How do you get the gospel to the billions of people around the world who are still unreached – especially those cut off from outsiders by geography, culture or politics?
Since it first went on the air 65 years ago, TWR has used radio as the most effective force for overcoming these barriers and bringing solid biblical teaching to people in their native languages. The ministry’s first broadcast, on Feb. 22, 1954, was directed across the Strait of Gibraltar to Spain, where Protestants were a vanishingly small minority who faced discrimination and a government ban on evangelism.
A decade later, TWR was broadcasting in more than two dozen languages across most of Europe, reaching into other parts of the world and even piercing the Iron Curtain. Again, God was using mass media to bring his Word to millions despite regulations, cultural differences and political hostility.
A vision blessed
Paul Freed, like most visionaries, probably had no idea that the organization he founded would one day be reaching out in 230 languages to people in 190 countries, said TWR CEO Lauren Libby.
“When you think of the small beginnings, going from an Army-surplus transmitter and a small radio station on shortwave from Tangier to where we are today, God honored the faith of Dr. Freed and other people,” Libby said. “What God has done has multiplied that faith a thousand times over. And not just of individuals in TWR, but people who have given and people who are on staff and people who are now with the Lord.”
Today, with a potential audience of 4 billion and new technologies added to the media mix, TWR is focused on all kinds of people groups and not just those officially classified as “unreached.” But the unreached populations that so desperately need to hear about Jesus Christ and how to be his disciples continue to be an essential part of the ministry’s calling.
A quick scan of Joshua Project’s 100 largest unreached people groups makes the point. To group after group on the list, TWR sends out programming in the respective heart languages: in Bengali to Bangladesh, Japanese to Japan, Korean to North Korea, Turkish to Turkey, Sunda and Javanese to Indonesia, and many more.
In fact, ministry to unreached groups has been a major factor in several major TWR capital projects during the past five years. The Pakistan, Afghanistan and North India project, or PANI, broadcasts to one of the least-reached regions on earth in the languages of Dari, Pashto, Urdu and Punjabi. The recently completed Silk Road transmitter broadcasts to Central Asia and Northwest China in Tajik, Uzbek, Kazakh and other languages. The Oasis project underway in West Africa will reach Hausa and Fulani speakers among others.
Every one of these language groups appears on the Joshua Project list of largest unreached groups.
Making inroads, but lots to be done
“I think we’re as well-positioned as any media ministry could be to go to the unreached people groups and the hard-to-reach places in the world,” Libby said. “That doesn’t mean we stop. The goal is the world, the means is mass media and the end product is lasting fruit for Jesus Christ.”
Responses like the following one from a pastor who listens to TWR’s Thru the Bible broadcast in Bengali, the language of the largest unreached people group, offers evidence that the ministry is having an impact.
“Initially, I had no idea about Jesus Christ,” he said in a phone call last month. “This is the only radio program that has drawn my attention towards Christ. These many years, I have been immensely blessed by the Word of God because of you. … Now I'm in full-time ministry in Bangladesh, a pastor of a local church. This program has changed my life, the Lord has blessed me spiritually and my family as well.”