Susan Bates has seen the life-changing impact of Scripture and how God’s word can bring healing and comfort to those she refers to as “the least of these.”
This includes the homeless man, the impoverished villager in a third-world country, imprisoned and illiterate juveniles, disabled adults, the trafficked girl who can’t sleep at night, and many others. These are the ones to whom Bates seeks to bring hope through her nonprofit ministry, Your Working Copy (YWC), based in Birmingham.
Bates, founder of and narrator for YWC, announced a new campaign in December to put the King James Bible in the hands of “the forgotten” with the help of MegaVoice audio players. Following years of challenges, and 2020 turned upside-down by COVID-19, her mission is more clear than ever, Bates noted in a recent interview.
“That’s what we see as our charge, to put these audio Bibles in places everywhere they’re needed among the least of these,” said Bates, a member of New Bethlehem Baptist Church, Bessemer, and an adjunct math instructor at a local community college.
Focus on recording
It all began in 2009 when she and her board of directors set out to record the entire Bible on CD. The original plan included completing a library of CDs featuring all the books of the Bible. And for Bates, who had used her smooth vocal skills much of her life in radio and debate, and other ways, the assignment seemed simple — at least at first.
“I thought it would be a snap,” she recalls on her ministry’s website. “As the years wore on, I confessed to the Father that I had no idea what I had signed up for.”
Getting through all of the Old Testament books would be daunting enough, then changes in technology led her ministry in 2016 to officially stop producing and distributing CDs. Bates was left second-guessing YWC’s direction and what she believed God had called her to do. On top of that, her board had dropped from nine to three members.
But that year, she and the remaining members agreed she needed to do a better job of prioritizing efforts to record all the books of the Bible. This meant other parts of the ministry — Scripture-reading events and other recording projects — had to be put on hold. “Up until 2016 we had recorded maybe a third of the Bible, the majority of the New Testament, but not many of those hard-hitters, those big Old Testament books,” she told The Alabama Baptist.
And in the process, Bates confirmed the direction in which she had felt the Lord leading her for years — to record the entire Bible and distribute it to “the least of these.”
“While the Lord had been nudging me all along to get the Bible finished,” she recalled, “there were so many different applications that I had devoted myself to, that I lost sight of the main thing.”
So from 2017 to 2019, what Bates referred to as “the silent” years, she poured more energy into finishing recording the remaining books of the Bible while juggling teaching and other responsibilities.
“We just set our pace and slowly whittled away at it,” said Bates, who noted that most of 2020 was spent with her small team on post-production, uploading all the recordings to the website and working with MegaVoice to feature them on solar-powered audio players. She also dealt with the unexpected death of one of her friends and production team members to COVID-19.
Through it all, YWC distributed 24 of the audio players last Christmas to The WellHouse, a faith-based ministry in St. Clair County that provides shelter, healing and restoration to women escaping from human trafficking. This was made possible following a generous donation that helped cover the $60 audio players.
According to MegaVoice, Bates said, her recording of the Bible was the only version they carry in a woman’s voice.
The voice matters
“With the emergence of human trafficking, there has been a need and a cry for a Bible in a woman’s voice,” said Bates, pointing out that some abuse survivors have no interest in listening to Scripture read by a man.
Marlie Hyde, program officer at The Wellhouse, said the women at the shelter have expressed how Bates’ recording is more comforting for them.
“We’re on 65 acres of land and so the women walk around the lake, and you can see them sitting there, listening to [the Scriptures],” Hyde said. “They’ve said the voice was so soothing to them … especially those who have experienced intense trauma.”
YWC also is working with ministry partners who plan to distribute audio Bibles this spring to Guatemala.
“They can take those small gadgets and use them to spread the gospel to a group of 1,000 people by connecting it to speakers,” Bates said.
In August, YWC plans to hold its first fundraising dinner. “We’re really optimistic about where this ministry will take us,” she said, “and how it will make a difference in the world.”
For more information, visit yourworkingcopy.org.
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