Sharing the Gospel in New Ways
JBU Alumni Sidestep Illiteracy to Spread the Gospel
By Jessa Parette Eldridge '11
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
T4 Global classrooms are anywhere people already gather—orange groves, community wells, or village centers. There are no books, pencils or papers. Schools are simple audio technology that is introduced by a community’s trusted leaders.
This is how T4 Global addresses the problem of illiteracy: Not by ignoring it, but by sidestepping it altogether — people can learn through more than books.
“Over 2 billion people around the world—that’s 60 percent of the world’s adult population—cannot or do not read,” Ed Weaver ’83, president and CEO of T4 Global, said. “But that doesn’t mean they can’t or don’t want to learn.”
Weaver is not the only JBU grad working with T4 Global. Bill Mial ’55 and J.R. Whitby ’73, both recipients of JBU’s Outstanding Alumni Award, also work with the organization.
T4 Global is a non-profit organization that seeks to share the gospel, business practices, health training and life skills through oral learning. People who learn orally do not process textual information, but learn through interaction, story telling and community. So, T4 Global uses cultural stories to share information on health, agriculture and biblical principals.
In order to work in a new area, T4 Global must first be invited by an already established mission group. Then, they work with trusted leaders in the area to assess the spiritual and physical needs of the people. In addressing sanitation and health, T4 Global also focuses on underlying worldview issues like corruption, fatalism, injustice, and servant leadership.
A current project at T4 Global addresses the problem of unsanitary water conditions. “Many times people will be given clean water,” Weaver explained. “But, because they are not using traditional sanitation rules, they’re still getting sick.”
Rather than drilling wells, T4 Global works with native language speakers and already established organizations to develop stories, songs and dramas about how to purify water and keep it clean.
Such communication on sanitation also includes raising awareness of HIV/AIDS preventative methods. Weaver explained that many villages among the Hausa people in Nigeria face the dangers of HIV/AIDS, and while programs have sprung up to communicate the need to stop HIV/AIDS before it spreads, many of the villagers are oral learners and charts, graphs and facts have little effect.
T4 Global partnered with programs in Nigeria and used cultural Hausa proverbs and stories to convey the dangers of HIV/AIDS.
One proverb said “Never wait to cut down the grass until it sticks you in the eye,” and when Hausa people heard the saying, they immediately understood that HIV/AIDS would spread slowly and should be stopped early. Ignoring HIV/AIDS would be like letting grass grow too tall.
“The people we train are familiar with oral methodology,” said Weaver. “They’re unfamiliar with using oral methodology in evangelism because many Westerners that come in don’t do that. People there ask, ‘You mean I can use the way I grew up to teach the gospel?’ That is exactly what we want them to do.”
Even though this cultural-centered approach to learning is a breath of fresh air, some countries prove more dangerous to work in, and the political atmosphere may change at a moment’s notice.
In one country, a Muslim tribe missionary began working with T4 Global. The day Osama Bin Laden was killed, local officials learned that the missionary was recording Christian stories. The missionary was severely beaten and had to find shelter in a friend’s home before escaping early the next morning.
“This is a battle not of the flesh,” Weaver said. “Whether politically, religiously or spiritually, there is always a real battle going on. This is not a small problem we are trying to address. This is a God-sized problem and will need a God-sized solution.”
Despite obstacles, T4 Global continues to reach out to the oral learners. In villages and cities, under the African sky, groups gather to sing, discuss and listen to age-old stories told in new ways.
Jessa Parette Eldridge '11 is the managing editor and staff writer for university communications.