International (MNN) — Some missions groups target certain countries or language groups with manageable numbers in the thousands or millions. Not Spoken Worldwide. They’re targeting billions.
That’s because although two-thirds of the world doesn’t read, they still need Jesus.
“There’s probably about two billion people that fit into that category, that really can’t read anything, whether it’s a trade language or their own mother tongue, so it’s important that we understand what the audience is that we’re really trying to focus on,” says Spoken Worldwide’s Ed Weaver.
In total, 5 billion people in the world don’t read, but only 2 billion of those actually cannot read.
“The two billion that really can’t read are the ones who will miss out and have fewer funds, less engagement, and less mission focus than probably any other people group on the planet.”
That literacy barrier means people are distanced by their own communities and often forgotten by missions groups. As a result, people who can’t read often have no concept of the Gospel.
“They might have their own worldview that talks about a Creator God, but they don’t know him personally, and they don’t know that that’s even possible,” Weaver says.
“Our goal as a ministry is focusing on the people who can’t read, those people who, if you put a book in front of them, wouldn’t be able to read any of that. If they can read a sentence, they certainly wouldn’t be able to comprehend a paragraph or the entire book.”
These are people who often live in extreme poverty. They face religious, governmental, cultural, and even tribal oppression, They lack basic medical care and cannot access basic hygiene and health information. They’re some of the least reached people in the world since missions money doesn’t often go toward illiterate groups.
As one of Weaver’s friends once told him, “there’s a reason why they’re unreached; they’re so hard to reach!”
“It takes more money, it takes more manpower, it takes more logistics and planning, and they’re farther away from anything, but as I think we’d all agree, that just means we need to put that much more effort into it.”
And for Spoken Worldwide, it’s paying off.
Consider one team they sent to Nepal. The largest cause of death in that area was dehydration, because locals thought if a person was diarrhetic, they needed to stop drinking water. The missions team brought informational recordings about health care along with Gospel recordings, and the recordings set the record straight about the importance of hydration.
The result? Locals came to the group saying, “Please tell us about your God. We thought you just wanted to convert us, we didn’t know you actually loved us.”
“When we pay attention to the poverty, when we pay attention to oppression, when we pay attention to basic medical care, that creates a great opportunity for us to talk about the Gospel,” Weaver says. It’s important to consider and address the conditions of the people we want to reach.
So what’s the moral of Spoken Worldwide’s story? Weaver says we can’t give up on teaching people just because they can’t read. We have a responsibility to get someone the Gospel, regardless of their capabilities. We can meet people where they’re at.
And most of all, a relationship with Christ should not necessitate the ability to read.
“We wanna make sure that as an organization, we don’t leave anybody behind,” Weaver says. “We want to make sure they have all access to the Word of God, regardless of their ability to read.”
It’s not something Spoken Worldwide can do alone.
“That’s a lot of people to engage with… it’s more than we can handle as one organization,” Weaver says.
Pray for possibilities and wisdom in collaboration for the future, and consider partnering with Spoken Worldwide yourself.
“In the business world, we’d be competitors, but in the Kingdom of God, we’re all soldiers in the same army,” Weaver says.
“We want to lift up that non-reader, we want to let them know that God loves them just as much as if they could read. There is no lesser-than position that they have just because they can’t read.”