Jenny Steinbach (left) and Cassandra Newman record a new part of the her.BIBLE audio Bible in a makeshift studio in Jenny’s bathroom. Jenny created the resource, and Cassandra, shown recording the Book of Joel, has also voiced three other books.
Jessi Gore grew up knowing about God. But by the time she got to college, her many unanswered questions led her to identify as an atheist. Through friends involved in Cru®’s campus ministry, however, she began to get some answers.
“This God reached down to us,” Jessi said. “He understood the tactile differences a blind man [would need] and He put mud on his eyes to heal him. He helped children; He helped people with disabilities.”
The compassion she recognized in Jesus meant a lot to her particularly because Jessi, too, had a disability — a learning disability involving reading.
“The Bible speaks so much to women and purpose and calling. It appreciates men and women. Our society feels like they have to tear down to elevate, but you can honor both.”
“I always had this nagging voice in my head that said, ‘You’re stupid,’” Jessi says. But she learned God’s love could define her more than any challenges she had. Eventually, she trusted in Jesus as her Lord and Savior.
“I learned that to grow closer to God, you needed to read the Bible. I was so discouraged every time I opened it up. I didn’t understand what I was reading, but that happened with every book. So I thought, I guess I don’t get the chance to grow closer to God.”
Then, Jessi stumbled upon her.BIBLE, an audio Bible that is read entirely by women. The app helped Jessi overcome several barriers at once. Not only was the audio medium accessible to her, but there was safety and power in hearing the Word of God from sisters in Christ.
“I [as a woman] am created and gifted to do something in His kingdom,” Jessi said. “And the Bible speaks so much to that.”
Jenny Steinbach (foreground) created her.BIBLE with female voices in 2016 after years of working with Jesus Film Project® and Cru® City. Lori Dawe works to market the new resource.
Jenny Steinbach, Cru staff member and creator of her.BIBLE, dreamt of sharing God’s Word through the voices of His daughters so people could experience more of His character and women could better understand their value in His kingdom. She dreamt of women like Jessi.
“I was looking for a loving Father...”
Jenny’s religious upbringing caused her to think of God as distant and rules oriented. When she went to college and met believers who knew of a loving God and Father, she said, “I was willing to take a chance on Jesus.”
Like Jessi, experiencing God’s love changed Jenny’s life, and she longed to share that love with others. After college, she became a staff member with Cru and began learning about the global needs of women who, statistically, are more likely than men to be victims of domestic violence and sexual exploitation and to lack educational opportunities.
“I thought, Wow, there’s a lot going on in the world. How do I, as a Christian woman, help women and girls view themselves the way God views them?” she said.
Jenny works alongside Lori Dawe (right) in Jenny’s kitchen. Lori is passionate about promoting her.BIBLE. “God has used the Word to comfort me, and I use it to comfort others,” Lori said.
She found an answer in Jesus Film Project’s® production of “Magdelena”, a movie that tells the stories of Jesus’ various interactions with women in the Gospels and the healing He offered them spiritually, emotionally and physically. Jenny helped women across the globe gain access to the resource and was amazed to hear about these women reaching others for the kingdom of God.
At the same time, she saw women in her own city of Orlando, Florida, struggle, too, with vulnerability, identity and purpose.
“Because of my background, I grew up feeling like I didn’t have a voice. And then, globally, I saw women feeling like they didn’t have a voice.” Jenny had the impression that God was urging her, You can make an audio Bible in women’s voices.
Cassandra Newman, a high school art teacher originally from Manchester, England, says it is an honor to use her voice for her.BIBLE.
She found that there were few audio Bibles available that included women’s voices. Those that did sounded robotic, weren’t in modern English or weren’t free. She thought about the incredible social pressure on young women today in the areas of self-image, sexuality and gender and wondered, “Are we providing what they need to understand God?”
Jenny joined the ministry team that produces Cru’s “Making Your Life Count” radio program as an audio producer, noting that she “came with a project.” Her new co-workers were thrilled with her ideas.
Finding a name for a new project like this was a two-year long journey. The team working on the project discussed ideas as a team, brainstormed with others from Cru® and beyond, sent surveys and consulted with marketing professionals.
In all, they considered 70 different names. Many were passed over because they were too long, not memorable or overused.
In April 2019, Jenny Steinbach met Susha Roberts, the leader of Wycliffe®’s marketing department. Although their offices are within a mile of each other in Orlando, Florida, they met at a missions conference in Europe.
Within a few weeks, Susha and her team suggested the name her.BIBLE.
“We believe this simple and memorable name immediately describes what we are, will appeal to younger audiences and will carry us into the future,” Jenny said.
In 2016, .bible became available for use in internet domain names for the first time. Doug Birdsall, former president of the American Bible Society, said this availability was “the Bible’s moment to move from Gutenberg to Google.” The American Bible Society is the registry operator for .bible. Founding partners for developing that new opportunity include Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox Christian organizations.
In 2017, Jenny began recruiting women to help bring the dream to life, and gradually, books of the Bible were recorded and added to her.BIBLE.
A different facet of God’s heart
Jenny began her project with coaching from her supervisor, Larry Hauer, and a couple of volunteers. As women experienced her.BIBLE, more of them — including home-schooling moms who doubled as fact-checkers and school teachers who provided their voice-acting talent — joined the team.
One of those women, Lori Dawe, joined the her.BIBLE team. She had worked with Cru’s high school ministry for eight years and reached out to those she’d worked with to help promote the resource.
Lori took her.BIBLE to high schools, promoted it at conferences and shared it wherever she went. That is how she met Colin Akehurst, a missionary who, alongside his wife, Mary, works with, as they put it, “the lost and the least” in Minneapolis. Colin thought Mary, who regularly walks alongside women struggling with poverty and addiction, could find value in the audio Bible.
Listen to Matthew 9:18-26 from her.BIBLE.
“I decided to listen before I endorsed, which left me listening to the whole book of Matthew in the middle of the night,” Colin said. “I listen to hundreds of hours of audio Bible every year [with] male readers, and I noticed right away that the female narrator brought a different facet of God’s heart, which I had never before experienced. Hearing a daughter read her Father’s love letter really gives a new perspective.”
Colin immediately shared it with Mary, who listened and agreed that this telling of the story of God allowed her to see different sides of “our colorful, beautiful God,” especially as she could hear different ethnicities of women being represented. Knowing that God’s Word is the most powerful tool to help women understand their identity in Christ, Mary is eager to share her.BIBLE in her city.
Freedom and comfort in God’s Word
While working to encourage the use of her.BIBLE, Lori learned about the Pure Hope Foundation, an organization that ministers to, houses and empowers sex-trafficking survivors. Knowing the survivors in the program were women, Lori reached out to Katie Ford, event director for the foundation.
Katie recognized the effect the “gentle, beautiful voices” of her.BIBLE could have for her friends at Pure Hope Foundation.
“When you’ve been hurt by a man, or your father, or a father figure, it’s so hard to envision a good, good Father,” Katie said. “So, to hear the Word of God spoken in a woman’s voice makes the Bible more palatable.”
She passed her.BIBLE onto Sarah.
Sarah, a survivor of abuse and sex trafficking, found spiritual and emotional freedom through the Word of God. Now, she uses her.BIBLE to experience Scripture during her morning devotions. She says she finds comfort in hearing God’s Word from her sisters in Christ. (Photo by Guy Gerrard)
Sarah grew up in the sort of home Katie referenced. Her mother died when she was young, and her father was abusive and addicted to alcohol.
After her father lost their home and rejected her as his daughter, Sarah said, “I was kidnapped and exploited by human traffickers. I was forced into years of torture and too afraid to escape. After all the abuse I had taken from my father and losing my mom, I was so jaded and filled with rage that I didn’t even believe in anything. Even after I finally escaped, all I saw was darkness.”
Sarah attempted suicide, continued to face dangerous circumstances and eventually went to jail.
Sarah spends time with the horses on Pure Hope Foundation’s ranch. The foundation assists and houses sex-trafficking survivors like Sarah. Sarah now mentors other women who have backgrounds like her own. (Photo by Guy Gerrard)
“It was there that I opened up a Bible,” Sarah said. “As I read through the stories, I was transformed and redeemed by God’s Word. In an 8-by-10 cell, I felt more free and alive than I ever felt in my life. I finally had hope. His Word gave me passion and softened my heart again.”
She began sharing what she was reading with other inmates. Pure Hope Foundation was a natural next step for her. When she learned about her.BIBLE, she was further comforted and inspired. Now, she uses her.BIBLE in morning devotions and as she falls asleep, and it helps her to mentor other women who have escaped trafficking.
In spite of her traumatic past, Sarah finds joy and freedom in her new identity in Christ. She made this spoken word video in conjunction with the Pure Hope Foundation.
Sarah said, “her.BIBLE is a beautiful tool. Us women are meant to come together and lift each other up. We are meant to complete each other, not compare and compete with each other. In this world that can teach us to always ‘one-up’ each other due to comparison and social media, it is so refreshing to hear God’s Word from sisters.”
Faith comes by hearing
New books in new voices were added to her.BIBLE (26 so far), and the team grew to include 11 women and two men. The audio Bible is a free app available for anyone to use.
Anjelina Maldonado used her.BIBLE in a women’s Bible study and said she realized the truth in the verse “faith comes by hearing.”
Anjelina Maldonado and her husband, Javier, opened Proximity Church in Orlando in 2015 primarily as an outreach to the “unchurched and prodigals in Florida.”
They placed people in small groups for discipleship, one being an eight-week women’s Bible study using her.BIBLE to listen to the Word of God.
The women, about 20 in all, were captivated the first time they listened to the Book of Ruth.
“To feel your faith being built up by another woman is awesome,” says Anjelina. “From a church with no believers to a body of women being built up is incredible. They never even knew each other and now were connecting over her.BIBLE.”
Anjelina (left) chats with Ingrid Fernandez, a full-time nurse and church leader, at Proximity Church before the service begins.
Anjelina and Ingrid set up the “Mommy and Me” room at Proximity Church, where mothers of young children can participate in the service. Ingrid was in the women’s group that listened to and was inspired by her.BIBLE.
When Anjelina played the Book of Ruth, it was the first time Ingrid Fernandez, a nurse, had ever heard the story. She drove home that night and, though she was pregnant and had her young son in the back seat, sat in her car to hear the rest of the book.
Ingrid began listening to her.BIBLE during her commute to work. She found inspiration in the stories of women like Esther. “Esther thought she was going to be no one, and she ended up a queen,” Ingrid said.
“Listening to her.BIBLE, I hear my mother, I hear a friend. I think, That’s my sister in Christ. And there’s this concept of safety in that voice, rather than instruction. A voice of a female says, ‘This is a story that I’m part of.’”
Ingrid knows that the Word of God would have changed her life no matter what, but hearing it in women’s voices was like “having the right soundtrack to a movie.”
She said, “Like, in Ruth, it’s a female voice and it’s talking about a woman who went and conquered. It’s like saying, I’m just one person, just a nurse, just a woman; but with God, [I] can do anything.”
Ingrid’s husband, Enzo, cuddles with their toddler, Sophia, while Ingrid holds their 6-year-old son, Christian, in their home. Ingrid first attended Proximity alone; now her family attends, serves and grows together in the church community.
Ingrid regularly attends Proximity and now so do her husband, Enzo, and children. She dreams of leading a small group to reach her family members who don’t yet know Christ.
Finding a place in the story
Ingrid relates to women who feel like they just don’t have time to sit down and study their Bible.
“Women are always going-going,” Ingrid said. “It makes it challenging. But if they can find a moment in the car to listen, give God the chance — the chance to tell them they’re loved and very valued to him.”
Ingrid keeps busy working as a nurse for military veterans, leading at church and being a mother of two. Listening to her.BIBLE reminds her of the love of God and her value in Him.
Jessi agrees. Whenever she gets the chance to listen to her.BIBLE — in the car, while exercising, even while falling asleep — God uses it to communicate the same thing: She is valuable, and He made her for a reason. She has a part to play.
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Listen to her.BIBLE today on your mobile device and tell your friends.
Ted loves zigzagging the globe, capturing photos and stories of what God is doing. Originally from California, he serves as a missionary photojournalist with Cru® in Orlando, Florida. Ted also ministers to international scholars who come to Orlando to study.