forward, and they hear the genealogy, 14 generations from Abraham, to David and the village goes quiet. Then 14 generations from David to the Babylonian exile, now nobody twitches, nobody moves, a sound is not heard, and 14 generations from the Babylonian exile to Christ. Now nobody moves. Everybody leans forward to listen. A virgin gives birth to a child, John the Baptist comes screaming out of the wilderness, repent. Jesus confronts the devil in the wilderness, and he tells him, get behind Me, satan, for it is written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve. And so they survivors. Then calls his disciples, heals people, then he does the sermon on the mount. They're the poorest of the poor, these people, live on $1, $2 a day.
MJ: What's the first thing Jesus says, Blessed are the poor. And they're just like, boom! Well, no, no, no, blessed are the wealthy. Blessed are the merciful. No. no blessing. Others don't have to bless others and more. No, I mean, in the next 20 minutes on the Sermon on the Mount, turn the other cheek, love your enemy. He literally shreds their worldview, everything they believe. And although they want to reject Him, they cannot. They know that what he's saying is absolutely true. Because he has the greatest genealogy of anybody who has ever spoken. And they have a problem.
MJ: When you hear the Bible in your in English or something else that comes here and you slowly try to assimilate it. And you can create walls and barriers to stop it. But when it comes in your own language, it comes umbilically. It's in your DNA, and as you hear it, you have no resistance, and it's inside you and you can't get it out. And so we call it you know, dividing the line between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and the thoughts and intents of the heart, the world got a sharp, but they call it DNA, it's mud. It comes in like an umbilical cord. And once it's in, you literally see people who want to resist it, unable to sleep, and they literally, you know, you almost feel like they're trying to claw it out of them. But it's in their DNA. They've heard it in their mother tongue, and they cannot escape.
[END OF PART 1 INTERVIEW]
DW: This concludes part one of this two-part episode.
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