It’s been a little over a year since Jessica Agler joined our staff as a research assistant. Jessica had a chance to reflect on this transition when she was interviewed by her alma mater, York College. I think you will enjoy reading about how God has worked in her life and her perspective on GNPI. Jessica has worked diligently to help us move forward in app development. We are very glad to have her as part of our team.
adapted from Heritage magazine, Summer 2015
Alumni Focus: Jessica Agler ‘06
Jessica Agler ’06 was at a crossroads in her professional life. After five years of working as an archivist for the US Senator Chuck Hagel Archives at the University of Nebraska Omaha, she knew the political and academic arenas were not her passion.
Agler wanted to work for a meaningful cause, something with eternal purpose. With a bachelor’s in history from York College and a master’s in information studies from University of Texas at Austin, she wondered what ministry she was equipped for.
In spring 2014 her prayers were answered when she was offered a job at Good News Productions, International.
“I’m glad to be working for a cause I care deeply about. It’s been a good change for me,” she says. “I want to contribute the abilities I have to offer. This job is a good fit for my skills in a ministry setting.”
Agler’s position is a challenging blend of research and project management. One of her main focuses is to research and eventually play a key role in the development of discipleship apps for Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus.
“The apps we’re creating will be just one of many tools to lead someone to Christ,” she says. “It’s a piece of the puzzle.”
The app isn’t meant to replace person-to-person ministry, says Agler; however, it can be a safe and simple first step for someone who is curious about Jesus. In regions of the world where it is dangerous or illegal to ask some questions, mobile technology can be a bridge that connects seekers to answers about Christ.
Agler’s role on the project is researching cultures in a number of locations where the app will be targeted. She works closely with an app designer, as well as GNPI partners in nine countries to make the content and design of the app culturally relevant. “We try to identify what people’s spiritual needs are,” she says, noting that the strategy for sharing the Gospel is vastly different from one culture to another.
It is an ideal moment to “redeem the time” and share the Gospel with Muslims in particular, says Agler. “Unrest in the Islamic world is an opportunity to reach people. Many Muslims are looking at the news and the actions of other Muslims and thinking, ‘this isn’t my religion.’” Agler says that disillusionment and oppression can be natural pathways for people coming to Christ.
The Global Gospel is another major project that Agler is involved with at GNPI. The Global Gospel is a template for creating dynamic videos with images and voiceover narration for 88 stories from the life of Christ. GNPI partners in diverse locations incorporate the talents of local actors and adapt the video template for a specific population. These videos are now available in 16 languages. The goal of GNPI to target the top 25 languages in the world will expand the project’s potential reach to 3.6 billion people.
In some locations GNPI videos are shown in schools and on television. In remote areas, with limited or no electricity, missionaries are using GNPI Solar Kits to share the Gospel. These lightweight portable speakers and projectors, powered by the sun, allow a video to be shown anywhere using a bed sheet on the side of a building.
“The videos are produced in the ‘heart language’ of a people group, reflecting their culture through people who look and sound like them,” says Agler. “It can be very effective, especially in areas where many are illiterate.”
Measuring the effectiveness of these approaches is another task for Agler. GNPI estimates that approximately 200,000 people per month are interacting with the content they are producing. During December, GNPI videos were shown on national television in India, with a potential audience of 40 million. Agler and colleagues will research what the result of their labors have been so they can determine which technology and format is bearing the most fruit.
Agler says, “Looking back, I can see how my history major and the teachers I had laid a foundation for research and critical thinking that is integral to the work I do now . . . God has brought all of those experiences together in a way that only He could.”