Today’s world can be described as both shrinking and expanding. On the one hand, tools such as affordable air travel, video phone calls, and instant messaging have made far-flung locations and people accessible to us on a daily basis. At the same time, many of us find ourselves living our lives thousands of miles from our birthplace and deeply missing daily contact with cherished family members. This relocation can happen for any number of reasons: a company transfer, a search for migrant work opportunities, a need to seek refugee status in another country, or even finding love with someone from a far-off land.
NEW WITNESSING OPPORTUNITIES
As challenging as these transitions can be, Seventh-day Adventist church leaders recognize that there is also a bright window of opportunity for witnessing, particularly through mass media. “When people are living far from their homelands, they are especially anxious to hear messages in their mother tongues,” says Ben Schoun, General Conference vice president and chair of Adventist World Radio’s board of directors. “And while they enjoy listening to their language [on the radio or television], they are also hearing the gospel.”
With this in mind, Adventist World Radio has developed a comprehensive podcasting service that now makes all of its radio programs – in dozens and dozens of languages – simultaneously available online as podcasts. Now, rather than broadcasting on the radio to selected target areas, this system enables AWR to connect with listeners around the world all at once. AWR global resource engineer Daryl Gungadoo describes this new worldwide audience as the “new continent” of the digital world.
It has not taken long for listeners to respond. AWR received a message from a businessman from Ethiopia, who had taken a job in the United States and moved his family to Dallas, Texas. But his wife, mother, and children spoke only Amharic, one of the dozens of indigenous languages of Ethiopia. One day, they stumbled across an Internet podcast from AWR in their own language.
Delighted, they quickly wrote to AWR:
“Selam: I was excited to find the Amharic program of AWR the other day. I have been listening to it almost every day . . . I guess, birk honebign meselegn! As well, my mother has been enjoying the program. She would like to pass her humble greetings, yakibrot selamta lemalet new! She appreciates all your programs, for they are the best one can find. Anyway, thank you for the well planned and articulated programs that you present every day. Keep up the good work."
A NEW WITNESSING TOOLS
Besides serving as a voice of hope inside listeners’ homes, these podcasts can also be a valuable aid for local churches and members:
• Church pastors and elders can share the podcasts with members of their congregations or visitors who may not be fluent in the local language.
• Small-group leaders can use podcasts in their chosen language as supplementary material for their discussions.
• Individual members who do not understand the language of their neighbors or other acquaintances can invite them to learn about the Seventh-day Adventist faith through AWR’s programs, by printing and sharing one of AWR’s “neighbor invitations,” available in multiple languages at awr.org.
Online listeners can hear AWR’s programs on demand at awr.org—or subscribe to podcasts through iTunes and other podcatchers. (Search for “AWR” or “Adventist World Radio.”)
CONTENT FOR NON-CHRISTIANS
AWR works with production partners who come from the same language and cultural groups as its listeners. These producers create “contextualized” programs that are unique to each country, region, or language group, and are designed to be relevant to non-Christian listeners.
The programs encourage listeners to grow into a personal relationship with Jesus; segments include short sermons, Bible lessons, interviews, and dramas. AWR also airs programming that addresses other aspects of listeners’ lives, such as features for children, medical advice forums, discussions on family matters, musical presentations, and more.
Messages of God’s love have been heard around the world through AWR for 40 years. In addition to podcasts, programs can be heard on AM, FM, and shortwave radio. These broadcasts bypass political, cultural, and geographic barriers, bringing a voice of hope to people in some of the most challenging places on earth, such as North Korea, Myanmar, Somalia, Nigeria, Pakistan, and more.
An organization called Open Doors publishes a list of countries every year where Christians are facing the highest intensity of persecution. Out of the 50 countries on the most recent list, AWR has been broadcasting programs to 40 of them through the radio. With AWR’s podcasts, the church now has a voice in all of these countries.
Gungadoo says, “I’m overjoyed to see that for the Arabic language, the majority of our podcasting audience is coming from countries such as Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Egypt. That’s a key target area for AWR, as it is not easy to get radio broadcasts into the Middle East, not to mention trying to develop other avenues of evangelism.”
With its new web presence, AWR hopes that millions of new listeners will discover the comfort found in Jesus, as this listener experienced: “Alone in the dark, I heard your voice. Even though I cannot see you, I can feel you near and also feel God’s presence very near. Thank you for your loving and caring program.”
Shelley Nolan Freesland is AWR communication director at the General Conference.