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News | Updates | Reflections

A Race Well Run in Bolivia

by Ingrid Koss

Guest Albert Friesen shares his testimony with host Eduard Giesbrecht (right) on the final episode of the popular radio and video Low German program, Ekj Ran.

After almost nine years of continuous production, the final episode of our Low German youth program, Ekj Ran (I Run), aired on radio stations in South and Central America at the end of December. The video version was also released on multiple online platforms, reaching more than 2,000 views on YouTube within a few days.

Eduard Giesbrecht, producer of Ekj Ran since 2015, says that his local audience in Bolivia is made up of people who still live on or have recently come out of isolated colonies. He describes many of the colonies as religious and legalistic communities where people are taught that salvation lies in strict obedience to their leaders.

“Many people from the colonies live in fear, and fear can lead to addictions and abuse,” says Eduard. “The purpose of Ekj Ran is to show that they can have freedom from these circumstances.”

The Ekj Ran audience also comes from Paraguay, Mexico, Central America, Canada, and wherever else Low German speakers live. There is not a lot of Low German media being produced, so people are eager to watch or listen when they find something available in their first language.

The original idea for the Ekj Ran radio program came from David and Sieglinde Toews when they were working as missionaries in Bolivia. They wrote the song, "Ekj ran en Jäw nich opp" ("I Run and Don’t Give Up") as a theme song for a youth summer camp where David was the worship leader. As the week progressed, he and Sieglinde realized that "Ekj ran en Jäw nich opp" had become a song of significance for the campers. They recorded it live that week and put it on YouTube.

Singer-songwriter, David Toews, leads worship at a youth summer camp in Bolivia, 2013.

It was intended to be a lasting encouragement for the youth who had encountered God at the camp. But once it was on YouTube, it quickly became the most watched Low German music video ever. Thousands of people, from all over the world, were thrilled to be able to enjoy contemporary worship music in their language of the heart. (To date, the “Ekj ran en Jäw nich opp” video has had more than 420,000 views.)

After the success of the song, David and Sieglinde decided to produce Ekj Ran, a testimony-based radio program, with the song as the theme. Beginning in 2014, they invited guests to come on the program and share how God helped them overcome hard things in their lives. A question David always asked was, “Why didn’t you give up?” The radio program connected well with young people. Instead of being given a list of rules to follow, they were hearing an authentic and relevant message that helped them in their daily lives and introduced them to the freedom of a personal relationship with Jesus.

In 2015, David and Sieglinde’s time in Bolivia was up. They invited another missionary couple, Eduard and Heidi Giesbrecht, to take over producing Ekj Ran. Eduard and Heidi agreed, and soon began recording it as a video program as well. Since opening the Ekj Ran YouTube channel in 2015, the episodes have had over 2.2 million views. Heidi attributes the program’s success in part to the vulnerability and honesty of the guests on the program.

“Young people are tired of seeing stuff that is slick and fake. They need help with their problems and challenges, so they’d rather see a simple show that is real.”

For almost nine years, Ekj Ran has been using the real stories of guests who overcame challenges to encourage young Low German-speaking people to “run the race and don’t give up”. And always coming back to the real truth that salvation comes only through a loving and personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Says Eduard, “It has been amazing to produce this program, and we praise God for the many people Ekj Ran has been able to reach for Christ for so many years!”

David and Sieglinde Toews (top, left and centre) and Heidi and Eduard Giesbrecht (bottom, right and centre) attend the Low German media conference in Paraguay in March, 2015, just as the baton for producing Ekj Ran is passed from one couple to the other. Also shown: Claude Pratte, Square One’s Executive Director in 2015 (top, right), and Low German radio producer, Irene Marsch (front, left).

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