Listen to Learn International

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An event that happened on Oct. 23, 2001 had unforeseen implications for the task of pastoral training: the first-gen Ipod was released. I was an early adopter, as it let me combine all the CD's and cassettes of teaching I travelled with into a single device that would always be beside me. But how much more invaluable would it be to the African pastors I knew and supported! Extensive, choice teaching on a shirt-pocket device would level the pastoral-training playing field quicker than anything else I could think of.

Listen to Learn was germinated that day.

Many trials and tests later, International Teams Canada in 2006 became a launch partner for this experimental program. We bought MP3 players for over $300 apiece plus speakers at $150 (both ten times our current costs), with no clear idea how the program could become affordable. We loaded them with good teaching - in English only. Over the next three years we distributed some hundreds around East Africa - in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, and South Sudan - pretty well as opportunity opened up - yet within a year we had lost contact with many of the recipients.

We knew we were on to something important, but still hadn't figured out how to make it work.

2007 brought one "aha!" moment. We realized that we most wanted to serve those church leaders with the fewest other opportunities to learn - tens of thousands of them in East Africa alone, barricaded from ever spending a day in a Bible school by geographical distance, family and livelihood responsibilities, grinding poverty, often a lack of sufficient education to gain entrance, sometimes illiteracy. And we realized that, to be accessible, the teaching had to be in their 'heart languages'.

So we launched an ambitious translation program. We developed procedures for a custom computer-based dubbing solution, equipped a translation studio in Kenya and trained translators and technicians. Our goal was to create libraries of 1000 hours of audio teaching in many languages which at present had zero discipleship resources. There were many ways to distribute bible teaching in English - we committed to making it available in less known tongues.

2008 brought another "aha!" moment, that became an on-the-ground reality in 2009. Our Kenyan board developed the idea of temporary ad hoc local 'schools' - clusters of students who shared a common language and region and desire to learn, that had no fixed buildings or onsite faculty but moved with a light footprint into a community and stayed there just until the job was done. These became our Local Bible Institutes.

The first of these launched in Matunda, Kenya in May 2009, and is now close to graduation. Our students give it high marks - we've found a mix of self-directed study and structured learning that works for them. Several others have started and are in the works - the LBI has become the trademark activity of L2L.

In 2010, Listen to Learn and International Teams Canada decided that the best path forward led to an independent L2L. So in April 2010, Listen to Learn International received its Letters Patent as a not-for-profit company and is now in process of confirming its charitable status.

History is still being written, of course. As I write this, we have seven LBI locations operating in three languages and several others awaiting the green light to start their studies.

The challenge: Can we expand the network of churches that support us fast enough to bring these opportunities to life?


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