Mobile ministry in Papua New Guinea
By Grace Ward
Editor’s note: Grace Ward serves with a ministry in Papua New Guinea called Christian Radio Missionary Fellowship. She is sharing this story to give a glimpse of what her ministry is doing and what God can do with digital.
Picture yourself walking along a jungle path in a very remote, mountainous part of Papua New Guinea (PNG). All you see are a few grass huts and if you are lucky, a bird of paradise. Suddenly you come upon a guy holding a cell phone up to his ear and chattering away under tree. It seems so out of place! You are miles away from any town. And yet, there the villager stands, talking to his family member in town, many kilometers away, separated by mountains and rivers. This is the reality in PNG, where mobile phones are rapidly growing in popularity and becoming the norm.
I serve with an organization called Christian Radio Missionary Fellowship (CRMF), which aims to provide “Technology for the Church.” We see the mobile phone as a powerful tool in ministry. In an oral, storytelling society like PNG’s, we know that most of the time video and audio are far more effective than a five-point sermon or textbook. With the mobile phone, people have a free audio and video player right into their hands. They have already invested in it and have figured out how to charge it; whether from car batteries, solar, or another source. Since they already have a device in their hands, we provide the content by distributing SD cards jam packed with Christian resources, much of it in video or audio form. At our small store in town, our customers can ask us to fill their phone with Christian digital resources for free before they leave.
We have also developed a piece of hardware called the WIFIBible, which is a portable web server connecting to the phones in range. After the user accepts the Wifi signal, a pre-loaded website page pops up full of free downloadable resources like videos from the Bible Project, a basic Tok Pisin Bible app with audio, the Jesus Film video, and other great audiobooks and devotionals. This takes no internet and makes no data charges to the phone. Recently, we have been installing these in public buses (the main mode of transport here in PNG). This offers a great opportunity for passengers to use their time on the bus to download, watch, and listen to Christian resources. Our WIFIBible now covers all routes on our main highway from the coast to the highlands.
Over the past month CRMF has also been developing a partnership with the Evangelical Brotherhood Church and their health clinics located in some very remote places across PNG. They saw the power and potential of the WIFIBible for their health workers and patients to be able to download Christian material, apps, and music. Imagine the chain reaction from a patient downloading Christian material to his/her phone, going back to their village, and sharing it with their family. That material can spread throughout several villages from just one download.
Imagine not having any Christian material in your own language: radio shows, TV stations, Bible concordance, references, video testimonies, Bible studies, and so much more. Then imagine the potential of creating Christian material in your language that is relevant to the issues your community is facing today!
After hearing feedback from many missions, pastors, and churches, we created a workshop tailored toward educating people on technology, providing them with great digital resources and teaching them how they can use their smartphone to make Christian audio resources and videos – all easily done using free apps. We ran this workshop for the mission Every Home for Christ, which focuses on door-to-door evangelism. Their staff travel to some of the most remote villages in PNG and stay there for several weeks, discipling and answering questions. We were thrilled when we saw the staff diving into this workshop and creating their own materials in their languages.
True, we can download and give people a great sermon by Louis Giglio or Andy Stanley, but it will not be in their language and they will most likely not be able to relate to the stories or issues presented.
What a powerful tool that has been created in the cell phone, with the ability to connect people, share resources, and create new things!
Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. (Habakkuk 2:2)
- Develop a strategy for using mobile phones to increase your ministry’s effectiveness