The E-Reader Project

Robin Pippin

Robin Pippin shows the Kindle Paperwhites used in the E-Reader Project

By Robin Pippin

In the libraries of many theological schools in Africa, most books are very old and dated—and even at that, the collection is very limited. Given the cost of shipping books to and within the African continent, the scarcity of books is not a surprise.

In 2012, when staff of Discipleship Resources International (DRI) met with the faculty of Gbarnga School of Theology (GST) in Liberia, a United-Methodist-related school, we were surprised to learn that their classes were conducted with the use of only one book—the teacher’s. Students had no books, and if they intended to read an assignment before class, they had to take the book to the nearest town, where they had to pay a copy center for copies of each chapter.

Robin Pippin solar power

This solar charger can charge up to 10 e-readers at one time

Add to this situation the lack of electricity, running water, and internet at the school—and we realized this would be the perfect place to pilot the E-Reader Project—an initiative to bring E-readers filled with Bibles, reference books and helpful theological texts to under-resourced theological schools of the United Methodist Church. In 2013-14, our staff brought e-readers to faculty and students at GST, fully trained them on the care and use of the e-readers, and made periodic visits to evaluate their effectiveness.

Not surprisingly, GST students reported a marked increase in their reading for their courses and in reading overall. This mobile “e-library” suddenly provided reading materials that had never been available to them before. Recent graduate Wuo Laywhyee said that the Kindle has increased his “appetite to read.”

A glimpse of the hardware needed to load the e-readers

A glimpse of the hardware needed to load the e-readers

Student Brenda Taylor explained that her increased reading had helped to expand her knowledge of the English language. For many GST students, English is a second language to their indigenous language. The built-in dictionary feature is often mentioned by students as being extremely helpful in their reading comprehension.

The success of the pilot project has led DRI and its partners to expand the project to 18 theological schools in Africa and 6 in the Philippines. We offer the e-readers in Portuguese and French, in addition to English. Finding appropriate and affordable content for the e-readers is an ongoing challenge. To date, we have launched the project with two-thirds of these schools. Our vision includes expanding e-readers to more pastors, who have often have very little access to resources they need for ministry.

For more information or to support the project, see http://umcereader.org/

Robin Pippin is Director of Contextual Resource Development and Distribution for Discipleship Resources International, a division of Discipleship Ministries, an agency of The United Methodist Church, located in Nashville, Tennessee, USA. Robin is married to Tim Pippin and they have three young-adult age children.

 

Egypt: The Power of the World to Heal

The gruesome video showing beheadings of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in ubs-egypt-tract-two-lines-english1Libya last February spurred writers at the Bible Society of Egypt into immediate action. Within three days, a powerful tract began reaching the hands of mourning Egyptians, and ultimately 1.65 million readers. It became the most widely distributed Christian leaflet in the nation’s history.

The tract contained Scripture about suffering and Christian love in the face of evil, and a poignant poem written in colloquial arabic: “Who fears the other? The row in orange, watching paradise open? Or the row in black, with minds evil and broken?”

We are reminded that the written word can comfort, heal and point hurting people to Christ at a time of questioning and crisis. While terrorists may have hoped to foment religious strife, Bible Society Director Ramez Atallah said that the killings have united Christians and Muslims in the troubled country.

Praise God for the bold and creative witness of Christian publishers and writers in the world’s hard places. MAI continues strategic partnerships with publishers in the Middle East.

“We cannot impact our Egyptian culture if 95 percent of Christian books are translations,” said one speaker at our June workshop in Cairo. About a dozen motivated Egyptian writers and four local editors discussed book ideas: a children’s book with creative exercises for Scripture memory, the story of a woman’s journey through depression, profiles of unsung heroes in the church in Egypt, a novel for young adults, an anthology of inspirational readings (a kind of Egyptian Christian “chicken soup for the soul”), and more.
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Please pray for these infant writing projects and that the writers will stay disciplined. Plans for another training in 2016 are already underway with our local hosts. The need is urgent for quality Christian books and articles for the Egyptian people.

“I’ve never received this kind of encouragement,” a writer in her mid-twenties wrote us after the workshop. “It does feel like a new beginning and a boost to write. This passion in our hearts is truly a gift from God.  By discipline and grace, words will flow and stories will be told.”

Graphics courtesy of Bible Society of Egypt