About 10 years ago I started going to East Asia with the purpose of distributing Bibles and other life giving materials to tourists who were outside their country on vacation. After receiving the materials, nearly every person carried the packet of materials with them back into their home country. Prior to my fourth trip, a local friend asked me to carry solar powered MP3 players with the Bible on it for further engagement with people groups in East Asia. Like a supportive friend I gladly brought them, enjoyed the distribution time with him and wrapped up a great visit. On my flight back, I was thinking, why was my team carrying audio players with the Bible on it?
Doesn’t everyone read?
As I had time, I looked into the topic and to my great horror found that indeed there were non-readers in our world and that the
percentage of non-readers was likely above 70% world-wide.
In areas with unengaged, unreached people groups (UUPG), it is above 80% non-readers. It was a crisis moment for me. If the Bible was translated into all the languages of the world at the snap of a finger, there would still be the vast majority of the world unable to engage with God’s word. In my mind this was wrong and I had to do something about it.
As more research confirmed my initial findings, I set out to understand how to solve this problem as rapidly as possible.
I discovered that there were a number of problems that needed to be solved together to materially change the complexion of orality and availability of God’s word in heart languages of all the peoples of the world.
The solution included a need to seek God in prayer for translations to be accomplished, for partners to work together in distribution, for men to be raised up to share God’s word in audio, and for churches to be planted around His word. Second, there needed to be education and coordination of ministry partners already all across the globe to engage with UUPGs. Third, as I heard from partners around the globe, there was not a platform for audio content delivery that was durable, reliable, flexible, scalable, easy to work with, field programmable and solar powered. Fourth, recorded audio content was only a fraction of what it needed to be to touch all people groups in the world and there was no accessible library to access what had already been recorded (NT recordings vastly outnumber OT recordings, yet together they make up less than 15% coverage of all the languages in the world). And fifth, our global partners did not have the financial resources to record translations, story sets and portions of scripture, or purchase audio players. They would depend upon a ministry to raise funds to support this effort.
With several founding friends, we started Davar Partners International in July, 2009. We started immediately on all areas of need, adding the recording piece in 2011.
Our ultimate vision is that every oral learner on our planet will have access to God’s words in audio by 2035.
Davar currently has two dozen scripture recordings in various stages of completion. Our expectation is to grow that to 30 recordings per year in 2015. We have partnered with more than 500 organizations so far to distribute over 60,000 audio Bibles that have touched the lives of over three million non-readers across 93 countries. It has been an exciting start, yet the task is still enormous. There are thousands of languages to record along the way in partnership with our friends in the translation ministries. There are millions of audio Bibles to produce and distribute.
My wife and I have committed the next 22 years to accomplishing this goal.
It is a God sized task. We invite you to join us for the ride of a lifetime as we materially seek to change the face of orality by 2035.
As men and women of Issachar for this generation, how might you use your time, talent, treasure, influence and the truth you have been entrusted with to help reach the 80% of the unreached world who are non-readers. How can we in the Church partner to ensure that both the literate and non-literate (oral preference learners) have access to the Gospel?
Pray about how God might be calling you to make your life Count for Zero!
Brian R. Smith is an entrepreneur, an early pioneer in Storage Area Networks, a venture capitalist and the recipient of the prestigious Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award. He founded Crossroads Systems (Nasdaq:CRDS), the Convergent Investors Fund, and now serves as managing director of S3 Ventures, as well as Chairman of the Board for Davar Partners International. He and his family have dedicated a large portion of their lives and income to helping to reach the oral unreached people groups with the Gospel through translation, recording, engagement tools and partnerships.