During a recent East Africa tour, I had the pleasure of landing in Tanzania once more. Since 1993, thousands of Audio Bibles have been sent to various partners in that country. We hear about the stories, read about them, and see the pictures, but in the end, nothing replaces seeing, feeling, and touching the actual places where the Gospel is transforming countless lives every single year.
Over a period of several days, I traveled with friends from the Bible Society of Tanzania to several parts of this beautiful place. Many words could be used to describe these partners who have truly pioneered the use of audio in their country. Though they oversee many different programs, all of them are laser-focused and pushing forward toward one goal: to reach every Tanzanian with the Word of God.
This impressive determination can be seen at all levels of the organization and begins at the very top. As Rev. Canon Dr. Mkunga H.P. Mtingele, General Secretary of the Bible Society of Tanzania, explained to me on several occasions, they have no interest in mere distribution; rather, they are looking for true transformation and discipleship. To say that such strategy is bearing fruit would be a gross understatement.
As I traveled with these dear friends to rural western Tanzania, village after village, I was privileged to once again witness firsthand what happens when the Word of God goes out, is heard, and put into practice. The impact is nothing short of amazing.
In the western town of Kigoma, bordering Lake Tanganyika, the Gospel is not only transforming individual lives, but entire communities. While attending a local Faith Comes By Hearing church listening group, the pastor shared with me:
When I became the pastor of this church some two years ago, we didn’t have any youth in here. But one day, this Proclaimer was brought to us and Bible listening started. As soon as people heard that we had some new program here, a few young people came and pretty soon, more came and invested themselves in this program, organizing meetings and inviting others to come. This 10-year-old boy standing here in front of you was the one leading the listening program for the entire church tonight! You need to understand that this is the fruit of what this Bible listening has brought about. You are looking at a young boy who came, listened, and quickly grew in the Word to the point that he can now lead this program. Only God can do something this big!
Echoing the pastor’s comments, the village Chairman added:
Street people used to disturb our peace all the time. They didn’t know the Bible nor would they ever come to church. But when this Bible listening started, I saw a change happening in the community with my own eyes. This is why I started attending the group; I wanted to see what could possibly cause this. So I went . . . and then I saw. I saw the transformation that was taking place in our youth. The people who were causing chaos in our streets are now in Church leading listening groups!
Later that day, we visited with the local fishermen in the town of Ujiji, on the shores of Lake Tanganyika. Benjamin, who recently came to Christ, explained to me how he had been a witch doctor for the past 10 years, until one day when one of his friends asked him to attend a local listening group. He went and listened to Mark 6, the passage playing that day. He said:
It was a long chapter, and I didn’t remember everything, but one thing stood out in the midst of everything else. The very last phrase I heard from the recording when it says that people begged to simply touch Jesus’ clothes to be healed. I had never heard anything like this and thought my powers were the only thing that could heal people. But right there, I understood and gave my life to this mighty healer! I have now burned all my idols and left everything from that life, and become a fisherman, telling others about Jesus.
Our partners explained to me how significant it was for this man to now be a witness in this fishing community, because there has been a long-standing belief that witch doctors and their powers are what are needed to bring back full nets every night!
As fishermen mostly work at night and begin preparing the nets in the early evening, boredom is prevalent during the day, often leading to behavioral issues. Our partners are therefore planning to take the Word of God all the way to the water’s edge, giving these men the hope and life they need, and the understanding that almighty God is the only one with the power to fill their nets beyond capacity.
What a blessing it was to see the fruit yielded by these seeds diligently planted, day after day. As we kept moving from village to village, one thought stood out among all others: Isaiah’s words were being fulfilled before our very eyes. My word that goes out from my mouth: it will not return to me empty (55:11).
Image 1: One of the village listening groups Remi attended during his tour of Tanzania.
Image 2: This young boy is only 10 years of age and already leading an all-church Bible listening and discussion!
Image 3: Ujiji, a fishing village on the shore of Lake Tanganyika.