Testimonies from MegaVoice Southern Africa: A Conversation with Johan Grobler
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This month, I had the privilege of speaking with Johan Grobler, Director of MegaVoice Southern Africa. 2022 brought opportunities for new connections and Partnerships in the countries surrounding Johan’s home base of South Africa. We discussed the future of MegaVoice in Africa and he shared many encouraging stories from his experiences over the past year!
What do you wish more people understood about Africa?
“Many people miss the fact that Africa is a huge continent with about 900 million people. The growth rate is far higher than China and even India. Africa’s population will exceed China and India in the next 20-30 years at the most. By 2050 it will be the continent with the most people. Literacy is relatively low. There’s at least 500 million Africans who don’t read, so the need for MegaVoice solutions is huge. We need to have more feet on the ground to make MegaVoice known.”
What is the most encouraging part of your work?
“Seeing someone’s face when they hear the Word of God in their own language for the first time. Especially when it’s somebody who cannot read. They suddenly realize that this is a way to access the Word of God.”
Do you have any recent examples of that?
“I joined a church group that went to the Tanzanian people near Arusha. During a church service I explained to about 80 people how a MegaVoice device works. I just turned the player on and walked down the church aisle and I wished I had a video camera to capture the faces of the people hearing the unit. Many of them were experiencing the Word of God for the very first time.”
Are you focusing just on audio Bibles or do you distribute MegaVoice devices with humanitarian messaging as well?
“We recently took a number of players to a maternity hospital in Tanzania that specializes in women’s conditions. Obstetric fistula affects many younger African women who get pregnant too early and then run into difficulties. Many of them are illiterate and are rejected by their society so they’re on their own. The project involved recording a medical description of the condition in a format that the average person can understand and also some testimonies of women who had been treated. Also, the units included either a New Testament, God’s Story, or The Story of Jesus in languages like Swahili and Maasai.
Many of the women are from a M-person background and if we give them one of these units, when they go back to their village it’s a way for them to spread the Gospel. It’s also a way for other women in the area to get a proper description of the obstetric fistula. There’s so many myths and suspicions around it and the testimonies encourage women to get medical treatment.”
How do you see MegaVoice audio Bibles making a long-term difference in the lives of recipients?
“A few years ago, my wife and I got to do a safari in the Serengeti. The driver introduced us to the expedition cook and immediately when I heard the cook’s name, I realized he must be from a M-person background. When we parted at the end of the trip, the cook said that he was upset that he didn’t get an audio Bible. We had given our driver a Bible because he expressed interest but I didn’t even think of the opportunity to give the cook one! I gave him a Bible in Swahili and I kept in contact with him using WhatsApp.
Of course, I was always careful not to break our relationship by criticizing his religion or anything like that. I just kept communicating with him, asking simple questions about his family and whether his MegaVoice player was holding up.
After exactly three years to the day of our initial trip, he contacted me again after three or four months of no interaction. I just felt that I needed to ask him, ‘What do you think of the contents of the MegaVoice player?’ He said that he would really like to become a Christian. This was exciting but I realized the next thing that often happens in their environment is that you are rejected and even persecuted by your family and friends. I asked him, ‘What do your wife and family say?’ and he said, ‘My wife would like to become a Christian as well and my children also.’ As a result, they are baptized and now worship in a church!”
That’s an amazing story.
“To me it’s a case where we often think we need to have perfect theology and an impressive ability to explain the Word of God, but in this case, I didn’t even direct him to certain passages. He just received an audio Bible and the Holy Spirit guided him to have a desire to become a Christian. So, to me that’s a real encouragement of how audio Bibles are being used and can be used.”
What are your most effective strategies for getting the word out regarding MegaVoice players in Southern Africa?
“Often it’s simply the Holy Spirit’s work! I work with a missionary from Australia who’s supported by the Anglican church in Sydney. We work in the north of Kenya amongst the Cabra and Burana people. The Cabras and Buranas are almost like the families in Romeo and Juliet. Although they basically speak the same language, there’s always a lot of conflict between the two. To such an extent that if young people from the two tribes fell in love they would have to flee out of the community and go to a city where they could disappear, otherwise both of them would be at serious risk.
For the most part, these tribes are nomadic. Many of them are M-people, and due to conflicts, we are not allowed to move around. We went to one specific church and led a few trainings for pastors. We gave about 15 audio bibles to each pastor. A few weeks later I received a picture of a young blind man and he was so happy. He had approached his pastor about two weeks before we visited and asked, “Is it possible to get a Bible that I can listen to?” None of them knew we were coming, but they prayed and two weeks later there we were!
This young man received an audio Bible in his own language. He was so full of joy as a result. To me it’s just a testimony of how the Lord works. He knew beforehand that we would be there and He was planting a desire for His Word without any help from us.”
I hear you saying that it’s not ultimately about your perfect preparation.
“One of the missionaries I’ve traveled with on several occasions spoke to a local newspaper about MegaVoice. The article didn’t describe any of the technical features or abilities of MegaVoice players. It was just a picture of him with a player and it wasn’t even a particularly good photo. The story was not very impressive, but we had so many people call in. Often, we think to have the best pictures and the best story but this story reminded me that just our presence at the right point is often what the Lord uses.
Another missionary I know who ministers in rural Africa recently encountered a very depressed blind man who was considering ending his life because he didn’t see anything to live for. This missionary only had time to spend a few moments with him and give him an audio Bible in his language. Three months later she visited the same village. As she approached the village, she saw this blind man leading a group of people who were organizing a wedding. He was a completely changed man.
His own testimony is that the audio Bible changed his life. Now he’s sharing his audio Bible and letting other people listen to it, but he wouldn’t let it leave his hand. He even charges it while holding it to make sure that he doesn’t lose it. Again, another amazing example of how the Word of God can change somebody’s life without interaction from the outside.”
What differences do you observe between the western Christians and the African Christians?
“I was at a Dutch Reformed Church gathering in South Africa and we were having breakfast and after breakfast I had six missed calls. Four of the calls were from a man named Bongani. He turned out to be a blind young man who was inquiring about audio Bibles. The other two calls were from his sister Thembile. I called her and gave her directions and said to her, ‘I’m about 200 kilometers from the office but I’ll be back by midday and then we can assist with the audio Bibles.’
She found it difficult to find the office and I learned it was because she is so visually impaired that she can’t recognize people. She would even walk into a closed door. I was shocked that she traveled 300 kilometers by public transport to buy an audio Bible for her brother. She was actually also in need of one. When my wife Linda asked her, ‘But don’t you need a Bible?’ she said, ‘Yes, but we only have money for one.’ It was amazing to see her joy when Linda said, ‘We will donate one more.’ She hugged her and she was so, so happy.
I took her to the bus stop where she could take another bus back home. You can imagine that travel like this is costly and not safe, especially if your eyesight is not good. But that is what people do when they really need the Word of God and if it makes a difference in their lives.”
“I had the privilege to go to the Nuba Mountains this year. Unfortunately, this region of Sudan is one of the least developed areas in the world. No roads, no mobile communication, no electricity. Mostly caused by the conflicts between the north and south parts of Sudan. Through a contact that the Lord provided miraculously I was able to go there and bring 270 audio Bibles in English and Arabic that someone donated. We went in an old Russian military plane that was about 60 years old. The plane had no seats and the back door opened when we were about 30 meters above the runway for landing. Apparently, the pilot used that door as an air brake and a lot of us almost fell out of the plane.
We arrived a few days late for a meeting that was arranged for the tribespeople there. The people waited three days under a tree for this meeting to start. In most other places, they would have just left. I think where we live if a meeting is organized for 9 AM on a certain day by 9:15 if the organizers are not there everybody will disappear. But these people stayed and they were so hungry. The hunger for the Word of God is just unimaginable.”
It sounds like your work this year in southern Africa has been very fruitful.
“We hear about all sorts of animosity against Christianity, but in that situation, everyone took a Bible and many came to faith. Yes, there are people who don’t respond, but as I always say, even Jesus didn’t have 100% success. We read about the 10 people that were healed by Jesus and only one came back to thank him. And even on the cross, the one man dying beside Jesus came to faith and the other did not.
To me this story is such an encouragement because it shows the need for God’s Word. People with almost nothing can survive and experience encouragement. The word of God is necessary to change people’s lives.”
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