Personal correspondence between two young brothers was the start of what is today a worldwide church. Young people in over 40 countries recently dove into both the letters and the church’s history in a new project called From the Beginning.
By Ulrikke Andresen – Photo by BCC media
When Johan O. Smith was converted in 1898, there was little indication that his Christian life and contact with other believers would result in an international community of believers. In February 2021, over a hundred years later, young Christians from around the world participated in a new project that involved reading and immersing themselves in the first letters Johan wrote to his brother Aksel.
The letters provide a unique perspective into how Johan inspired Aksel to follow Jesus in his life, and the goal of the project is to inspire young people to do the same. The name From the Beginning was taken from a letter dated November 30, 1906. By then, Aksel had just had a breakthrough in his personal life. Johan wrote “if there are any exhortations in Christ, I want to remind you of 1 John 2:24: ‘Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning.”
Meeting the youth at their level
A team of 15 people in BCC Media works with communication and project management. In order to achieve an optimal connection with the target age group, they took several steps to create interest, increase comprehension and make it relevant for younger ages. Those who are participating in the project are primarily youth from BCC church groups all over the world, from teenagers to young adults.
“The content needed to be easily accessible, so we made a new web app to meet young people at their level,” says Matthias Hauptmann (36), project manager in BCC Media.
In total, the web app has had around 6,000 users a week. The letters are presented both as an audiobook and as text, with word and phrase clarifications, as well as animated short stories. It is also possible to be immersed in the theme through a photo series, podcasts, and films that make the history more exciting.
In addition to the app, a booklet with the 40 letters was printed, and distributed to the local youth groups.
BCC Media collaborates with volunteers from Turkey, Mexico, South Africa, Canada and other countries, to ensure the content is available for all participants. In addition, a dozen volunteer translators from several countries helped translate the app into 16 different languages.
Inspiration to live a Christian life in practice
Johan O. Smith’s letters have been central edifying literature in the history of the church for many years and provide insight on how the Bible can be put into practice. Now the letters are available in an unedited form, with a new visual look for a new generation of readers.
“It is exciting historical reading, which is relatable to everyday life. The letters have a timeless appeal, which I believe can be of great help for young people today,” says Hauptmann.
The 40 letters featured in the project were written to Aksel when he was a newly converted Christian, a young man facing many choices for his future; something Hauptmann believes many today can also relate to:
“The entire goal is that young people can be inspired to live a Christian life in a personal relationship with Jesus. The letters are about being faithful to Him in everyday situations. This is what Johan wanted for his brother Aksel, and his advice is as relevant today as it was a hundred years ago.”
Local participation and themed broadcasts through the spring
Since February, the project has generated great enthusiasm locally. Even though the target age group is young, many parents have also shown great interest in reading. During a time when ordinary church life has been shut down, both young and old have expressed thankfulness for the project.
In several locations, various platforms and meeting points have been set up to enable discussions about the letters. Young people are challenged with tasks and questions in the app, and the themes in the letters are applied to modern situations.
The goal is to read the 40 letters by this year’s Easter camp, when there will be the first of six themed broadcasts about From the Beginning. Through films, panel discussions and music, young people will gain deeper insight into both the context and message of the letters, with different themes for each broadcast.
Here at bcc.no we will continue to track this project and return with an update after the first themed broadcast at the Easter camp.