India (MNN) — A farmer knows that it takes time to produce a crop.
First, you prepare the seedbed. Then you plant the seeds, water them, and allow the seedlings to develop. You try to keep pests and other animals from eating the tender shoots before they mature. Eventually, with enough sun, rain, and time, you get a field of harvest.
That’s pretty much what’s been happening at Audio Scripture Ministries. The group focuses on recording, duplicating, and distributing God’s Word in audio. About a decade ago, they had a ministry called “Word for the Family.”
The original goal was to provide audio Scripture to 25,000 families. The project had the potential to reach thousands of non-readers with the message of God’s Word. It was introduced in India at roughly the same time that ASM’s JP Sundararajan finished seminary. He had gone back to India to reconnect with his family and find ways to help the Gospel outreach work in which they were involved.
Sundararajan recalls, “They had just finished this project called ‘Adopt a Village,’ which was an immense project in itself. The goal was to reach 10,000 villages with an audio Bible.” The project was so well received that they reached 13,000 villages, tapped themselves out of resources, and pushed the outreach to a critical juncture. The big question was: “What now?”
One Bible for a hundred people just wasn’t cutting it, Sundararajan says. “So as a family, we thought maybe we should start targeting other families and maybe provide one Bible for ten people that belonged to a family would be the way to go. We had this dream, of sorts, where we wanted to reach 25,000 families all over India.” It was a big step, considering they barely covered the needs with a smaller project.
What’s more, Sundararajan says, they needed a sturdier network of pastors, evangelists, and missionaries to support the growth. They took the leap of faith as a family. Sundarajan came back to the States to build support for the ministry. That shifted and took shape with his work and partnership through Audio Scripture Ministries.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago. The notice came for Sundararajan’s 10-year reunion for his seminary. As he reminisced about early ministry years in his life, he began to wonder what became of the project with which he was involved at that time.
Curious, he did some checking up. The original goal of reaching 25,000 was reached. The ministry reached over 27,000 families…broadened to 35 languages in India, which covered roughly 75% of India. What he found next was nothing short of jaw-dropping. “We were looking at about 5,000 churches that have been planted purely through the “Word for the Family” project all over India. We’re working with church planting organizations and Bible translating agencies as well as other local pastors and evangelists and missionaries.”
Those churches now have networks of their own. One focuses on the unreached people who live as leprosy survivors. The other, he says, works with the blind communities in India. “Some of them are Christian communities. Entire churches with a pastor, the congregation, everybody is visually impaired. So they have been contacting us,” says Sundararajan. Through “this network, one church hears about it, and then they tell the other churches, and now everybody is coming to us.”
Looking back at the huge results, Sundararajan ruefully laughs and says, “Our goal was always too small in terms of what God was thinking.”
It starts with a seed, a little time, and a lot of prayer. The right resources are needed, too. “For about $35 you can buy an audio Bible for a family in India. We encourage people to start there.”
Who knows what else God has in mind? Time will tell.