For Don and Jenya Foster, missional living means vigorously defending “the least of them.”
The Original Messenger
When Dr. Stanley founded In Touch, he wanted to get the message of God’s love outside the four walls of his church. He knew the best way to accomplish that was through technology. We use technology in many ways, but how can we reach people who don’t have electricity, internet, television, or radio? Since 2007, our answer is the Messenger, which was originally developed to reach military personnel. Here are the features that make it a unique tool:
- Contains many encouraging Dr. Stanley messages as well as the New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs
- Available in 45+ languages (and counting!)
- Lightweight and pocket-sized, like a cell phone
Whenever we visit a new country, local pastors often coordinate the distribution of Messenger devices as part of their ministry. But how can we empower the pastors further? Many countries, like South Sudan, don’t have accessible or affordable seminary training. So we created the Slate as a resource we can use to help train pastors. Slates are:
- Tablets with a 7-inch screen
- Much lighter than reference textbooks
- Full of sermon notes, Bible translations, PDFs of biblical encyclopedias, videos, and audio messages
Every year, millions of people are impacted by natural disasters and other regional crises. Often, that’s just the time they need God’s Word most. But things like tsunamis can’t be planned for. We needed a device so nimble that it could be programmed immediately in the language required. So we did some paring down. The result was the Pulse, which is:
- A smaller version of the original Messenger
- Easily customized by language
- So simplified that thousands of units can be programmed and shipped within days
In some regions of the world, it’s unusual for residents to have internet access—or a computer. But even in the most remote areas, many people carry a cell phone. How could we get the good news to whole communities of people like this, who might not even be looking for it? The LightStream is designed to do just that. It detects cell phones in the area and notifies the owner that Bible resources are available for free download to their phones. Here are some other interesting things about the LightStream:
- Uses a solar-powered, stationary content server
- Offers downloads via WiFi or Bluetooth
- Can be paired with a water purification system
- Also distributes public health information
Sometimes, we are introduced to communities that require us to change our strategies a little. There are countries like Ukraine that have plentiful electricity and internet access. They are in need of Ukrainian biblical content, but it’s tough to get boxes of Bibles through customs. Even Messengers are met with questions. So, we started putting the same content from a Messenger onto a USB key. The Key has several benefits:
- Very small
- Easily shared from person to person
- Compatible with nearly all computers
- Easy to transport in bulk
Imagine not being able to safely carry a Bible or talk about the gospel openly. Sadly, that’s the reality where some people live. In such places, even if residents could access a computer, internet research may be under surveillance. What do we do when our most innovative PC solutions won’t do the trick? The Micro is a tiny memory chip that lets users listen to content through a cell phone. It’s an amazing little device that:
- Is about the size of your thumbnail
- Fits into nearly any cell phone
- Holds audio files
- Can be listened to individually or by groups—think underground house churches!
- Transports by the thousands without arousing suspicion
- Fits in a missionary’s pocket, dozens at a time
Wherever electricity is scarce, light is a precious resource. In the evening, it’s hard to read, hard to study, hard to gather and listen to sermons together.
Believers in communities like this have a difficult time with discipleship after the sun goes down. What could we do to shed light on their situation? Introducing the Torch: a power-packed flashlight with audio files, so fellowship can continue after dark. The Torch has lots of useful bells and whistles:
- Solar-powered—gathers the necessary energy by day for nighttime use
- Becomes a lantern for large spaces
- Has a loudspeaker that fills the room with sound
- Can also be used as a charging station
- Nightlight and power cord options
Messenger Lab FAQ
Why do we have a Messenger Lab?
Dr. Stanley believes that salvation is available to everyone (John 3:16) and that we’re called to take this good news to the ends of the earth (Matthew 28:19). These beliefs are at the core of In Touch Ministries’ mission “to lead people worldwide into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and to strengthen the local church.” That’s why, for over 40 years, we’ve been using modern communication technologies (from radio and television to the internet) to share the message of salvation with the world.
However, there are still people in our world who can’t be reached by these media streams. That’s why we created the Messenger Lab: to develop innovative technological solutions tailored to specific regions and language groups. We often partner with pastors and suitable organizations to distribute Messenger devices so that we can better serve local churches in those areas.
Why so many different devices?
Simply put, one size doesn’t fit all. Every region we are trying to reach has a different set of obstacles to overcome. That’s why each Messenger Lab device has a unique set of features and purposes. By evaluating each region based on its people’s needs, we can determine which device will serve them best.
For example, in areas with limited access to electricity, solar-powered devices like the original Messenger work best. In some areas, many people have smartphones, so we give them Micros (SD cards) or LightStreams to load Messenger content to their phones.
When traveling to some areas, it can be a challenge to carry large numbers of Bibles through customs. That’s when the Key (USB device) proves useful. Keys are small and portable but can hold a significant amount of information and relevant content.
Some places have strong local church communities but limited access to educational resources. In special cases, we can provide the pastor with a Slate (a device that is not available for wider distribution). Slates help local pastors study God’s Word and grow in their faith as they lead others.
And those are just a few examples of the diverse situations in which the Messenger Lab has provided creative ministry solutions!
What kind of content is stored on each device?
The material on any given device depends on the availability of content in the target language. However, Dr. Stanley’s most beloved messages plus the books of Psalms and Proverbs are almost always included, and Slates usually contain the Life Principles training curriculum and other study tools for pastors.
Into how many languages has Messenger Lab content been translated?
Currently, we have content available in 88 languages, but check back often, because there are always more being added! We’re always working on about ten new languages at a time.
How many devices have been distributed?
More than 708,000 of them so far!
What are the next steps for the Messenger Lab?
We’re always working on developing content in new languages. 2016 saw the completion of devices in the Uai-Uai, Quechua, and Romané languages, and more are underway. We’re also working to distribute the latest Messenger Lab device, the Torch. Some follow-up trips to places we’ve previously visited are also in the planning stages.
How can I get involved with the Messenger Lab?
The Messenger Lab relies on the prayers and gifts of our partners—for we know God works in mighty ways when we faithfully pray and obey His leading. If you have more questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-800-789-1473. Sign up for our newsletter at intouch.org/subscribe to stay up to date on the latest Messenger Lab developments.
Can I download information about the Messenger Lab to print and share?
Yes! If you know a missionary or someone who would benefit from a Messenger Lab device, Download this helpful Messenger Lab fact sheet to share with them.