NRB Members Team Up to Bring Gospel to Kenya Through Handheld Radio

NRB | July 11, 2024 | Member News

In a collaborative effort to reach thousands of listeners in East Africa with the word of God, three NRB members recently joined forces to bring audio Bibles and Christian teachings to the people of Kenya: Galcom International, led by Tim Whitehead; Guidelines International, led by Bonnie Sala; and Your Network of Praise (YNOP)/New Life Africa Networks, led by Roger Lonnquist.

The project involved distributing 1,000 pre-tuned, solar-powered radios to the local communities of Kilifi County, a rural area, and Mombasa, the second-largest city in Kenya. Guidelines contributed much of the content, YNOP provided language translation services, and Galcom supplied the hardware and technology. By harmonizing the specialties of the three ministries, the partnership produced a specialized product to meet the needs of its target audience.

Working in partnership with George and Nelly Kagoru, owners of Kenyan Christian radio stations Lulu FM and Pearl FM, the organizations created handheld units that are permanently tuned to these stations. The stations’ established presence in the local community proved instrumental in getting the transmitters into the right hands. Their local staff identified specific areas of greatest need and went there to deliver the receivers.

“It was such a great joy to see the radios in people’s hands,” said Nelly Kagoru, “so they can hear the word of God day-to-day.”

Image courtesy of YNOP

These fix-tuned devices are now providing Kenyans with access to uplifting Christian content in their native Swahili language. In addition to broadcast radio, each device includes an MP3 player loaded with the Swahili Bible, along with educational programs produced by Guidelines International, translated into Swahili by YNOP, and repurposed for the Kenyan context. The preloaded content also includes several hundred teaching programs from New Life Africa Networks, produced in their translation office in Nairobi, Kenya.

Tim Whitehead, director of Galcom International, helped oversee the team that provided the technology for this project.

“We look for people on the ground, pastors, missionaries that could use radio technology to multiply their impact or to expand their reach,” Whitehead said.

Each of the handheld units—about the size of a cell phone—is fitted with a large solar panel to power the device, as well as a battery for indoor or nighttime use. Solar-powered and built to endure rough environments, these radio transmitters have the potential to last a lifetime.

“I’ve taken those units and thrown them on the floor, bounced them around in my car, [left] them on the dashboard just to see how much it takes to finally break one of them,” said Roger Lonnquist, president of YNOP. “And I haven’t broken one yet.”

Sharing the Gospel over radio overcomes many barriers experienced by most of the world’s population: lack of electricity, lack of literacy, and security issues from sharing the Gospel verbally. Some cultures listen to radio communally, allowing a dozen people or more to benefit from one audio unit, while recipients in Christianity-hostile environments can use the headphone jack to listen privately.

Radio programs also help new believers build bridges in powerful ways. Even if they haven’t been trained or discipled in evangelism, they can share these programs and invite others to join them in learning about the Gospel.

Image courtesy of YNOP

“One person with the right technology can reach hundreds of thousands,” Whitehead said. “Now they’re hearing the Gospel every day in their mother tongue. It accelerates the discipleship process. It helps them understand the Gospel better.”

Kenya emerged as a strategic area of focus due to practical advantages and evangelistic opportunity. While Christianity is one of the dominant religions of Africa, Lonnquist pointed out that a small percentage of those people have adequate teaching for proper spiritual formation or accurate biblical understanding.

“Most of them are studying the Bible and worshipping the spirits of their ancestors,” Lonnquist pointed out. “A lot of the churches are pastored by people who have no training. … For these people to have accurate teaching and the actual Bible itself … is a tremendous gift.”

Lonnquist oversees a network of over 70 radio stations and translators in seven U.S. states. YNOP also operates New Life Africa Networks with their affiliates across 20 countries in Africa, broadcasting to local African radio stations in many languages. 

The collaboration came about “all because of NRB,” Whitehead said. All three leaders serve on the NRB International Committee and explored collaborative possibilities there.

“God put this together organically,” said Bonnie Sala, president and CEO of Guidelines International. “Without a doubt, this project and all the projects that we partner with are the results of prayer.”

Sala’s father, Dr. Harold Sala, was convicted of the Gospel’s universal appeal and founded Guidelines International to produce Christian devotionals for partners worldwide to adapt for specific audiences.

“It is really an honor when we get to work together as like-minded brothers and sisters in Christ, pressing toward the same goal,” Sala said. “When your hearts are aligned, there’s great joy in that.”

“If we can just take the time to get on a Zoom call with a couple other ministries that are like-minded, using our experiences and our checkbooks, we can get things done that maybe as individual ministries we couldn’t,” Lonnquist said. “Especially with NRB members, where we have thousands of people who are really gifted in various ways. If we can work together, we can get the Gospel to people who are not going to hear it unless somebody deliberately takes it to them.”

Sala emphasized the importance of sharing not only the Gospel, but also updates on God’s global work with U.S. listeners, to ignite their passion for reaching those outside the faith.

“It also creates a greater awareness of missions,” Lonnquist said, “trying to use our stations to more fully mobilize the church to get the Word of God out around the world.”

In an email to the leaders, a partner who coordinated the Kenyan distribution effort recounted a powerful story showcasing the mission’s positive impact:

Yesterday a lady from Church who I gave an MP3 player to, was sharing how the “Reset” Swahili programs have become her daily food, and how her faith is being built by listening to the programs. She puts the device in her apron and moves with it everywhere, listening as she is cleaning the Church and doing other duties and chores both at work and home (she works as a cleaner at our church). She never went past Class One [first grade] because she was orphaned as a child and there was no one to educate her; therefore she can’t read. I went home so joyful for how God is using our work to affirm, encourage, and grow the faith of so many people! 

Galcom International has been an NRB member since 2008. Guidelines International has been an NRB member since 1977. Your Network of Praise (YNOP) / New Life Africa Networks has been an NRB member since 1993.

Read New Life Africa’s announcement about the distribution here.

Image courtesy of YNOP

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