For the first time, there is an audio version of the Bible read entirely by women. The project is the brainchild of Ann White, the founder and executive director of Courage For Life (CFL), and came about because of her work with female inmates.
“In working with at-risk women, we know through research and our own experience that you want to use gender-specific treatment,” said Ann White in an interview with Christianity Today. “You don’t have a man go in and work with a woman who has been victimized by a man. We thought the same thing could be true for teaching the Bible to a woman with past trauma. She can better hear Scripture from a woman’s voice.”
With that in mind, White searched for an audio version of the Bible read by women so she could make it available to female offenders and found that such a translation did not exist. So she and her ministry started fundraising to create one themselves, and production for the Courage For Life Bible began in 2018. The team completed the New Testament in less than a year, and the full audio version of the Bible is now available.
Update: The first audio Bible narrated entirely by women is now complete!
— kate shellnutt (@kateshellnutt) December 1, 2020
Ann White Wants At-Risk Women to Know Jesus
Ann White describes her ministry by saying, “My calling is simple. Point people to the hope and freedom that can only be found in Jesus as revealed in His Word. That Word—the Bible—is foundational! You have to be in it to be equipped, and you have to be in it to understand the change that is required in your life.” In addition to Bible studies, devotionals, and curricula, CFL has a prison ministry through which female offenders hear the gospel and experience discipleship.
Women in general are vulnerable to sexual assault, but female inmates in particular have experienced high levels of sexual violence and abuse. A 2017 report from Prison Reform Trust found that 57 percent of female offenders said they had experienced domestic violence. Fifty-three percent said they had experienced some kind of abuse as a child, whether emotional, verbal, or sexual. In contrast, 27 percent of male offenders reported similar abuse as children.
And there are compelling reasons to believe that women feel safer around other women when they are working to recover from trauma. Dr. Stephanie Covington, L.C.S.W., says, “Both men and women do much better when they’re separated in terms of group process, particularly doing trauma work. They do better in terms of their ability to disclose and feel comfortable and safe.”
But it is not just women who are interested in listening to women read the Bible. One of CFL’s partners asked some male inmates if they would be interested in an audio version of the Bible, and if so, if they would rather listen to a male or female voice. All of the men said they would prefer a female voice. “A large percentage of incarcerated men come from broken homes, fatherless homes, or they were abused by men in their life,” said White. “So quite often, if anyone shared the Lord with them, it was a woman—their grandmother, their mom, or their aunt. So they’re excited to hear the Word of God in a woman’s voice.”
The CFL Bible’s Audio Project Producer was Amick Byram, a two-time Grammy nominee and, says White, “an incredibly godly man.” He auditioned 80 women before choosing 12 professional voice actresses of different age groups and ethnicities to record the audio version of the CFL Bible. White said they decided to use the New Living Translation because inmates tend to struggle with reading comprehension. It’s worth noting that some find this translation to be controversial. But according to White, “It’s a great translation for the women we work with. Even when you take a printed book to someone who doesn’t read a lot or struggles to read, they’re really intimidated by the Bible.”
White posted on Facebook Monday, saying, “As of today, over 6,200 individuals have downloaded the app and 32,000 inmates have the Courage For Life audio Bible on their state-issued tablets.”
If you are interested in downloading the Courage for Life Bible, you can do so here. You can also download it on iTunes or Google Play. Each book of the Bible has an introduction (read by White) and an application section.
Ann White said that the actresses and producers who worked on the Courage For Life Bible were often “brought to tears” and that she hasn’t received any negative feedback on the project at this point. White is a member of a “Southern Baptist community” and when she asked her pastor, “Do you see any reason why anyone would have any objections to hearing God’s Word in a female voice?” he said, “Absolutely not.”
White has high hopes for what God will do through the Courage For Life Bible. “My ultimate hope would be two things,” she said. “The healing of broken hearts, first, and then number two, a revival in our nation. And because we’re called into the prison system, I’d love to see a revival in our prison system, as well. I want to see hearts heal from past trauma so that when prisoners go home, the recidivism rate drops. The work we’re doing is a true blessing. It’s a privilege to do what God calls us to do.”