Susan Bates has seen the life-changing impact of Scripture and how God’s word can bring healing and comfort to those she refers to as “the least of these.”
This includes the homeless man, the impoverished villager in a developing nation, imprisoned and illiterate juveniles, disabled adults, the trafficked girl who can’t sleep at night and many others. These are the ones to whom Bates seeks to bring hope through her nonprofit ministry, Your Working Copy, based in Birmingham, Alabama.
Bates, founder of and narrator for YWC, is working to put the King James Bible in the hands of “the forgotten” with the help of MegaVoice audio players. Following years of challenges, and 2020 turned upside-down by COVID-19, her mission is more clear than ever, Bates noted in a recent interview.
“That’s what we see as our charge, to put these audio Bibles in places everywhere they’re needed among the least of these,” said Bates, a member of New Bethlehem Baptist Church, Bessemer, Alabama, and an adjunct math instructor at a local community college.
It all began in 2009 when she and her board of directors set out to record the entire Bible on CD. The plan included completing a library of CDs featuring all the books of the Bible. And for Bates, who had used her smooth vocal skills much of her life in radio, debate and other ways, the assignment seemed simple — at least at first.
“I thought it would be a snap,” she recalls on her ministry’s website. “As the years wore on, I confessed to the Father that I had no idea what I had signed up for.”
Nudged by God
Getting through the Old Testament books would be daunting enough, then changes in technology led her ministry in 2016 to stop producing and distributing CDs. Bates was left second-guessing YWC’s direction and what she believed God had called her to do. On top of that, her board had dropped from nine to three members.
But that year, she and the remaining members agreed she needed to do a better job of prioritizing efforts to record all the books of the Bible. This meant other parts of the ministry — Scripture-reading events and other recording projects — had to be put on hold.
“Up until 2016, we had recorded maybe a third of the Bible, the majority of the New Testament, but not many of those hard-hitters, those big Old Testament books,” she shared with The Baptist Paper.
“While the Lord had been nudging me all along to get the Bible finished,” she recalled, “there were so many different applications I had devoted myself to that I lost sight of the main thing.”
So from 2017 to 2019, what Bates referred to as “the silent” years, she focused on recording the remaining books of the Bible while juggling teaching and other responsibilities.
“We just set our pace and slowly whittled away at it,” said Bates, who noted that most of 2020 was spent on post-production with her small team, uploading all the recordings to the website and working with MegaVoice to feature them on solar-powered audio players. She also dealt with the unexpected death of one of her friends and production team members to COVID-19.
Through it all, YWC distributed 24 of the audio players last Christmas to The WellHouse, a faith-based ministry in Alabama that provides shelter, healing and restoration to women escaping from human trafficking. This was made possible following a generous donation that helped cover the $60 audio players.
“With the emergence of human trafficking, there has been a need and a cry for a Bible in a woman’s voice,” said Bates, noting that some abuse survivors have no interest in listening to Scripture read by a man.
Marlie Hyde, program officer at The WellHouse, said the women at the shelter share how Bates’ recording is more comforting for them.
“We’re on 65 acres of land and the women walk around the lake, and you can see them … listening to [the Scriptures],” Hyde said. “They’ve said the voice was so soothing to them … especially those who have experienced intense trauma.”
Bates can’t wait to hear more stories of what God is going to do through YWC as it expands globally.