“Jesus Speaks My Language!”
January 2023 | Written by David & Sarah Kennedy, Edited by Steve Moberg
Can you imagine needing to learn another language in order to read the Bible? What if you couldn’t read the Bible even if it was in your own language? This is one of the unique challenges of ministering in Francophone, or French-speaking Africa. David and Sarah Kennedy have been serving in Francophone Africa with Jesus Film Project since 2010. In early 2022, Gashland began partnering with them.
Francophone Africa has 7 of the top 10 most illiterate countries, some with only 20% of the population able to read. While French is a major trade language in these countries, most people speak a tribal language with their family and closest friends. There are hundreds if not thousands of these heart languages in Africa alone. Translating a Bible for even just one of these unreached people groups can take 20 years.
With these unique challenges, the film JESUS was developed by Campus Crusade for Christ (now known as Cru) as a tool for evangelism, church planting and outreach.
Jesus Film Project was started by Bill Bright in 1985 after the success of the film JESUS that, by that time, had already been translated into 100 languages. The film, taken entirely from the Gospel of Luke, gives audiences around the world the chance to hear Jesus speak in their heart language and provide a basic Gospel presentation. Many of these languages have never seen a film in their own language. Imagine the first piece of media you had ever seen depict the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Today, Jesus Film Project has helped to translate and record the film in over 2000 languages and has created new full length and short films for audiences around the world. The effectiveness of the ministry lies in its ability to shorten the time between the beginning of a translation project and the delivery of Gospel material into the targeted language.
So who are the Kennedys? David and Sarah met at the University of Missouri in Columbia in 2007. Three years later they were married and moved to Orlando, FL to join Jesus Film Project. They now have four boys, Jake (8 years old), Leo (6 years old), Blaise (2 years old) and Jonah (1 month old).
David serves with Jesus Film Project as a Language Translation Project Manager for Africa, especially Francophone Africa. He helps people groups throughout the continent to translate their tribal languages into the film JESUS
and show it across the population to bring many to a saving faith in Jesus Christ. Working alongside Bible translation agencies David helps with the translation, recording and release of languages into the film.
Growing up in Africa and learning to speak French fluently in his school years has greatly benefited David’s work and the ministry. The Francophone Africans frequently tell David how God has answered their prayers by calling him to ministry. David has also had great success with regional projects in France, where he lived and went to school for eleven years.
Sarah serves with the ministry as a Graphic Designer, helping in a variety of projects across the ministry while taking care of the boys.
Since 1979, Jesus Film Project resources have been used in every country in the world and they have recorded 633 million indicated decisions for Christ. Changes in technology and the advent of the internet have created new and exciting opportunities in outreach. Jesus Film Project continues to trust God for the fulfillment of the Great Commission.
Interestingly, two of the other missionaries Gashland has supported have connections to the Jesus Film. Nancy Morse has been working with the Jesus Film team in South America, advising them on translation issues in Venezuela. The Philippine Gospel Association (GPA) missionaries, Wingwing and Darlyn Bansilan, in Davo on the Island of Mindanao, have used the Jesus Film in their ministry to the tribespeople outside Davo.
“After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’”
– Revelation 7:9-10