Members of a remote tribal group, scattered throughout the mountains of a Southeast Asian country, can now hear Christian radio programmes in their own language as the result of a cooperative effort with a missionary broadcaster.
While this ethnic group is the poorest in the country and traditionally animistic with a strong belief in omens, supernatural power, taboos and totems, a core group of committed believers exists. Now they’re producing Christian radio programmes that air from Australia via shortwave.
“Shortwave radio is regarded as obsolete by many,” explained Reach Beyond radio trainer Janice Reid. “But it has great potential in mountainous areas where the population is poor and scattered.”
Despite the remoteness of the country, inexpensive shortwave radios are readily available, “and once people know about the new radio programmes in their heart language, they are sure to be eager listeners,” she said.
Reid, along with Reach Beyond radio trainer Lisa Balzer, recently travelled to the country’s capital city where a pastor from the ethnic group runs a small Bible school. The two women taught a class of eight students the basics of Christian communication and radio programme production.
Then, working together with the students, they recorded and mixed the first 30-minute programme that later aired from Reach Beyond-Australia’s international broadcast facility in Kununurra. Christian broadcasts in the tribal language now air weekly.
“They are learning many new things through the programmes ranging from Bible lessons to health, relationships—even basic technical tips for those in the region’s only town where residents want to use Facebook on their mobile phones,” Janice added.
She said a wide range of programme topics are expected to attract new listeners, and the novelty of hearing their own language on the airwaves should keep regular listeners coming back.
Western missionaries brought Christianity to the region at the end of the 19th century. But it wasn’t until a national believer—an itinerant evangelist—came to the tribe near the end of World War II that faith began to take hold. Today more than 80 percent of people in the ethnic group claims to be Christian. Nationwide, however, evangelicals only comprise about 5 percent of the country’s population, according to Operation Impact.
“Professing faith and living it, though, are two very different things,” Janice continued. “The Apostle Paul spoke against those who hold to a form of godliness but deny its power (2 Timothy 3:5). In this tribal group, there is a real need for good teaching about what it means to live by biblical values in everyday life.”
Community radio is one way to provide this teaching as discovered by the tribal pastor who first heard of Reach Beyond while attending a preaching conference in Australia. He is now using the airwaves to teach his people how to live by faith.
“Pray that the simple Bible lessons that are part of each programme would work to unite people from different church traditions—and there are many in this part of the world—encouraging them to walk as Jesus walked and growing the roots of their daily lives deep in the truth of His Word,” Janice concluded.
By Harold Goerzen / sources: Reach Beyond and Operation Impact