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A smart-phone application — which offers an audio version of the Bible in 542 languages — is providing the Scriptures in countries where Bibles are illegal or highly restricted.

“The price of the Scriptures is no longer an issue,” reports the British news site Christian Telegraph. “The app is free. As long as a person owns a compatible device — or they can even use the app on a computer, they can access the Scriptures. There are five billion cell phone subscribers worldwide, making the likelihood that a person owns such a device quite high. The number of smart phones is going up, too.”

The “app” is called “Faith Comes by Hearing.” The non-profit organization behind the free download says that 5 billion of the world’s people speak the 542 languages in which their application is now available — however with 6,809 languages recognized worldwide, their job is far from complete.

After years of distributing recorded, audio versions of the Bible, the ministry says the phone app has solved one major obstacle — distribution. Many downloads today are coming from countries where it is illegal to own a print version of the Bible. In some countries, printed Bibles must be numbered and their owners registered with the government. Booksellers are required to keep detailed records so Bible owners can be tracked. If an unregistered person is found with a Bible, both they and the registered owner face legal prosecution.

But a phone app gets past all those rules.

“We’re very, very excited about the accessibility of the Word of God to anybody, anywhere, at any time,” says FCBH’s national director, Troy Carl. FCBH is an outreach of Hosanna ministries, founded in the 70s when husband wife team Jerry and Annette Jackson were ministering on a Hopi Indian reservation and discovered a room full of beautiful, unused Hopi Bibles. Because many of the older Hopis did not read in their native language, printed Hopi Bibles were of little use.

So, the Jacksons began making audio recordings — and discovered they were a big hit in cultures with storytelling traditions. Morgan, their son, joined the staff in 1983 and became International Director in 1991.

The ministry is moving quickly to increase the numbers of languages available on the app. They report they have doubled the languages offered on it within the last month — and 50 teams are working internationally to boost that number.

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