The Joy of Discovery

It’s taken 79 years of focused, intentional efforts to grow GRN’s recording archive of more than 6,300 languages. Without Joy Ridderhof, none of that would have been possible.

When Joy returned home very ill after missionary work in Honduras, she found herself disappointed, sorrowful, and questioning. Why would God let her get sick and remove her from her beloved Honduran friends, who had just accepted Christ? How would they be able to further spread the gospel when many could neither read nor write?

A thought occurred to Joy: if only she could have left behind recorded messages to nourish their newfound faith. It didn’t take long for God to press on Joy’s heart and turn that thought into action. With the help of some friends, Joy produced the first gospel recording in Spanish in 1939.

As soon as some of her Honduran friends got a taste of the Bible stories, news spread and Joy received requests for more recordings — not just from Honduras, but from Spanish-speaking countries throughout Central and South America. Soon a Navajo community in Arizona also requested recordings, and Joy began to realize how quickly she could spread the message of Jesus in the heart languages of his followers around the world. Now restored to health, Joy got back on the road with recording equipment in tow—traveling to remote villages, larger population centers, and everything in between. Joy encouraged the communities she visited to follow in her footsteps and spread the story of Jesus through ministries like hers.

Joy’s vision helped to catalyze a movement. Churches began to notice the truth that she had tapped into: More than two-thirds of the world’s population are oral communicators, preferring to learn and communicate orally rather than through written methods. In time, a loose alliance of several dozen independent audio recording ministries came together in the early 1990s to minister to that unreached portion of the world.

What Joy started long ago is now in the hands of our capable missionaries, partners, donors, and 50-plus offices and bases around the world. More than 15 international organizations use our audio and visual materials to enhance their important work and assist them in fulfilling their missions. As the champion of telling the story of Jesus in every language, Joy’s legacy lives on. ■

Devastating illness and even multiple assassination attempts couldn’t
stop Joy Ridderhof’s desire to share the gospel.
Hear Joy tell her own inspiring story.