Memorable Milestones: How Shall they Hear?

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When Joy Ridderhof received the inspiration to make recordings of the gospel in Spanish it was fueled by the memory of spring-wound phonographs blaring out songs in the Honduran villages where she had once ministered. Why not use those very machines to sound forth Christian messages and songs?

The Apostle Paul asks: "How shall they hear (the gospel) without a preacher?" As the ministry of Gospel Recordings grew, that question could be paraphrased: "How shall they hear (the recordings) without a player?" Even though those Hondurans had phonographs, many other isolated tribes had no means of playing the recordings. So the challenge was to design a simple, rugged player that did not need electricity or batteries. By God's grace, this was accomplished.

The Phonette heralded the first big milestone in the supply of players to primitive peoples. Countless of these players, powered by "elbow grease" and encased in either wood, metal or plastic, were sent around the world to play endlessly 78-rpm records in hundreds of languages. Then came the CardTalk - an expendable record player made almost entirely of corrugated cardboard. It was small and inexpensive and found its way to many remote villages worldwide.

Later when phonograph records gave way to audiocassettes, the continued lack of electricity and batteries in unreached areas precluded the use of commercial cassette players. So a new challenge was met with the design and manufacture of the hand-cranked TapeTalk and Messenger players. Standard audiocassettes could be played with clarity and enough volume for group listening, something that is essential in most oral cultures.

When CDs began replacing audiocassettes, GRN prepared itself to switch from analog to digital. This process involved the mammoth task of converting all of our open reel tapes to digital format and building a huge server to store the digital files. This opened up great possibilities for making the messages available to more people. For example, people can listen to GRN messages in almost 4,000 heart languages on our website. Imagine an Arab man in a Muslim country sitting in an Internet Café and listening to our messages online.

A major new advance for GRN is the new Saber mp3 player that can hold over ten hours of material. Ideal for group listening, the Saber can be charged using solar panels or regular power. When these are unavailable, its hand wind generator can produce its own power. Come rain or shine-or power cuts, it can always be used!

Whatever the format, the message is the thing. We could label each new device with the slogan, "New Container, Same Life-Changing Message!"

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