Ricardo Makyn/Staff Photographer
LEFT: Dr Woodrow Kroll, president of Back to the Bible International, addressing the 50th anniversary breakfast for Back to the Bible in Jamaica at the Terra Nova Hotel in St Andrew on November 11.
Rudolph Brown/Chief Photographer
RIGHT: Barrington Laing, managing director of Back to the Bible (Caribbean) at 10 Hagley Park Plaza in St Andrew.
Mark Dawes, Religion Editor
For many years, Jamaicans have been tuning in to the Back to the Bible radio broadcasts to receive their daily teachings from the Christian scriptures about the character of God and the way one should live.
The ministry of Back to the Bible in Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean is facing serious financial obstacles. But, this is being viewed as a challenge to the organisation and its partners to renew its commitment to communicate the message of the Christian gospel, says the Rev Barrington Laing, managing director of Back to the Bible Caribbean head offices, located at 10 Hagley Park Plaza, St Andrew.
Laing, who became managing director of this ministry in May 2007, said he and his team are working to make the ministry self-sufficient.
"We still do get some subsidy from our international office in Lincoln, Nebraska. I want to see how I can get the Jamaican population to support this ministry. There are various costs that we are absorbing. We would like to be on more radio stations. Currently we are on RJR, Love 101, and TBC Radio. We are in negotiations with other radio stations but funds are the inhibiting factor right now. Even though I understand the harsh economic climate, but it is God's business. The testimonies we have had from various persons really have challenged me to see this ministry move on.
Leader of development
Laing, who is the holder of a bachelors in management and accounting, from the University of the West Indies and a masters in Inter-Disciplinary Studies from the Caribbean Graduate School of Theology, has, for the past five years, been the pastor at the Grace Gospel Hall Church of the Firstborn in Harbour View. He is also the associate pastor at Jones Town Gospel Hall Church of the First Born and assistant general secretary of his denomination.
"We are a faith-based ministry," he explained. "We minister the word. We want to see what else we can do in terms of social outreach. But, when we look at the Jamaican landscape, we will have to find a way to do social outreach. In the past, we have had inner-city youth camps. What we did then was to bring the youths from the inner city, where they could have fun, play and be taught the Word of God. And, we pass on some positive values. We have had to curtail that because of funding. Lincoln will not support that social outreach with their funds. So, we have to generate the funds for that. Right now, the board is looking at a strategic plan to guide the way forward," Laing said.
Spiritual guidance in Jamaica
Through its Jamaica-based office, Back to the Bible offers family, marriage and pre-marriage counselling, as well as spiritual guidance, through correspondence.
According to the Back to the Bible web site, the ministry was founded in Lincoln, Nebraska, United States, by Theodore Epp in 1939, with broadcasts over one radio station. Today, the broadcast produces over 70 programmes in 25 languages, spoken by 56 per cent of the world's population. In addition to its radio broadcasts, it uses the Internet, television and other media to share the gospel message.
Back to the Bible established an office in the Caribbean 40 years ago with Leonard Bewick as the first managing director. Back to the Bible also has offices in Trinidad & Tobago and Barbados and contact persons in other territories within the English-speaking Caribbean.
The Barbados office of Back to the Bible is self-sufficient and, as such, it pays for the broadcast of the programme in that country. Not so for Trinidad and Tobago, which is supported by the Caribbean head office. Laing said he is hoping to devise a strategy to help the Trinidadian office to pay for the broadcast there.
The Back to the Bible ministry has diversified its programme offerings over the years but its principal broadcast lasts 30 minutes and is an exposition of the Bible by Woodrow Kroll, the president of Back to the Bible International. Like his predecessors, Theodore Epp, and Warren Wiersbe, Kroll has taught in ways that transcends denominational distinctives. Jamaicans got to hear Kroll in person earlier this month, as he was in the country to fulfill speaking engagements related to the celebration of the Back to the Bible's 50th year of ministry in Jamaica.
Though the ministries of Kroll have earned appreciation across the region, the Caribbean board of Back to the Bible believes it would be a good thing if he is replaced by a Caribbean voice. They are in talks with the international head offices towards having a Caribbean voice teaching the scriptures on the air. Laing believes a Caribbean Bible teacher on the air would be better equipped to speak to Caribbean distinctives and challenges peculiar to the people of the region. He is optimistic that a Caribbean voice could soon, within two years, be on the air.
Voice of Missions
Furthermore, there is a precedence. Between 1968-1978 the Back to the Bible aired a programme heard in the Caribbean, called The Voice of Missions, which was prepared and presented by the Rev Billy Hall, accredited worker of the Christian Brethren churches.
The financial crunch facing the Back to the Bible Caribbean head offices, has affected its book ministry. At its Hagley Park Plaza office, the book store, which was previously housed downstairs, has been scaled down and moved upstairs. The downstairs space has been rented to another Christian ministry.
Notwithstanding all the financial mountains facing Back to the Bible Caribbean, Laing acknowledges that its broadcasts are having a favourable impact. "A lot of persons acknowledge that the programme has really transformed their lives," he said.
The Hagley Park Plaza offices, he said, receives a significant inflow of letters from listeners, who testify to the deepening of their spiritual lives because of the Back to the Bible broadcasts.
The ministry is heavily reliant on partners, who donate regular sums to the ministry, Laing said.
"What we really want to do is to get individuals engaged in the Word. We have a lot of people with the Bibles. Jamaica's not short of Bibles. How many of us read the Word and examine the Word? Though things are hard economically, we still believe that if people would get back to the Word and allow the Word of God to envelop our lives, we can then see a change in the society. We want to see how we can positively impact the nation," Laing said.
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Back to the Bible broadcast times in Jamaica
Station - Day - Time
Radio 2 FM - Monday-Friday - 5 a.m.
Love 101.7 - Monday-Friday, Sunday - 12:30 pm, 8 p.m.
TBC - Sunday-Friday - 5:30 a.m.
TBC (Bible Minute) - Monday-Friday - 11 a.m.