Monday, 05 September 2011

Smart Phone App Taking Bible Around the World

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Access to Scripture has gotten easier for millions of people all over the world with the introduction of a “smart phone” application with Bible translations in more than 500 languages. An organization called Faith Comes by Hearing released the app for iPhones and other mobile devices a little over a year ago, and in late August announced that the number of languages available on the app as well as the group’s website increased from around 200 languages to over 550. The goal of the Christian ministry, part of the Digital Bible Project, is to extend the influence of the Christian Scriptures — in both text and audio format — to every corner of the earth.

The group’s website noted that the Digital Bible Project is “the world’s largest, standardized, digital resource of Bible text and audio,” explaining that it currently holds word-for-word Audio New Testaments in 565 languages, “with a goal of having 2,000 such recordings by 2016. Current estimates show this will represent a potential outreach to 97% of the world’s population.”

Regarding the smart-phone app, Troy Carl, the group’s national director said, “Our progress over the last year has been nothing short of miraculous, but I guess that should be expected when you’re working for the Creator of the universe.” He added that his organization was “humbled to bring honor to Him by providing free access — in the heart languages of the world — to the saving message that is found in His Word.”

Carl noted that “for the first time in history, you have one application that can singly distribute the Scriptures in all the languages of the world — spoken by at least five billion people. We’re very, very excited about the accessibility of the Word of God to anybody, anywhere, at any time.”

Bill Lohr, a spokesman for the Christian ministry, said that the free Bible app, which was downloaded by an estimated one million people in the first six months after its launch, offers the potential of getting the Bible into the hands of billions of people who would not normally have access to Scripture. “Currently, there are five billion mobile or cellular subscribers in the world,” he said. “That’s only going to expand—even in third world countries there are folks who have these phones.”

He noted that for individuals without Internet access or mobile phone service, Faith Comes by Hearing has also developed a solar-powered device called the Proclaimer, which provides the New Testament to people in their own language. Thus far, the group has distributed nearly 300,000 of the devices in various languages all over the world.

Whether using a smart phone or other mobile device loaded with Scripture, or a Proclaimer, Lohr said that “people going on missionary trips that don’t speak these languages [are] bringing with them something that does speak their language—and that connection is just amazing.”

Carl noted that the new app is even able to circumvent the ban on Scripture enforced by many governments. While many countries might reject the presence of missionaries, “one of the things we’ve found is that there’s no resistance to distribution [of Scripture] as long as it’s coming in through technology,” Carl told Mission Network News.

Carl told CBN News that the group’s digital project is part of an effort to get both text and audio versions of the Bible into as many languages as possible. He said the dramatic increase in the number of languages in which the Bible is offered on the app has come as the result of partnerships with Bible translators. “We work with all the major Bible translation organizations,” he said, “and because of their commitment to fulfill the Great Commission, to get the gospel to every language, tribe, and tongue, that has accelerated our access to the available translations.” He added that because of technological advancements, “what used to take years to complete an audio recording of a Bible translation now we can do in literally weeks. Technology and partnership have made it possible.”

He said that one of the most satisfying things about the project is the responses his group gets from people who had not previously had access to Scripture in their language. “The biggest impact is seeing people come to faith as a result of hearing the gospel in their own language,” he said. “Every week we receive responses from people all over the world, and they’re amazed that somebody cared enough to put the Bible in their own language, especially those who are poor and in rural areas. They’ll tell us, ‘Not only are we excited that you’ve made this available, but you give it to us for free.”

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