Ours is a story of two worlds coming together to do something greater than they ever could on their own.
In 2003, Pete McLain and Charles Madinger were early employees at an NGO startup called Voice for Humanity. VFH had invented a digital audio player intended for churches to use in their missions efforts. Unfortunately, no one was showing interest. Through Pete’s former work at The US State Department in USAID, they got their first big shot at using their new technology – the first free and fair democratic elections in the country of Afghanistan, where most of the population could not read. They worked with locals in Afghanistan to produce and record 16 hours of stories, songs and dramas in 8 languages. These recordings were loaded onto 68,000 digital audio players for people to listen to in small groups. These groups discussed the recordings and were better able to grasp the principles that would make democracy work in their country. Over 6 months, 3 million people heard these recordings and the impact on the elections was unmistakably positive.
As McLain, Madinger, and 2 board members reviewed this success, they realized how beneficial this communication strategy could be in the missions field – not just in community development education (CDE). In 2005, driven by their passion for community transformation (both spiritual and physical) these four left VFH to start T4 Global (now Spoken Worldwide). Their focus would be on reaching non-reading communities with both the Gospel and community development education.
At the same time, on the other side of the country, Ed Weaver (current President of Spoken Worldwide) was asked a question by a close friend: Is there a way to use MP3 players in a ministry context? As he sought an answer, Ed was introduced to John Stark, the Socio-Linguistics Director for SIL International in Dallas, TX. In that introductory conversation, Ed learned that one of the biggest barriers in missions today is that 2/3 of the world’s population doesn’t use a written form of communication/learning. He asked John if audio technology could help break through that barrier, and the answer was a resounding YES!
Within 6 weeks, Ed was on a trip to Myanmar (formerly Burma) with East West Ministries to test the idea of technology in the missions field. During that trip, they recorded 25 hours of evangelistic material and shared it with others that could not make the trip. A week later, in Thailand, a missionary said he had recordings ready but was in need of 300 devices to get the Gospel to remote areas of the country. Ed knew he had a project to focus on when he returned.
Ed soon launched MPReach, planning to take transformative audio recordings as far as the internet would go and then the rest of the way via devices. Because he felt accountable for the impact of projects and began to pray that experts in the field would join him and help him accomplish his goal of delivering the Gospel to those who couldn’t read.
In June of 2007, through a series of seemingly random connections, Ed, Pete, and Charles met for the first time, discussing what they all saw as the best option: join forces. Three months later, MPReach and T4 Global merged; Ed joined T4 Global as EVP of Programs.
Since then, the organization has grown to cover work in 12 countries and over 70 languages. Even though the organization’s name has changed to Spoken Worldwide, the focus is the same: deliver Truth…where written words can’t go.