Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Joy Ridderhof (1903-1984) and her Gospel Records by Chris White

Joy Ridderhof

Elisabeth Elliot in her thoughtful book A Path Through Suffering writes, “When a man or woman belongs to God (when the branch dwells in the vine) it is the hand of God at work when the pruning comes, regardless of second causes.  A life’s work---what to us is a perfectly good branch, perhaps the only ‘important’ branch---may be cut off.  The loss seems a terrible thing, a useless waste.  But whose work was it?”  God’s husbandry in our lives never diminishes us.  Pruning is always done to shape us and point us in the direction of greater growth and fruitfulness. 

In  1937 Joy Ridderhof (1903-1984) returned to her parent’s home in Los Angeles after only six years on the mission field.  Joy had prepared for and planned on spending a lifetime at her missionary post in Honduras, a people and country she loved, but dysentery and malaria had taken their toll and she no longer had the health or strength to remain.  A different kind of person might have assumed this “pruning” was from their missionary career altogether, but for Joy, even as she lay on her sickbed, her prayer was “what next Lord?”  And what followed proved to be a ministry on a global scale.

Joy in college
An important part of this story begins long before Joy left for the mission field.  Joy was greatly influenced by Robert C. McQuilkin, a popular author and conference speaker, who spoke at her home church as a young woman.  He introduced the idea that worry was sin and that we are to rest in the truth we are under God’s hand in all things and therefore we rejoice in all circumstances be they good or hard.  Joy took this to heart and watched it modeled when she was able to go to college at Columbia Bible College and live with the McQuilkin family (she was one of the school’s earliest students attending before they even had dormitories).  To understand this concept of prayer and rejoicing, is to understand the foundation of Joy’s life and ministry.  This included praising God in the hard things and the prayers that were unanswered as well as the good things that came her way.  For Joy, this was not some sort of denial of her circumstances, but a sign of her faith that God is good and deserves praise no matter what is in front of us.  She knew want, hardship, and illness.  She also saw miraculous provision, answers to prayer, and souls saved through the years.

As she recuperated in her parent’s home and prayed for guidance from the Lord, soon two memories were brought to mind.  First she had a memory from childhood when her father brought home a used gramophone for the family with a few records.  She remembered listening to those records and even remembered the songs 25 years later.  Second, she recalled a conversation with a fellow missionary while she was in Honduras.  They had passed by a saloon and heard some unsavory Spanish song playing on the gramophone inside.  The missionary said “if only we had gospel recordings in Spanish” to play for these people.  This idea began to take shape and soon came to fruition.

On December 31st 1938 Joy and some friends who were singers and native speakers of Spanish living in L.A. went into a small recording studio run by a friend and recorded a program Joy had written of scriptures and Christian songs in Spanish.  This program was transferred to gramophone disc (early records).  Joy packed these gramophone records up carefully with a letter and mailed them to the missionary who replaced her in Honduras.  These records were to be given to people who had record players in their homes.

Joy on mission to the Phillippines

Soon an enthusiastic letter arrived for Joy at her home in Los Angeles.  Please send more records.  The people are listening over and over again to the records, they understand the message and they are converting to Jesus Christ.  Soon these records began circulating in other Latin American countries and as word spreads around the mission world about them, there come more requests for records to be made in different languages.

Joy Ridderhof was a one-woman show working at her world headquarters which also happened to be her upstairs bedroom.  She saw the vision but without any resources of her own was compelled to lay this whole ministry before the Lord.

From that day forward, piece by piece, person by person, country by country, the Lord provided an incredible team to supply this need in world evangelism.  When funds or know-how was needed, prayers and trusting in God’s provision alone, yielded every single need. Originally Joy’s vision was for Spanish speaking countries.  Later she was convinced to take on the Navajo language.  It was this beginning which moved here along the path to a more global scope.

They went from using rented studios to a home studio but eventually Joy saw that the work would only be able to expand if they could go to the native speakers and record them in the field rather than depend on their ability (which was non-existent in most cases) to travel to Los Angeles.

Ridderhof was a faith missionary along the lines of George Mueller, where the only one in the world familiar with her needs and the needs of her burdgeoning mission was God.  He was informed daily, hourly in prayer.  But that was all.  Ridderhof had the unshakeable belief she was doing God’s work and God would direct her with his supply.  She didn’t wait for things to “just show up” all the time though.  Sometimes she believed she needed to step out and move forward and God would provide in the moment.  And He did.
Alaskan "Eskimos" listen to a Gospel Recording

Early trips were made to Mexico, Alaska, and the Philippines, and later throughout Asia.  These trips were often years at a time and many times were just Joy and a couple other women missionaries. 
With the help of missionaries on the ground, tribes with no written languages would be located.  Sometimes days of traveling and hiking would be required to get to them.  Sometimes through several translators, the simple gospel would be stated and then translated until the speaker understood it enough to speak into a microphone and record it.

Millions of records were produced and eventually heavy duty gramophones gave way to hand-cranked cassette players, which in turn have been replaced by the digital phones which are used by nearly every people group around the world no matter how remote or poor they are.
Many branches of the ministry have opened up, each providing its own expertise and access to different language groups.  Lighter weight and heavier duty recording equipment were developed along the way to speed the process of recording in the field.

a simple record player for field

Though Joy Ridderhof passed away in 1984, her mission, known today as Global Recordings Network, continues to thrive and work among groups of people who might otherwise not get the opportunity to hear the Gospel in their own language.  A major thrust of GRN is the Tailenders Project which targets languages of less than 10,000 speakers.  Although usually passed over by traditional missionaries, GRN is able to take a simple approach to reach these people with recorded Bible stories.  Most of these are illiterate cultures, which doesn’t mean they have no intellectual life but rather that your society is less inclined to printed words and more inclined to learn orally.  The Gospels of Jesus and most of the Old Testament are given to us not as theological propositions but in stories that we must reflect upon to learn their meaning.  This is God’s revelation and it suits the oral learner as well as the reader.

For many of the tribal groups it was the very first time they heard the Bible, but also a voice recording in their own language.  Today Global Recordings have captured nearly 6000 languages and produced a gospel message for each.  They are available for download free of charge at

Amazing Stories from Global Recordings Network.  Allan Starling Editor.  (Temecula : Global Recording Network, 2014)
Thompson, Phyllis.  Faith By Hearing: The Story of Gospel Recordings. (Hong Kong : China Alliance Press, 1960)
Tucker, Ruth A.  From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya : A Biographical History of Christian Missions.  (Grand Rapids : Academie Books, 1983)


  1. Hola hermanos! Estoy muy emocionado con la lectura de la historia de la hna. Joy. CVerdadera campeona de la fe.
    Saludos desde Paraguay, sur américa.

  2. Thank you for sharing Joy Ridderhof's Biography. Her story was indeed a remarkable task of making known the story of Jesus in the heart language of the people. A milestone where audio ministry began.