March 01, 2016
When we think about French-speaking people, we normally think of France or maybe Quebec. But did you know that the majority of the world's French-speaking people actually live in Africa? It is estimated that there are 115 million people spread across 31 countries in Africa who speak French as either a first or second language. The question is: How do we reach these people with the gospel?
TWR in Africa
For many years, TWR partnered with Radio ELWA in Liberia to broadcast programs into western Africa, but this station was destroyed during a devastating civil war in 1990. In 1994, apartheid ended in South Africa, and God opened a door for TWR to use a powerful shortwave station located just outside Johannesburg to again broadcast into West Africa. This station had previously been used by the South African government to broadcast propaganda into West Africa and was capable of providing a signal that covered the western part of the continent. Response to the broadcasts was almost immediate, and TWR needed to establish more of a local presence to partner with local churches. So in 1996, Rev. Abdoulaye Sangho was asked to join TWR and establish their first office in West Africa, located in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire.
Getting Thru the Bible into West Africa
Abdoulaye soon began hearing stories about a systematic Bible-teaching program that TWR had translated and adapted into other major languages of Africa. These Thru the Bible programs were already having a tremendous impact on the lives of people in the eastern and southern part of Africa. Pastors who had never had the opportunity to attend a Bible school were using these programs to learn the Word of God and prepare their own messages. He knew this type of program was exactly what they needed for the Francophone countries of western and central Africa.
He asked if Thru the Bible would consider an African French program for West Africa. TTB already had a French program that was being broadcast into France, but it is not the same French that is widely spoken in Africa. It’s not only a different dialect, but there are significant differences in culture. Thru the Bible knew they would need to produce a version that was done by Africans and for Africans.
Abdoulaye soon found an individual that he felt would be the best person to produce programs for this new French-speaking audience. The person he chose for the job was Rev. Doh Marcel Monjou. Doh had previously worked in picture editing for the Baptist Mission of Côte d’Ivoire. Later he helped the mission write and produce a movie in which he also played a leading role. God has also uniquely gifted him with what we commonly refer to as a “beautiful radio voice.” In 2003, he was trained as a TTB producer and began writing his scripts.
In those early days, the only studio TWR had was in one of the bedrooms of Abdoulaye’s home. There were many days when they had no commercial power to run the studio. It was so hot that many days Doh would sit outside in the shade of a mango tree to prepare his scripts. Once power was available he would run inside and record as many programs as possible before the power went out again.
These new programs were sent by satellite to the transmitter site in Johannesburg and aired into western Africa. Soon a Christian FM station in Abidjan heard the programs and began airing them to their audience of over 7 million people.
One of the first people to call the office in response to the program was a professor at Abidjan University. He said, “I am calling to talk to Dr. McGee. I would like for him to come here to the university and give a lecture to our students.” Doh knew from this phone call that he needed to be true to Dr. McGee’s teaching and to be as much like him as possible on the radio.
The cost to air these programs from Johannesburg continued to climb. TWR still prayed for the opportunity to have their own radio station in West Africa that would be closer to the target audience and be cheaper to operate. God soon answered those prayers. TWR was granted a broadcast license, the land for the station was donated by local tribal leaders, and construction soon began on a new transmitter site outside of Parakou, Benin. They had to overcome many obstacles along the way, but this new 100 kW medium wave station finally went on the air on January 10, 2008. We were then able to move TTB’s African French programs to this new station that reaches into Mali, Niger, Burkino Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin, and Nigeria.
Please continue to pray for Thru the Bible’s ministry in African French and for Brother Doh Marcel. He is the father of 12 children and has lost two of them since 2003. As the result of a prolonged illness, he has also lost sight in one eye. I visited with him in September 2015, and he still feels humbled that God has allowed him to be a part of this vital ministry to reach the Francophone people of Africa. He sends his love and greetings to all those who have made this ministry possible.
- Joe Fort, TWR Director of International Media Relations