Soon after Dwight Beavers trusted Christ as his Savior, he had a desire to collect, copy, and distribute cassette tapes of good Christ-honoring ministry. As a result, in 1972 Voices for Christ began in central North Carolina. Since then, many collections of cassette and reel-to-reel tapes have been donated. Early contributions included: the personal collection of speaker and author Harold G. Mackay; the personal collection of pioneer evangelist Lester Wilson; the personal collection of noted Bible teacher John Milton Mills; a substantial collection of reels and cassettes from Park of the Palms Christian Retirement Community; and a very nice collection of older reels from brothers Joe Skelly and Robert Eadie in the UK. Since then there have been hundreds of smaller collections of reels, cassettes, CDs, and MP3 files donated over the decades.
The early years involved enormous investments of time to transfer reels to cassettes and to duplicate cassettes for distribution. Processing reels is a painstaking process. Many reels contain multiple messages on various tracks, not necessarily all recorded at the same speed, and likely not fully labelled. It is time consuming and requires a lot of attention to detail. During these years it was common for Dwight to have 10-12 computers running at a time digitizing tapes, often seven days a week. It would be no exaggeration to say that he put in tens of thousands of hours doing the work of digitizing, labeling, and cataloging these messages. As reel players became rare, he developed sources that knew how to get parts, other sources that could make repairs, as well as an ability to get things to work when it seemed beyond reasonable to extract audio from a specific decaying reel. But just as the inexorable progression of technology led to the demise of the reel tape, so it also led to the downfall of the cassette and later even the CD and DVD.
In 2002, thirty years after brother Dwight began pursuing his vision, he began with the Lord’s help to assemble a small team. A domain name was registered that year and with the assistance of some tech-savvy supporters he began the transition to making materials available online. The initial idea was to offer a catalog of available audio messages and to ship custom made CDs of specific messages to those who ordered them. Dwight had previously been doing something like this, sending paper lists to various assemblies and interested parties for several years. He would duplicate and ship cassette tapes across the country. It was natural for this to transition to the internet where the catalog would be more widely available, and CDs could be shipped instead of cassettes. Duplicating cassettes and shipping them had been time consuming and expensive. Duplicating CDs and shipping them was a bit of an improvement with thousands of CDs ordered and shipped during this time. But it was still fairly time consuming, time that Dwight would have preferred to spend digitizing.
Around September of 2005 the initial version of the website that offered MP3 files for direct download went live with 20,000 selections. Soon after that the CD ordering system was taken down. As we learned together how to build and maintain the new system, the collection of MP3 files grew. As more files were added there was a need for larger servers. Increased interest resulted in more downloads which meant the need for more internet bandwidth. As the visibility of the website increased there was a need for more advanced tools to prevent web crawlers (“bots”) from taxing our limited resources. Since 2005, the underlying web hosting has transitioned through several data centers and many computer and operating system upgrades.
Today the website at voicesforChrist.org has over 65,000 MP3 files and several hundred written articles by over 1,800 different speakers and writers. The audio messages and articles are in four different languages. The oldest audio message was recorded in 1939 and there are messages from every decade since then up to the present. The website has had visitors from every country who download or listen to upwards of 30,000 messages on a typical day.
It is amazing to think that some of these wonderful messages, preached to perhaps only a handful of believers, have now been heard on the remotest islands, in restricted countries, and by all manner of people who are distant in both space and time from the original setting. It is a blessing for many to hear the voices of beloved ones that they may remember from years past or to hear directly from those who learned and labored in the school of Christ before we did. Because God’s Word is perfect (Psa. 19:7), settled (Psa. 119:89), eternal (Psa. 119:160; 1 Pet. 1:25), and living and powerful (Heb. 4:12), it follows that preaching from decades ago, if it is true to God’s word, is still valuable and helpful for today.
Today the work is conducted by a small volunteer team distributed across North America. We maintain the website, prepare new digital offerings, digitize cassettes and reel tapes to produce MP3 files, and archive collections that might otherwise be lost to the ravages of time. It may seem strange, but most of those who have worked on Voices for Christ over the past 20 years have rarely (or never!) met each other in person. We continue seeking the Lord’s guidance and help in how to proceed with this project. There are still so many things to accomplish.
As the Lord permits, in coming years more archiving and digitizing is planned which will result in more audio messages becoming available. Audio collections of Christ-honoring preaching in other languages is also being considered. Perhaps the website structure itself will be translated into other languages to help more people find something that will be of spiritual help to them. Some domain names were acquired several years ago and have been maintained with an eye toward this. Presently both vocesparaCristo.org and voixpourChrist.org redirect to voicesforChrist.org but perhaps in the future they could provide a translated structure of the main website. Operating system updates and server upgrades and migrations will need to continue as needed. When Apple shipped iOS14 in November 2020, it broke the audio player that is used on the website for some browsers. While some of these issues have been fixed there are still improvements and additional fixes to be made—thank you for your patience if you have experienced this.
With so much digitizing from partially labeled or mis-labeled tapes there are always errors in naming and ordering to fix. Please let us know if you find something that needs to be corrected! Integration and support for an in-progress iPhone and Android app is planned. Collections of tapes are still accepted for archiving and since the backlog of tapes and reels can sometimes grow large we are looking to the Lord for those able and willing to participate in the digitizing effort. Questions and comments may be sent to info@voicesforChrist.org.
by Mike Flester