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Jeff and Peg Shrum working for SIL amongst the
Takwane people in Milange District, Mozambique.
Peg Shrum and her husband Jeff have been serving as linguist/translators with the Takwane people of Mozambique since 1998.
This article, originally entitled "Gospel Recordings Alive and Well as Global Recordings Network ...still meeting minority language needs", was written for the SIL International magazine, and is reproduced here with permission.
Global Recordings Network, GRN, (formerly known as Gospel Recordings) is an organization with almost 70 years of experience in ministry to thousands of minority language groups. Good News Media is the ministry in Southern Africa.
We have found their materials effective in bringing the message of Christ to the Takwane people of Mozambique. We took their prepared biblical storying scripts and translated them into Takwane. Then their recording engineers came to us and did the recording. They did all the editing and now we can order as many copies as we need when we need them. The illustrations that accompany the recordings draw a crowd every time.
Some of the GRN materials are sets of audio recordings with accompanying books of illustrations. The system is reminiscent of the old film strips that were accompanied by audio recordings. When the narration is done the listeners are told to turn to the next illustration. Use of Takwane music at these interludes adds a nice touch. The recordings chronologically present the story of the Bible and its major themes.
GRN materials have been translated into over 6000 languages. Most of the LWCs of the world have been done so SIL personnel looking to translate into a minority language would probably have access to a script that national translators could read. Forty offices around the world provide the facilities for dozens of trained recordists.
GRN has ten different scripts that use the visual materials: one script that can be used by itself, one teaching series of eight scripts, and one longer script just about Jesus. The stand-alone script is called Good News. The set of eight scripts is called Look, Listen & Live. And the longer script about Jesus' life is called The Living Christ. Hundreds of other scripts deal with many of the cultural and spiritual issues in Africa in a "stand alone" audio recording.
The Good News
The Good News script covers Genesis through Revelation in 40 pictures that have a two-minute teaching. We did this one first since the church in the Takwane area had received so little teaching in the past. It presents the creator God and then the Bible as his revelation to man and the source of the teachings the listeners will hear. Then it proceeds to tell the story of God's relationship with man through history clearly explaining the need for a savior. The life, teachings, death and resurrection of Christ are presented in relation to the whole story of God's plan. How to become a follower of God is presented tactfully and the basics of Christian living and growth are touched on. The hope of heaven and a challenge to share the good news with family and friends concludes the teaching.
Look, Listen & Live
The Look, Listen & Live (LLL) scripts take the listeners through the Bible in eight chronological chunks. Each book has 24 pictures. The eight script titles are as follows.
|1||Beginning with God||Adam, Noah, Job, Abraham|
|2||Mighty men of God||Jacob, Joseph, Moses|
|3||Victory through God||Joshua, Deborah, Gideon, Samson|
|4||Servants of God||Ruth, Samuel, David, Elijah|
|5||On Trial for God||Elisha, Daniel, Jonah, Nehemiah, Esther|
|6||Jesus - Teacher & Healer||From Matthew and Mark|
|7||Jesus - Lord & Savior||From Luke and John|
|8||Acts of the Holy Spirit||The Young Church and Paul|
At the end of each of the first five scripts the last two or three teachings connect what has been taught to who Jesus is and what he did and taught, presenting the gospel. This is a real strength. The listeners are not left with a nice set of stories but a view of God and his redemption of mankind. Books six and seven summarize Jesus life and teachings. This kind of solid teaching, based on the authority of God's word is what the young Takwane church is getting now. Since the teaching does not address denominationally sensitive topics Catholic, Baptist, Pentecostal, Seventh Day Adventist, Reformed, Assemblies of God, Presbyterian, United Methodist, Church of Christ, Anglican and many other kinds of churches have accepted the materials without complaint. GRN works with any group who adheres to the Evangelical Statement of Faith.
Also available is a script to use the picture books in a Sunday School format with one picture and script for each week's lesson. These are excellent for pre-school programs and for nursery schools as well.
The Living Christ
The Living Christ script is much longer than the others. It has 120 teachings three cassettes. It is a much more detailed presentation of Jesus' life, ministry, teachings, death and resurrection. The side-bound illustration book is A4 size instead of the larger size used for the other scripts.
The accompanying illustrations are what make these materials unique and more effective than the average cassette of teachings and even more effective than storying by itself. One pastor said "When we hear the stories we sort of understand but with these pictures we say 'Oh, that's what it was like.' We really get it."
The illustrations do a good job with the important factors of skin tone and hair color. All participants look appropriately Middle Eastern. The illustrations resemble the flannel graph figures of old. Of course they are much easier to use than flannel graph because there are no pieces to lose, no placement of the parts in their proper order, and nothing falls off the board when a breeze comes up. Each picture is a complete scene in itself.
The illustration books are 42cm x 30cm with a spiral binding on the wide side across the top of the pictures. The same books are used no matter what language the cassettes are translated into. There is an English title on each book plus the book number if it is part of a series. Each book cover is color-coded to match the appropriate cassette so no one has to depend on reading English to sort out which cassette to use. One of the books that had a red cover has been changed to pink (white for certain areas only) in the latest sets since red was not appropriate in some settings.
Each illustration is numbered and the new number is mentioned by the narrator each time a page is to be turned. These are Arabic numbers so that may not be helpful in all language areas. Each illustration also has a Scripture reference at the bottom in English which may not be understood but does serve the purpose of indicating that what is being heard is based on Scripture.
GRN has a specially designed, sturdy, plastic cassette player available. It works with a crank handle that mechanically advances the cassette. This avoids the problem of batteries. We have found these quite durable and easy to service. GRN's service technician here in southern Africa trains nationals to repair the players on site. He is good about keeping parts in stock. Battery Pack Adaptors and mini solar panels are available options.
Plans to move to solid state technology are in place so the hand-cranked cassette players will gradually be phased out. The player being developed by GRN is also a hand wind machine, and is being designed to be used with a bigger group than the output capacity of the MegaVoice player.
The Process and the Impact
At our first big seminar with the local pastors my husband and I had spread on a display table many Christian materials and asked for some consensus on what would be most helpful to their churches and their evangelism efforts. We had TEE book sets, discipleship materials, tracts, the Jesus film, various pamphlets, as well as the GRN materials. We really hoped they would spend some time studying the materials and making a considered group decision.
Instead, they looked at the books without even touching them, and then went directly to the big colorful GRN illustration books with the tapes and texts sitting next to them. In two minutes they had all decided this was what they needed.
We translated, recorded and distributed the Good News cassette and book as a test to see if the format and technology would be well received and have any impact. After the materials were in the field about six months we started making inquiries. One man told us "The churches are now full. People are accepting Christ that we never thought would. When those people were asked why they finally decided to follow God they told us that since all you churches are now teaching the same.
Because of the economic limitations in the Takwane area we decided to distribute players, books and cassettes without charge. Instead of trying to give one set to each church we placed ten sets in ten different communities and asked the churches in those communities to share amongst themselves. We were not sure we weren't being naÃ¯ve thinking they would share but this was the advice of our cultural tutor and church relations advisor so we followed it. Each set was to service 10-15 small bush churches. When we attempted to find out if they really were sharing, one fellow said "Oh, this stuff is too good not to share. The other churches wouldn't put up with that!"
Since the Good News set seemed to be so well received we went ahead and recorded the Look, Listen & Live series. By the time this was prepared they had been using the Good News book for several years. Instead of giving out all eight books at once we decided to distribute only the first book and then every six months give out the next one. We wanted to encourage people to really study the lessons, as well as have enough time to share the book and player around the circuit before needing the player back to listen to the next new book. Through this series we hoped biblical literacy would be advanced to the stage that when the Takwane received the first translated Bible portions they would be able to place them within the context of the whole of Scripture.
Over the years we have added players in 70 other locations through designated donations. We have found that these sets make ideal mission projects for Vacation Bible Schools. Churches can send donations directly to Good News Media for Southern Africa or any other Global Recordings Network office closest to you, designating the funds be used to buy materials in a certain language. GRN then releases the materials to the contact person for that language for distribution. In some parts of the world GRN does fund raising of their own so are occasionally able to donate materials where they are most needed.
- Solid Bible teaching gets to places where there are no trained pastors.
- The teachings are chronological and thematic, giving context to each story.
- Teachings can be heard more than once without confusing variations.
- Teaching is in the mother tongue and cannot be switched to the LWC.
- The technology draws an audience. See photo
- Illustrations help people understand unfamiliar concepts or terms.
- Illustrations help dispel misconceptions about Bible times and people.
- The missionary gets relationships with all the local pastors who come asking for materials.
- Short term volunteers can use the materials without local language skills.