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An Interview With… Mark Armstrong

An Interview with……… Mark Armstrong, SIM Zimbabwe LEARN Project Manager

Biblica: Mark, can you tell us the organization that you work for, and the role that you have?
I am an Associate Missionary working with SIM (Serving in Mission) Zimbabwe, and in December 2019 I took over the role of LEARN Zimbabwe Project Manager.

Biblica: Please tell us about LEARN?
Mark: LEARN stands for Leaders Equipping and Resourcing Network and we are working to provide pastors with the resources they need to better understand and teach the gospel. Currently working in Zimbabwe, but there is great potential to expand to other nations and to partner with other organisations.

A Pastor using the tablet

A Pastor using the tablet

Biblica: How are you doing this, and explain to us the context for pastors working in Zimbabwe.
Mark: The context the pastors are working in is a difficult one. There is a lot of false teaching in Zimbabwe, alongside which other religions are rapidly growing.
To help equip pastors, we are giving them a tablet loaded with up to 50 books, and we have developed a platform that is both web and app based, designed to resource them so that they can teach and explain the Bible accurately and confidently. The app also helps the leaders provide ongoing pastoral support by providing information about who is reading what and how the teaching programmes are being used. The app also provides great information for partner organisations allowing them to see how their resources are being used. 

Biblica: How have Biblica been involved?
Mark: A vital aspect of the app is the integration of the bible interfacing with all resources on the app. Research with Zimbabwean church leaders revealed their desire to access the NIV translation of the Bible. We knew that Biblica hold the license for the NIV translation and we first presented the vision to Biblica at the World CBMC Convention in Belfast in 2018.

Biblica immediately grasped the vision of LEARN to resource and equip church leaders and became one of the valued partners in the project

Biblica immediately grasped the vision of LEARN to resource and equip church leaders and became one of the valued partners in the project, along with Langham Publishing, Crossway, 10ofThose, SPCK, ACTS, TGC and LEARN Global.

Biblica: How have things progressed in recent months?
Mark: In June 2019 we piloted the app in Harare and Mutare with a number of church leaders, and following on from this, using some very useful feedback, we were able to train 50 leaders. To date 90 tablets with the app have been distributed to church leaders in Zimbabwe.

Biblica: What are you planning for 2020?
Mark: We have a vision to distribute a further 400 tablets in 2020 to church leaders in other parts of Zimbabwe – Bulawayo, Masvingo and Chitungwiza. In addition, other nations have shown a keen interest, so we are excited to see where else it can be used across the world. 

We have a vision to distribute a further 400 tablets in 2020 to church leaders in other parts of Zimbabwe

Biblica: Can you share a particular story where you have seen God’s word having an impact?
Mark: One of the early recipients of the tablet and app was a Pastor Philip Matsatswa (United Baptist Church). Since June 2019 Pastor Philip has been using the electronic library to teach his church, including a pre–service Sunday School class. The Pastor is also engaged in planting six new churches. The new resource has been used to prepare the teams who are involved in starting these new churches. We are greatly encouraged to hear how Pastor Philip has been using the resources ensuring the bible is at the centre of these churches.

Biblica: thank you Mark – we look forward to hearing how this exciting innovation develops across the world!