Before the end I believe God will guide to the discovery of some new and simple ways of working that will greatly hasten the finishing of His work on earth. Watch for His leading, for to some humble worker a brilliant idea may be given. It may be given to you. God has ways yet unthought of for cutting His work short."
Vividly some of the workers remember these words spoken by J. L. Shuler during his visit to Australia. The thought was not new, for we have already seen some of the simple means God is using to carry His message to those who sit in darkness. As an instance of one of these new and simple ways, reference was made to the Bible correspondence course. Who could foresee when the first printed Bible lessons were brought out and a radio speaker advertised them over the air, that through such simple means literally millions of people would be studying the Advent message?
We were thrilled recently to learn of another device that some feel is doing more to speed up the gospel work than has any other invention since the discovery of radio.
Millions of people are now hearing the gospel story in their mother tongue without a radio, without being able to read, and without seeing the living messenger. Gramophone records are speaking tracts. Coming to them in the native speech of the people, they are eagerly listened to and understood by every man, woman, and child in the villages, including the witch doctors. Experience proves that the people will listen just as often and just as long as the records are played—sometimes all day or all night—till they know the record by heart. The short, basic talks are given as near as possible in Scripture language, and lives are soon changed by the power of the spoken Word of God.
A nonprofit missionary organization known as Gospel Recordings Incorporated was begun for the express purpose of giving the gospel to the people of every language on earth in the shortest possible time. It is sending out, free of charge, unlimited numbers of gospel records in more than one thousand languages and dialects. The records that some of our missionaries have heard give the pure Bible teachings in simple language.
How It Began
What a fascinating story it is! It was our privilege to meet the American missionary, Miss Joy Ridderhof, who was used of God to pioneer this work, and to found Gospel Recordings. This organization is just as undenominational as the British and Foreign Bible Society. Her face shone with the light of faith and love as she unfolded to us the wonderful story of God's providence.
Working in the Catholic land of Honduras, this zealous missionary wished she could speak to a hundred groups at once, wished she had a hundred pairs of feet instead of one pair to travel the hills and carry the gospel of salvation. But instead she was laid low on a bed of sickness for many weary weeks in the homeland, and was told by the doctors that it would be impossible for her to return to Honduras. Cut off from her beloved native believers, she longed to send them a message from God's Word.
On New Year's Eve in 1939 Miss Ridderhof and a friend went into a commercial radio station in Los Angeles and there recorded in Spanish a gospel message in song and word. Very soon the record was on its way to her mission station, and copies of it were sent to other missionaries working in Spanish-speaking fields. The results were most inspiring, and Gospel Recordings became a reality.
2,974 Languages in the World
Continuing the story: "As missionaries from other fields heard of the Spanish records they requested help in making records in their languages. The fact that 2,974 languages are being spoken in the world was staggering. But with God's help Miss Ridderhof took a leap of faith and promised records in other languages as God supplied the talent and the money.
"'Being fully persuaded that what He had promised He was able also to perform,' they have witnessed miracles since 109. Gospel Recordings has its own studios and factories for pressing records and building phonographs."
How It Operates
By the use of a tape recorder, an original record is made of a Scripture talk, singing, or testimony. (Field recording is done by staff members or representative missionaries with approved equipment.) Then a master record is made, from which many copies are pressed in their factories and distributed to foreign mission fields for use on phonographs, loudspeaker systems, and radio transmitters.
"As a field recording team, Joy Ridderhof, Ann Sherwood, and Sauna Barlow went to New Guinea in September, 1952, and in a short time made 1,000 recordings in well over 200 languages. Working with established New Guinea missions they penetrated into uncontrolled territory and reached the remotest tribes and languages."
When we met Miss Ridderhof last October she had just returned from a tour of India. She reported that India's languages were all accounted for, either by the recordings her team had secured or by promises of responsible missionaries to gather them. After visiting London to establish another production center, Miss Ridderhof goes on to join her team in Africa for a two-year itinerary.
She said, "We prayed for a helper to gather all the aboriginal languages of Australia, and Don Richter was the answer." Don told us how he had just completed his search for tribal dialects all through the continent. Since then he has gone to the Solomon Islands. Another team; Vaughan Collins and David Hogan, are reported to be working in Indonesia, confronted with between two and three hundred languages.
They told us how hard, slow, and tedious is the work of getting primitive tribesmen to translate the simple master story into their mother tongues; but everything is most carefully checked before the tape recording is ready for transfer to the record. Sometimes it takes five hours to translate just one side of a record.
Look at the progress of this work:
In 1939, 1 language In 1952, 400 languages In 1954, 1,000 languages Goal for 1955, 2,000 languages
One record was played almost constantly about 400 times, till it was actually worn out in a few weeks. In twelve months one missionary lending out ten phonographs to native workers, who signed for them for a certain period, reported 872 converts, all of whom confessed faith after listening to some of the records.
Advantages Unique to Gospel Records
We mention the following list of advantages claimed for the gospel recording method:
Teaches while the missionary is learning the language.
Aids missionary in language study.
Repeats the message over and over.
Can remain with native, however isolated. Overcomes illiteracy problems.
Enters where doors are closed to Christian missionaries.
Constantly available—and tireless.
Speaks with the native accent and idiom.
Overcomes barriers among cults where priests forbid listening to a Christian missionary.
Native converts, even though not trained to preach, can travel with phonograph and records.
One missionary can use many different language records in places where tribal people of varying dialects gather.
Unusually gripping to older listeners.
Can be used for radio and loud-speaker broadcasts.
Usable where women are secluded for reason of caste.
Available to natives ostracized for reason of accepting Christian faith.
Fascination of the "mechanical voice" traps an audience.
Supplements music in native churches. Children are eager listeners.
The Australian Branch
The first overseas branch was set up in Sydney in 1953, with J. Stuart Mill director of the work in Australia and New Zealand. Four workers constitute the Board of Directors: Miss Ridderhof, J. S. Mill, J. 0. Sanders, and Dr. Paul White of Jungle Doctor fame.
"The Sydney branch," we are told, "embarked immediately upon the manufacture of the phonette, a small gramophone which can be acquired by missionary societies at a very small cost. It is planned for liberal distribution among the natives among whom the missionaries are operating. Available in two models, both inexpensive, the simpler form is designed for primitive natives, it having a minimum of working parts and being operated by a handle crank instead of a spring driven motor." These little gramophones are sent through the mails in what looks like a large cake tin. The light, almost unbreakable records, travel by air mail to all parts of the globe, arriving in good condition.
"All our work is saturated with prayer," said one of their representatives when addressing a Youth for Christ meeting recently. While all are anxious to increase production, yet they stop their work and devote every Wednesday from 9 A.M. to 3 P.M. to prayer. This practice has long been followed at the head office in Los Angeles. How necessary it is that power attend the spoken word of the records! Prayer is the power that keeps the records spinning.
The gospel to all the world in this generation is a big task. But with God, nothing is impossible. May this not be one of the means the Lord has of finishing His work and cutting it short in righteousness?