Mission chief wants to see gospel shared phone by phone

Here’s a little quiz: which is the Bible app that tells the story of Jesus in the greatest number of languages and dialects?

Which Bible app is designed particularly for people who can’t read or whose languages are not written down?

Which Bible app is accessed in every country of the world, including North Korea, (yet is little known at home) and has teams working in 40 countries around the world recording new messages in new languages?

If you answered 5fish, chances are you already have this unique app on your phone. But are you using it to reach out to people?

As well Bible messages in 6700 different languages, dialects and speech varieties, 5fish has basic teaching materials, the Jesus film and audio Bibles.

“There are many languages that do not have any Bible translation in them and that don’t have the Jesus film. So there are many languages where we have got the only audio content and there are many languages that aren’t written down at all and so audio is the only way to each them,” says Christine Platt, CEO of Global Recordings Network (GRN), which has developed the app.

“It’s particularly designed for people who cannot read. There are icons so that people can work out what it is by looking at the picture. So that just makes it a whole lot easier for people to navigate it without literacy.”

“We’ve spent 10 years developing this app, we have spent 80 years collecting Christian resources in different languages, but people don’t know about it.” – Christine Platt

After nine years at the helm of GRN, Christine believes it’s time to help Australians catch on to the enormous evangelism potential of 5fish.

“We’ve spent 10 years developing this app, we have spent 80 years collecting Christian resources in different languages, but people don’t know about it,” she laments.

“We decided that the app is actually mature enough now that it works reliably and it’s pretty intuitive, and the time has come to try and let people know about it so that they will use it,” Christine tells Eternity.

“How do we do that? We thought, ‘we’ll make it the Year of 5fish.’ And then our real focus in Australia is to inform the Christian public that, ‘Hey, we’ve got this great tool here for you to use to reach your neighbours.’ It doesn’t matter if you’ve got somebody in the middle of NSW who doesn’t read, well, it’s a great thing for them to be able to use. And if you’re in Sydney and you come across and a Nepali who speaks some obscure dialect of Nepali, well, we’ve got every language spoken in Nepal available on the app and you can reach those people with our app. And it’s free. It doesn’t cost you anything. It doesn’t cost them anything. So why not?”

Christine Platt, CEO of Global Recordings Network

Christine, who has been CEO of GRN for nine years, is a refreshingly straight talker who doesn’t fit the stereotype of the slick Christian CEO. But she is a powerful advocate for the potential for 5fish. She plans to visit churches, chaplains, mission organisation, and conferences to show people the app.

A former missionary to Ecuador, Christine came to faith in 1988 when she was halfway through uni, while doing an industrial placement in engineering at Eraring power station on the NSW central coast.

“I was invited along to a worktime Bible study,” she recalls. “At the power station at lunchtime, pretty much nothing happens and so I went along. I found my Gideon’s Bible, which I was given in Year 7, and the people in the group gave me Christian books.

“I was living in a caravan at Morrissett at the time, so I would go home from work and I would read the Bible and I’d read all these books that they were giving me.

“And as I was reading John Chapman’s A Fresh Start, I just knew it was true. It just became crystal clear it was true. So I thought about it for a couple of weeks because becoming a Christian really wasn’t on my radar at the time. But it seemed like a choice between becoming a Christian or going into hell, so the options weren’t good if you didn’t go with Jesus, so I decided, okay. I prayed the prayer in the back of the book and that really changed the whole trajectory of my life.”

Up to that point, Christine says her life had been going downhill.

“My father died when I was in Year 10 at school and so I had no purpose and things were really going downhill. My marks at uni were going definitely going down and life just seemed quite pointless and meaningless. This [trusting Jesus] meant that there was a purpose to life. And I was here for a reason and there was a future. So that was very transformative and pretty much every aspect of my life changed over the next few years.”

Christine went on to work with the Electricity Commission for 11 years as a cadet engineer and then as a professional engineer.

She had been a Christian for about a year when she heard a message at a church in Yass in country NSW from a minister who had just returned from three weeks in Papua New Guinea.

“While I was listening to him, I had this thought come into my head that ‘One day I’ll do that and I’ll take the gospel to people who otherwise might never hear it,’” she explains.

“So then over the next years I grew my faith and I went up to Papua New Guinea on a short-term mission and figured, ‘Well, it’s amazing what these people do, but I can’t see how I’d fit in.’”

It was only when GRN showed up at her church when she was in Orange that she discovered something she thought she could be part of.

“So I went to India and I learned how to be a recordist, I did a training course. Then I went to Bible college in 96-97 because I wanted to be a recordist, and then God said, ‘Don’t join GRN.’ And I ended up joining SIM [mission organisation] and I went to Ecuador and so I served in Ecuador for two, four-year terms and ended up helping start a radio station called Radio Hope in a place called Loja.”

“I went to Bible college in 96-97 because I wanted to be a recordist, and then God said, ‘Don’t join GRN.’” – Christine Platt

After her return from Ecuador, Christine was feeling burnt out and spent a couple of years recovering. For six months she worked as a nanny for her sister, who had twins and two toddlers, at the end of which she was ready to start looking at where God was leading her next.

“I got as far as mission, but I had no desire to leave Australia. And I thought, ‘Well, I’ve got no idea how that works.’ And then I got a phone call from GRN saying ‘would you prayerfully consider applying to be our CEO?’.”

Over the following weekend, as she was praying about the offer, God showed her the way while she was reading Mark chapter 4.

“It’s where Jesus is in the boat with the disciples and there’s this big storm and the disciples freak out and come to Jesus, ‘don’t you care that we’re perishing?’ and he stills the storm and says, ‘you of little faith, why are you so worried?’ So I thought, ‘Yeah, okay, well, the problems aren’t mine, they’re Jesus’ problems – and so that made me feel that taking on the role of the CEO is not absolutely horrendous because they’re actually God’s problems and not my problems.”

“My life is just fuelled with ambiguity.” – Christine Platt

While she still believes “it’s a horrendous idea to be the CEO of a mission” – she gets paid no more than the landscaper of GRN’s property in western Sydney – she believes it is where God has called her to serve. Over the nine years that she has served in that role, she has come to appreciate the Apostle Paul’s pragmatism and ability to deal with ambiguity.

“My life is just fuelled with ambiguity. Here in Australia, we support the work in Southern Africa, quite a few Asian countries and the Pacific,” she says.

“I remember sitting in the Philippines with one of our Filipino guys here who travelled with me and I was talking to a couple of them and they were telling me about this great project. I’m listening to them and I’m thinking ‘I have no idea what you’re talking about.’ And so I asked questions and they’d explain things and, and at the end of it, I could tell that they were all sold on this as being a wonderful idea. I had no idea what they’re talking about. And in the end I said, ‘look, just do it and I’ll see what comes out of it.’

“I could make no sense of what they were saying, but they were so enthusiastic – so you’ve just got to be able to see somebody’s heart and their enthusiasm, and even if it doesn’t make a great deal of sense, being willing to go with it.”

Another example was an idea of GRN’s leader in South Africa, who wanted to use a stuffed tiger to talk to children.

“I could not imagine how that would be helpful, but again, she was and so enthusiastic so I said, ‘okay, find the money and you can do it.’ And it’s been absolutely brilliant. Tumi Tiger is amazing. Tumi Tiger helps traumatised children, kids who are unable to be reached and they give them a tiger, and then people can get to the kids through the tiger. And he introduces kids to Jesus, which is okay to do in South Africa. And it’s just a wonderful tool, but again if I had have gone by my instincts, there’s no way in the world that Tumi Tiger would exist. But it’s just been fantastic.”

With a new logo for 5fish, GRN plans to launch the Year of 5fish at a dinner in February. GRN is also hoping to employ a project manager to help in the publicity campaign.

“We exist to tell a story of Jesus in every language but we’re not marketers – that is not our strength,” Christine confesses.

“Our strength is going out there and making the recordings and providing the technology so that people can use it, but actually getting out there and telling people about it, we just, aren’t very good at that. So, we’ve decided that we have to get a bit better at it.”

“I really think five fish has the ability to make talking about your faith easier.” – Christine Platt

Asked for her hopes and prayers for next year, she concludes:

“I would really like to see Christians in Australia have 5fish available. And I really think five fish has the ability to make talking about your faith easier, because if you meet somebody and you’re not very good at explaining things yourself, or you can’t communicate with somebody because their English isn’t wonderful, well then, you won’t feel you can’t start because if you get stuck, you can say, look, ‘I can’t explain this very well, but I’ve got this app and this will explain it to you.

“And then it’s very easy for people to put the app on their own phone and then listen to it. I mean, we’ve got a guy, he’s an older guy and he will walk up to anybody who doesn’t come from Australia obviously. And because he’s old, people respect him and he’ll ask them, ‘what’s your name? Where are you from? And what language do you speak?’ And he will get their phones speaking to them the gospel in their language all the time; and you can just do that really easily. And so I think that it’s got great potential if people just knew about it and had a go with it. And that’s what I would like to see happen.”