The Internet as a Mission Tool
by Shirley W. Madany
We watch with interest and eagerness as we see the Internet developing into a majestic new tool to reach the world with the Gospel. Another door of service has opened for those who have computer skills and a zeal for the Lord. Already the Scriptures are available in the Arabic language and much needed spiritual food may be freely copied from Christian web sites. The Internet is taking its place beside Christian radio missions and Christian TV missions.
There was a time, when we first began our radio ministry of Saatu’l Islah, (The Hour of Reformation) that it was necessary to persuade the Christian public that “radio” was a viable means of sharing the Gospel. I remember writing more than one article on the subject of how “Radio is Reaching”. We would point to the many individuals from Arabic-speaking countries who had responded to our invitation to ask for our follow-up literature. In the early days (we began in 1958), mail was not restricted and we could send, with great pleasure, many packets of books in large quantities for spontaneous distributors up and down the Nile Valley in Egypt. Perhaps that lasted for ten years. Then the 1970’s came with the awakening of the Muslim nations. They strongly disapproved of such shipments, and made every effort to block them, even if they were mainly to Christian citizens. And if they happened to reach an enquirer, that person, as well as the book, was suspect.
There was something else restrictive about radio. You were tied down to either a 15 or a 30-minute broadcast, and the listener had to be diligent to catch it on his radio. No second chance. That was when we saw the importance of having a daily broadcast at exactly the same time either night or morning. That helped. Then came the cheap transistor radios, thanks to advances in technology. The listening audience increased dramatically. This was a boon to both the poor and to the illiterate. The transistor became a prized possession. While traveling in Jordan we heard our broadcast coming from a Bedouin tent. When visiting a few listeners, we often found ourselves in very humble dwellings. The statistical amount of mail received represented only a small percentage of those who were actually listening.
Still there were criticisms of this “radio” missions. How could we dare to share the Gospel if we could not give a cup of cold water? Someone studying at a Bible School told us that his teacher scoffed at the idea of radio and could not see that “just preaching” was going to be sufficient. That prompted me to write another article entitled “Just Preaching”, again wanting to challenge this criticism. We knew that preaching had been very, very effective in changing the lives of many of those who heard God’s precious Word. Preaching is God’s ordained means of bringing people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Western Christians may find it difficult to imagine what life is like when it is totally lacking in Christian fellowship, Christian literature, church libraries, Christian bookstores, Christian magazines and all the other things we take for granted. We are surrounded by such a Christian atmosphere and environment. Just how long this will last we don’t know as we take note of the gathering strength of an opposition to the contents of the Bible. Like the days of Jeremiah, The Bible could become a closed book. In Canada there are persons, today, who would like to define certain parts of the Bible as “hate literature” and any attempts to share it with people of other faiths would be considered a “hate” crime. Vigilance on the ramparts is definitely called for.
How marvelous it is then that the Lord has provided yet another tool to get beyond the closed doors of the world. There is a vast population out there who are Arabic-speaking and literate. Now, through the diligent work of Arabic-speaking Christians, and a web site such as www.kalimatalhayat.com (The Word of Life), they are being reached for the Lord.
Here is a new way of both propagating and publishing the Good News. Internet material is for anyone who can find the printer and the paper. Let’s start off with an unusual example. Years ago the famous missionary to the Arabs, Samuel Zwemer, wrote “The Glory of the Cross.” That book, just one of his many, has been translated into Arabic and now it has been 'published' on the above site and is available for any and all to read, and perhaps to own in a binder form! Who could have imagined such a thing? The book is long out-of-print in the western world. All of the books of Samuel Zwemer are still relevant. This timely offering will be of help to the Christian worker as well as the enquirer.
Another large project nearing completion is the careful preparation of an Arabic/English New Testament using the Van Dyke version for the Arabic and the King James Version for the English. The two languages will appear in parallel columns. Helping to proof read the English has given me the opportunity to get a preview of a very beautiful piece of work. A great way to study and learn another language.
Other items already available in Arabic, and taken from our earlier broadcast materials, can be found on that web site or its companion www.arabicbible.com. These contributions would be commentaries on Hebrews, Romans, Ephesians and Galatians, as well as a doctrinal book on The Atonement, plus a sermon book entitled “A Letter from Prison” (Ephesians.) There are sermons on the Gospel according to John and a collection on various other topics. These books first existed in an audio form as material for the hundreds of recorded broadcasts to the Arabic-speaking world. They were published later and used as follow-up material. We find it amazing to see them again; revived, and ready for use. We are praising the Lord for this exciting new development. There is promise of more to come.
It is not often that a radio missionary gets to meet his audience, attend a rally, or even have his work analyzed. In January of 1987 we received a very welcome and unsolicited evaluation of the effectiveness of Saatu’l Islah. It will give you a better idea of what it means to make the material more widely available.
“We feel, based on what we know of our surroundings, that Rev. Madany’s broadcasts are the most effective Arabic-language broadcasts we receive here, for three reasons: l. He focuses on expounding Scripture, rather than just giving opinions. Many local people, even if they are not open to becoming Christians, are curious about what the Bible has to say; 2. His Arabic is very clearly and slowly enunciated. The people here speak Arabic, but very, very few are strong in literary Arabic. They can follow Arabic radio broadcasts, but only if the speaking is clear and slow; 3. His preaching style has the same kind of dynamism and uses some of the same kinds of language as Muslim preachers here use. Also, he affirms Arabism—something that is very important to them.
“His preaching has been a very great source of blessing and encouragement to us here, and has also been a means of witness. We have introduced a few friends to the broadcasts and have encountered two individuals (one a fairly high-placed government official) who listen regularly.”
With the continued spread of cyber cafes in third world countries, even people who cannot own a computer are finding a way to get in touch with websites which have attracted them. They can have direct contact with the Internet missionary. We have a special e-mail address on our page at www.levant.info. And even if you cannot read or speak Arabic we would heartily recommend that you take a look at the web site www.arabicbible.com. You will find enough in English to make it worthwhile. Though these web sites are an economical means of spreading God’s Word, they do cost money to operate, and are worthy of your support.
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