App-building: a critical skill on the mission field

By July 28, 2022

Mexico (MNN) — Technology in the workplace is an undisputable need. What about on the mission field?

Wycliffe USA’s Aaron Hemphill says some technology, like smartphones, can make the Gospel more accessible. “Someone can engage [with God’s Word] by listening to Scripture, or they can watch the JESUS Film,” he describes as examples.

Aaron and his family moved to Mexico 10 years ago to support Bible translation teams. “We’re working with four different varieties of the Me’phaa language, and we support school systems with literacy projects,” Hemphill says.

About five years ago, Aaron combined his love for linguistics with a favorite hobby. “I love making apps,” Hemphill says.

“This began as a little side thing, and slowly, it’s become the main thing I do.”

Smartphone use became globally widespread in about 2018, Pew Research reports. During visits to the rural Me’phaa villages, “I started seeing some teenagers have smartphones, some of the adults used smartphones; when I saw that, I thought, ‘wow, there are a lot of possibilities here,’” Hemphill says.

“I thought, ‘we can use smartphones to gamify literacy!’”

In God’s timing, observation met opportunity. When translation work came to a hard stop during pandemic shutdowns in 2020 and 2021, “I started teaching myself Java, which is a programming language, and then I started building these games,” Hemphill says.

Today, the Alpha Tiles app creates literacy games in multiple languages. “We’re up to 90 games in the app, and we’ve made it for 40 languages,” Hemphill says.

(Graphic courtesy of Alpha Tiles)

Teaching people how to read and write helps them grow in Christ. “People can study God’s Word and engage it without being literate,” Hemphill says.

“But once someone is literate in their home (heart) language, there [are] new ways they can study and approach Scripture.”

Want to know how God can use your passions on the mission field? Fill out the “Contact Us” form here to connect with Hemphill.

“I’d love to chat with anybody that would like to learn more about Wycliffe [USA], the world’s languages, literacy, or Scripture engagement,” Hemphill says.

“There’s a career path for people to use their programming skills, technology skills to support Bible translation.”



Header image courtesy of Wycliffe USA.