Experiences with Mobile Phone Outreach (Panel)

Daniel and Karen Kroll (Kumba, Cameroon)
Kalyan Gallipolli (Rajahmundry, India)
Ted Kuster (Lima, Peru)

Archived discussion

About the presenters

Dan and Karen Kroll serve as WELS missionaries in Cameroon, Africa. Dan was first assigned out of seminary as a missionary to Zambia. After serving 17 years, they were called to Lake City, Minnesota, serving there four years. In 2014, they were called to Cameroon. Pastor Kroll’s major focus is rebuilding the worker-training program. The Krolls are blessed with five boys, one of whom is married, and they are expecting the arrival of their first grandchild any day.
Kalyan Gollapalli is pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Rajahmundry, India, secretary for the Lutheran Mission of Salvation of India, and a teacher at the LMSI Seminary. Born in Rajahmundry, he majored in Physics and Chemistry in high school before going to study at the State University of Lvov, Ukraine, earning a master’s degree in Chemical Technology of Fuels and Carbon Materials. After working briefly as an engineer in India his interest shifted to public ministry. He studied to become a pastor at Bethany Lutheran Theological Seminary in Mankato, Minnesota, receiving a Master of Divinity in 2009. His special interest is learning and translating languages.
Theodore F. Kuster was pastor at St. Paul's on Chicago's north side before becoming the Evangelical Lutheran Synod's first missionary to Peru. He subsequently served missions in Nicaragua, Panama, Ghana, and Kazakstan. He has gathered Bul's Exegetical Notes for distance theological education at http://pericope.org/buls-notes. Now retired, he and his wife Helga have six children and ten grandchildren.

In Cameroon

by Daniel and Karen Kroll
from Kumba, Cameroon

[editor's note: The mission in Cameroon is approaching its mobile phone ministry by emphasizing distribution of Gospel materials on the micro-SD memory chips that can be inserted into most Android phones. A generous donor supplied the Christ in Media Institute with a number of blank chips; they were loaded with audio New Testaments in English, Pidgin, French, and Bafut languages, along with a variety of text and video files in those languages, and sent to Cameroon at Christmastime 2015.]

Cameroon's introduction to the Christ in Media Institute

In September of 2015, WELS mission in Cameroon partnered with Kingdom Workers to bring two volunteers to help the Lutheran Mission — Cameroon. The volunteers taught English in the three regions of Cameroon where we have congregations. One of the volunteers, Andi Jasperson, knew Dr. and Mrs. Kuster from her studies at Bethany Lutheran College. Andi brought over a few micro-SD chips with audio New Testaments in English and Pidgin. English is the official language of the regions where we are building our Lutheran Church, but Pidgin is the language that people use at home and at the market.

Before being introduced to this program, we had identified the need to get the Scriptures into the hands of the Cameroon people. Bibles are presently expensive for the people here and our local "Nigerian connection" that the mission had used in the past to purchase inexpensive Bibles, seems to have "dried up". That being said, the high percentage of illiteracy in rural areas makes the written word unusable for most of our people.

In our investigation to meet the needs of our illiterate members, we had considered several possibilities. One was "The Proclaimer," which is a solar powered audio version of the Bible. We found this to be expensive (about $100) and bulky to ship. Even with a donor willing to pay for "The Proclaimer," we had not yet determined that it was the best use of mission money, thinking some other option might also be available. Shortly after learning about "The Proclaimer," we came across the "Audi-Bible" (also solar powered), a much smaller version, but otherwisW similar to "The Proclaimer." It is about the size of a large cell phone. Although less bulky, expense was still prohibitive ($30 plus shipping). When Kingdom Workers showed up with the Christ In Media micro-SD chip option, we were thinking that it would be a good option. Since most Cameroonians have phones, the micro-SD chips seemed to be a great tool to get God's Word into the hands of his people.

It's not just illiteracy that makes the audio Bible a "better fit" for Cameroon. African culture is historically an oral culture. What we envision is that families/friends will sit together and listen to stories, except instead of stories of the ancestors, they will be stories found in God's Word. Those historical accounts in turn become drama opportunities for the children, and talking points for the adults, about who God is and all that he has done for us.

How we are using the micro-SD chips

Although most Cameroonians have phones, as a country we are technologically far behind other African nations. The phones our members have are often basic "knock-offs" and do not have Bluetooth capabilities. As a result, we are distributing micro-SD chips and using Bluetooth less than we originally anticipated. We are encouraging anyone who has Bluetooth capability to use it to "pass it on" to their friends and family. When I say, "distributing" I mean we are selling them at a reduced price; the money from the sales will go into a fund and used for the purchase of more micro-SD chips or other needed supplies. In this way we are making the program sustainable for the future Lutheran Church of Cameroon.

Barriers to the program

We are definitely still working out the "kinks" of this program. One difficulty in ministry here is that our churches are spread out geographically. Physically getting to areas to distribute and educate people how to use them, is an issue. We may have to look at identifying a person in each district to being trained and then to train others on how to use the micro-SD chips.

The other issue presently is that even though most Cameroonians have cell phones, not all do. However, it seems fair to say that there is at least one person in each household that has a phone. We have encouraged those who don't have phones to borrow a friends/family member's.

The way forward

We are praying the Lord blessing this micro-SD program in Cameroon. Although we want to ensure our members first have opportunity to have the micro-SD chips, we have encouraged our members to tell their friends about the program as well. We will surely offer these chips to others in Cameroon. We have a fairly significant Muslim population in Cameroon, and traditional religions (witchcraft/ancestor worship) are very popular (we feel the statistics we have seen regarding the number of Christians in Cameroon is too high to be accurate. Spreading the Gospel is of the utmost importance.

To ensure that cost is not a hindrance, we may also consider lowering the price. Although the present cost of 2000 cfa (just over $3) is not significant in an urban setting, it may be in rural settings. This is still up for discussion.

In closing, we are very grateful to the Christ in Media Institute for producing the micro-SD chips. We pray that we can continue our partnership in the spreading of the Gospel.

President Mathius of the Lutheran Church of Cameroon speaks about the value of micro-SD chip outreach in his country. To repeat video, click play button again.

In India

by Kalyan Gallipolli
from Rajahmundry, India

We all must admit that in the past decade mobile technology has changed the world of communications. Literally, with the evolution of as many mobile users as the number of humans on this earth today, the need to see the mobile device as a means for reaching out has become prominent. I believe that this is a gift of God and that He wants us to put this handy new technology to good use for His glory.

I am happy to tell you, that since March 2014 I have been involved in using this technology in our province in an effort to reach people with materials that bring the Gospel of forgiveness, life and salvation in Christ Jesus.

I would like to share one incident. Not long ago, a gentleman along with his family has come to our church for Sunday worship service. Since it was their first visit, after the service I asked him how he came to know about our church. And he said, "through the Wi-Fi hotspot at the nearby bus stop." Wow! I was really thrilled to see the fruit.

This gentleman is a Medical Representative. He has moved with his family to our city recently and was looking for a church. One day when he was standing at a bus stop near to our church he happened to get connected to our Wi-Fi hotspot and he downloaded some Gospel material. Along with it he also got our church flyer with address. A week later on Sunday, he visited our church. Ever since they kept attending the church and eventually after some instruction they have become our members.

The Wi-Fi hotspot I have been talking about is the open hotspot made available by the RENEW OFFLINE DISTRIBUTION system, called LIGHTSTREAM. It is a portable battery operated device which uses three methods (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and direct Micro SD chip copying) to transfer any Gospel material like video, audio and text files stored on the device to phones that come into contact with it. We have been using this device at public places to reach out and have found it to be useful in our context.

In Peru

by Ted Kuster
from Lima, Peru

Perhaps we had something of a first event here in Lima. About 30 people came out to the house where we're staying this Sunday morning and we put together an informal service. We did not have hymn books or Bibles but everybody had a cell phone. Within 10 minutes the hymns and the Bible texts had been sent to everyone present. The group was able to read the texts and sing the hymns using their cell phones. It worked out very nicely.


Amados: amèmonos unos a otros,
porque el amor es de Dios y todo el que ama
es nacido de Dios y conoce a Dios;
el que no ama no conoce a Dios,
porque Dios es amor.
Amados, amèmonos unos a otros.

The hymns are from Culto Cristiano, publicaciones el escudo, 1964.

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Dan Kroll 27 days ago
I like your idea, Ted, and will give that some thought as well. Its been ten years since we had produced our hymnal and it appears that its time to reprint. We are meeting in a few weeks with our pastors to talk about some revisions to our liturgy, I'll have to get their feedback on the feasibility of putting the hymnal on a SD card.
Theo Kuster 26 days ago
The event mentioned above was a one-off spur of the moment solution to a lack of hymnbooks and Bibles. Could the congregation use a smart phone or ipad during the service? At the church I attend the pastor uses a green ipad to do the liturgy, the readings, and his sermon. No, the service is not rock and roll, we use page 184 divine service setting 3 of the Lutheran Service Book (very traditional) each and every Sunday. I would like to use my ipad during the service, look up background of hymns, parallel texts, various Bible translations, take a peek at the Greek, etc. etc. But I am "chicken."
Tom Kuster 23 days ago
You are talking about iPads in the pew, which sounds to me like a good idea if it became "acceptable." Same problem as with computers in the classroom - you don't know if the user during the sermon is actually looking up parallel texts, or just checking email. Here is a comment from a pastor about an iPad for leading the service. Copy and paste this URL:

Dan Kroll 23 days ago
Are Ipads, etc quite common in Peru? -- what percentage of people have them, (ball park)?
Theo Kuster 16 days ago
I don't know about ipads, but everybody has a phone. And in Lima with roughly 9 million people, that is a vast opportunity for a good phone app. When the internet appeared there were many Internet Cafe locations, a room full of computers and a person paid by the hour. Only a few of those today. Wifi is free in many locations, just like here in Minneapolis.
Jim Klaas 25 days ago
I would like to share a a mobile resource for follow-up after a person comes to Christ. We have made 40 Days of Discipleship that comes in a daily email and focuses on HOW to learn as a disciple (So it is complementary with many resources that focus on WHAT to learn.) It is available in English http://www.networkchurch.ca/ , Spanish http://www.discipulado.net/ and French http://40jours.net/ (although we are still revising the later) and in our first year have had about 7000 users.

Some comments from the users this month:
o Wow this is powerful. When I felt like giving up every day, I wake up to one of the teachings and I get encouraged....
o I belong to a Muslim community, I agree Jesus is real God.
o I am new in this walk of born again and I want to learn more about Jesus…
o Please include me in your prayers, for I have decided to take risks of faith this month…
o This is such a blessing as it is helping me to live by faith and believe everything is possible with God….

What i like about the micro-learning on a daily basis is that the cell phone becomes a pocket trigger that helps the person develop a daily habit of reading and praying.
There are two 40 days series: the DNA of Discipleship and the 5 Verbs of Learning
Thanks for letting me share this.
Jim Klaas
Dan Kroll 19 days ago
This looks awesome, Jim Klaas. The only person I know who uses a computer here is the Synod treasurer who has to go to a cyber cafe. Any chance that course could work on a micro disk like we are using for translations. the "little piece per day" would be lost, but even to have the material would be better than what we have now. In fact, I could load some of my Bible studies on there, couldn't I? ... HMMMM.
Tom Kuster 24 days ago
There is a wealth of information about how to use mobile technology for Gospel outreach at the MobMinResources website hosted by the Mobile Ministry Forum. You'll find the link to it on their "Five Ways to Use..." page. Copy and paste this long URL:

Joe Lukong 13 days ago
Pastor Kroll. What an interesting article. Being from Cameroon, I am aware of some of the interesting issues regarding the spreading of the word of God in that part of the world that you raised in your article. Keep up with the good work!
Dan Kroll 10 days ago
Joe - where are you from? Where are you now? We are working primarily in Anglo-phone regions (NW, SW). If you are willing to share emails, I'd be interested in doing that with you. I still have much to learn about Cameroonian thinking and culture - you might be able to help me with that.
Joe Lukong 8 days ago
Pastor Kroll. I am from Kumbo in the North West region of Cameroon but I have been living in Douala since the early 90s. Since 2010, I have been living in Minnesota, USA. I have been chanced to met your sons who are students at MLC as I live in New Ulm where they go to school. They have told me about their experiences in Cameroon and I was glad to learn about the seminary project you have around Kumba area. It would be nice to have indigenous Cameroon pastors who can take the relay baton from you guys and spread the word of God in Cameroon in the near future. Good job!