The Gospel on an African Phone

Rosie Bunnow (Appleton, Wisconsin USA)

Archived discussion

About the presenter

Rosie, a teacher with practical farm-girl roots, spent 25 years at Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton, Wisconsin. That was her job. Her life, however, revolved around her church, her husband (Mr. Creativity), and their two sons. Rosie’s mission experiences include church building in Thailand, repair work after Hurricane Katrina, newsletter editing for Costa Maya Ministries, house parenting at New Beginnings, and distributing Proclaimers (solar-powered audio Bibles) to mission fields. These experiences have whetted her desire to discover what God is up to next.

What's Happening?

In the last year over 800 micro-SD memory cards have traveled to mission fields around the world. They are carried by mission workers and installed on villagers' cell phones in remote places.

These cards are loaded with the New Testament, the Jesus Film, Academia Cristo studies, songs and Bible helps. These are recorded in native languages, making the gospel accessible to people who can't read or don't have a pastor nearby.


Why Is It Happening?

There are 300 billion cell phones in the world today. People who live in huts without floors have them. People who live in jungles and remote villages have them. Therefore, putting the Good News on phones is one more way to reach people who desperately need a Savior.


Who Is Making It Happen?

The Lutheran Church (Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod) has a fund designated for audio Bibles, and that is where I enter the picture. I am a retired technical college teacher, now a one-woman duplicator of the cards. I haven't heard of any other volunteers like me, so I think I am an example of how someone outside of an organization can do global mission work.

Here's what I'm not:

  • Employed by a church organization
  • A pastor's wife
  • Offspring of a long line of church workers
  • Synod trained (Does four years at a Lutheran high school count?)
  • Trained in technology

If I were looking for a candidate to do what I'm doing, I wouldn't have hired me. Therefore, it continually strikes me as funny that I sit at my computer in safe, sanitized Wisconsin and connect with mission workers on the other side of the planet.

I'm such an ordinary, unlikely mission worker that I am proof of what God can do with anyone. All I did was say, "I'm available," and amazing projects like SD cards have fallen into my lap.


How Is It Happening?

Techno-Stuff and Materials:

  • Laptop with SD port
  • Micro-SD adapters
  • Duplicator

  • Micro-SD card adapter flash drives

  • Micro-SD memory cards

  • Jewel cases
  • Labels to identify which language is inside

    Websites from Which I Download Files:



    The Process:

    As an example, perhaps I get a request from Pastor John Roebke for cards with the New Testament in Chichewa. (Thanks to John for walking me through the techno part.) The following is what I do:

    1. Go to
    2. From the menu at the top, hover over "Audio Bible Resources."
    3. Click on "MP3 Downloads."
    4. Fill in the language (Chichewa) and the requested information.
    5. Click "Download."
    6. Once the file is in the download file on my computer, unzip it and save it.
    7. Insert the mini SD card into the adapter.
    8. Insert the adapter into the computer's SD port. It will pop open in D drive.
    9. Copy the file from my computer to the SD card.
    10. Remove adapter.
    11. Take the SD card out of the adapter.
    12. Insert it into the micro-SD card flash drive.
    13. Insert flash drive into the "source" slot of the duplicator.
    14. Insert empty SD cards into additional micro-SD card flash drives.
    15. Insert drives into the target slots on the duplicator.

    Items will automatically start copying. When the duplicator beeps, the cards are finished. Remove them and put them into labelled jewel cases. Labelling is crucial, or soon you'd have a big pile of unidentified cards and a big headache trying to figure out which are empty and which are ready to send.


    What Are the Results When It Happens?

    I have no data about the ultimate results of installing these cards on phones. Most mission workers are too busy to give me reports, nor do I expect them. But Missionary John Roebke of the One Africa Team did provide an account of how he distributes the SD cards. You can read his report, if you wish, below.

    But detailed reports about results are not necessary for me. I am merely a link in the gospel chain, and I am satisfied that God's Word will not return void. In my imagination, however, I see a man in Africa, sitting on the ground in a remote village. He is holding a cell phone in front of him. A half dozen little kids are draped over his shoulders, wiggling under his arms, climbing on his lap to see the Jesus Film. They are excited and filled with wonder as they watch God's plan for their salvation unfold.


    Digital Discipleship

    by John Roebke

    On my last trip to Kenya in November 2019 I was carrying five solar-powered mp3 players in my luggage. These devices, which cost around $50, came preloaded with audio recordings of the Bible in Swahili and in English. When the Nairobi airport scanners flagged my luggage as containing electronics, I ended up giving one of devices to a customs officer who asked me for it. While I don't begrudge giving anyone the Word of God, it seemed to me that there must be a more cost-efficient way of delivering audio Bibles to people in Africa.

    installing cards in phones

    A document, "Your Phone, God's Glory" on the Mobile Ministry Forum website gives detailed, step by step information on how to share Christian digital content using mobile phone technology. One of the chapters deals with using pre-recorded microSD memory cards to share Bibles and devotional materials that people can insert into their mobile phones. According to the World Bank and African Development Bank there are 650 million mobile users in the Africa . Most mobile phones have a built-in speaker and an earphones jack, so there is no need to provide an additional device dedicated to playing audio Bibles.

    Our team decided to focus on distribution of audio Bibles and the JESUS film made by Campus Crusade for Christ. The website offers free downloads of audio Bibles in over 1,300 languages, and the website offers free downloads of the JESUS film in 200 languages without any copyright restrictions for non-profit use.

    For our trip to Kenya in August 2021, Rosie Bunnow prepared about 70 microSD cards in Swahili and English. She downloaded the files from the websites and copied them using a card replicator she bought online for about $100, then sent the cards back to us in Africa with a missionary returning from his stateside furlough. I carried the cards with me to Kenya in my luggage, which was not flagged by the airport's security scanners.

    technology at a conference

    My fellow missionary Howard Mohlke and I had planned to visit the Kenya field to meet with local leaders at two separate conferences in the country. This gave me a perfect opportunity to distribute the cards to those in attendance. The cards were a big hit in both places, and almost everyone's phone or tablet had a memory slot. Some of the card slots were under the phone battery, so I had to remove the phone's back cover. Other phones had a tray that ejects when a metal pin is inserted into a hole. Since I forgot to bring a pin with me, I improvised with a staple that I straightened out with my pocket tool.

    digital library hub

    Immediately after we installed the cards the room was filled with the sounds of the Bible and the JESUS film, because all the phones had apps that could access the files. Each card came with 8 GB memory capacity, of which half was taken up with the prerecorded content. That allowed users to download other digital content that I had brought with me on a separate device, a local wifi hub that serves as a digital library with 160 GB of Bible commentaries, movies and music. WELS MLP gave one of these devices to both the Malawi and Zambia mission fields back in 2018, and we have used them to distribute digital content at various pastors' gatherings throughout those countries. I hope to return to Kenya again with my digital library to give people another opportunity to browse the titles and download more content.

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  • Discussion

    Dan Laitinen (WELS Multi-Language Productions) 2021-10-19 10:48:15pm
    Great idea! In many parts of the world data is expensive, so having the Bible and teaching videos available this way is very creative. I'm sure many lives are blessed by your ministry, Rosie. Blessings on your continued work for the kingdom! Thank you for sharing. Dan
    Rosie 2021-10-21 11:39:32am
    Dan, I notice you are with MLP. That makes me smile because you and I are actually under the same umbrella. The fund I use is part of MLP's department. The fund was designated for audio Bibles, and for some years we placed Proclaimers around the world. Now, however, cell phones have enabled individuals and small groups to access the Word without needing an additional device. As usual, God is way ahead of us.
    Jim Aderman 2021-10-26 3:09:05pm
    This seems to be an accessible way to share the gospel in areas of the globe where data is expensive, as well as where digital Christian materials are blocked. Bible smuggling becomes a lot easier when the Scriptures and a lot more are on a microSD card.
    Rosie 2021-10-26 10:01:40pm
    Jim! Nice to see your name on this post. I am told that the cards are so tiny that airport luggage x-rays don't pick them up. It might make a difference if the traveler has 20 or 200 in his suitcase, but it's an exciting thought.
    Robert O Balza 2021-10-26 4:55:31pm
    Rosie, we need to talk. Maybe we can help each other in a mission field in a different part of the world.
    Rosie 2021-10-26 10:11:44pm
    Absolutely! This presentation was about Africa because that's how this project began. In addition to Africa, we have placed SD cards in Nepal, Mexico, and the Philippines. Cards were scheduled for Bangladesh and Cuba, but they are on hold because of Covid shutdowns and safety concerns. I am willing to do more duplicating if I have enough lead time and if the broken supply chain permits sufficient materials.
    Susan Renee Ferre 2021-10-27 5:29:57pm
    Think this is awesome! Thank you for doing this!
    Tom Kuster (Christ in Media Institute) 2021-10-29 1:11:21am
    Cut and paste these addresses to broaden your background on outreach using mobile devices:

    The 2014 “Christian Mobile Phone Conference” at Bethany Lutheran College

    Use of micro-SD chips in Cameroon (including a short video testimonial) and the Lightstream in India 2016

    We demonstrated phone-to-phone file transfers using BlueTooth in our very first GOWM conference [copy and paste], although there might be better technology for doing that now. Anybody know about it? I'm not sure this technique has caught on widely in our world missions, but it should. It enables "viral spread" of Christian messages through all the phones in a community.
    Rosie 2021-10-29 9:37:47pm
    Tom, I welcome the viral spread of the Christian message to which you refer, and with the rapid changes in technology, I look forward to the day when duplicating SD cards will be obsolete.
    Tom Kuster (Christ in Media Institute) 2021-10-30 10:58:35pm
    Rosie, I SO MUCH appreciate your work. Not only is it a significant contribution to world mission work, but you are a model of what the Christ in Media Institute is all about – demonstrating that, while we deeply appreciate the called workers who leave their homes to bring the Gospel to lost souls abroad, you don't have to be a called worker to make significant contributions to the Lord's work of outreach. It's a matter of knowing what gifts the Lord has given you and seeing the opportunities He is providing. Thank you, Rosie!
    John Roebke (One Africa Team) 2021-11-05 7:52:30am
    In my experience, sharing files via Bluetooth is not viable for files larger than 16 MB. Transfer speed is very slow and glitchy. Much easier to hand someone an SD card - they're ready to play immediately
    Tom Kuster (Christ in Media Institute) 2021-11-06 2:13:21am
    You are doing such great work in many ways, John, and not only with the SD cards. Thank you for that. When we first promoted phone-to-phone transfers seven or eight years ago, I got the impression that very few of the phones available in Africa, many of them "clunky" old flip-phones and such, didn't have the memory to manage Bluetooth transfers, or even slots for SD cards. I think that's why the process wasn't catching on quickly. You might now be in the right time and right places to make these processes work, under the Spirit. Someone from the Africa mission told me that there is another process, maybe an app but I forgot what, that manages phone-to-phone transfers much better than BlueTooth. Do you know what that is? You are right that handing someone an SD chip that works immediately is best, but then if that person knows how to transfer files phone to phone, she or he can share files from that chip with family, friends, co-workers, and they in turn with their friends, etc. – "viral" spread. I still believe that can be a useful strategy for spreading the Word via phones. Rosie can make hundreds of chips, maybe a couple thousand, but not enough for viral spread. Phone to phone can do that.
    Emily Wittig (Martin Luther College) 2021-11-04 1:23:58am
    Rosie Bunnow and John Roebke,

    I enjoyed reading both of these presentations. Ms. Bunnow’s article made my eyes go wide. I never realized how many steps are needed to make a memory card. I considered myself to understand technology well, but this is on a whole new level, especially when I think that you are doing this in your own time, it’s inspiring. It meant even more when it was paired with Mr. Roebke’s article about how they were used. Now that it’s been done, it seems like it was an obvious solution since everyone has a cell phone nowadays.

    I believe that this is a very smart solution to finding a way to bring resources to those in Africa. It’s important for them to have access to the Bible in their own language. But it leads me to wonder, what is the job of missionaries that go over to those African countries? They don’t necessarily need to bring Bibles since they’re on the phones. In general, what do the missionaries get to do? I’ve always thought that it would be really fun, so I’m curious as to how they spend their time.

    Thank you guys so much for being willing to share this information; it was interesting and inspiring. God’s blessings.
    Rosie 2021-11-04 3:19:37pm
    Thank you for your comments, Emily. I can see you have a curious mind. Curiosity, paired with spiritual hunger, always gets rewarded.

    Yes, the process is more complicated than I had imagined, and it's a good thing we don't understand how difficult some projects are before we begin. If we did, we wouldn't tackle them! But once we are in and experiencing challenges, we turn to God for help, and that is exactly what He wants ... and then He gets the credit. "All that we have accomplished, You have done for us." Is. 26:12

    I have repeatedly found these challenges fall into two categories: physical and spiritual. In this case, the physical would be things like learning the process, figuring out where to get the materials, or making time to duplicate. The spiritual would be persevering through all manner of weird obstacles that frustrate me and make me want to yell, cry, or run away. I used to think I was exaggerating the number of times my computer/duplicator did weird, unexplainable things, but last month I decided to keep track of every glitch and within 3 days I counted 24 glitches. I am convinced the powers of darkness try to frustrate my efforts. (I'd be interested to hear others' comment on similar occurrences.)

    As to what missionaries do in faraway places, I hope some mission workers will chime in here. From what I know, they teach national pastors true doctrine, and they spend time correcting false interpretations coming from long-time cultural beliefs. They counsel leaders on how to apply Biblical concepts into real life. I suppose they do in Africa what pastors do in America.
    John Roebke (One Africa Team) 2021-11-05 9:06:15am
    I've had the privilege of serving as a WELS missionary in two places during my career. In 1994 I was one of the first WELS missionaries to Bulgaria, and I was directly involved with planting and nurturing congregations, performing baptisms and confirmations, and preaching sermons every week. My role in Africa is very different since our national partners have their own pastors who serve their congregations. I am an advisor and an encourager to the church leaders, and I help manage the support that comes from WELS to our partners to assist them in their ministries. While I miss preaching every week I am thankful for the opportunity to "hold up the prophets' hands" and support the Gospel ministry from behind the scenes. Currently, our missionaries are exploring new contacts with groups in ten different countries across the continent. Now that COVID travel restrictions are being relaxed, we are spending a lot more of our time travelling. It's both exciting and tiring, and certainly never boring work! You can find out more about our work on One Africa Team by visiting our mission blog site at
    Jed Mittelstadt (MLC) 2021-11-05 3:19:39pm
    I am familiar with micro SD cards and their great versatility in the transport and downloading of many forms of media including photos, videos, and audio files. While this is true, I would never have considered the possibility of using them to transport and share God’s word! It truly is amazing to see how technology continues to allow for more of God’s word to be shared with the world. Thank you so much for the work you have been putting in and for reminding us that we can all evangelize with the talents that we are blessed with.

    You mentioned that you sit at home in WI while in contact with missionaries that are located all over the world. How many total missionaries do you work for by preparing these micro SD cards? Also, what are some of the countries that they are stationed in?

    Thank you again for serving God joyfully in this way and God’s blessings as you continue this work.
    Rosie 2021-11-05 6:00:54pm
    Jed, you are correct that we can evangelize with the talents we are blessed with. Having said that, the older I get, the more I suspect that if we are available, He even uses us when we aren't particularly skilled. Then we learn along the way and acquire the skill. For myself, I have been dragged kicking and screaming through a number of things, and only on the other side of them have I been able to say, "Oh, well, I guess that wasn't so bad."

    I didn't intend to sound as if I email great numbers of workers around the world. Seeing even one email from Asia excites me! Off the top of my head, I can think of seven missionaries I have heard from. Then sometimes they refer me to a national pastor to clarify which dialect is most useful.

    Since this site is accessed by people in many countries, I am hesitant to be specific about the four Asian countries that receive cards. Other than those countries, cards have gone to missionaries in Uganda, Malawi, Nigeria, Kenya, Zambia, Cameroon, the Philippines,Sonora Mexico, Yucatan Mexico, and Bolivia (containing a total of 21 different languages). Presently I am in contact with a pastor in St Lucia who is interested in cards for his people. If you have any other contacts that I should explore, let me know.